The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world
where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.
– e. e. cummings
Being yourself may well be the biggest challenge you will face in life. Not least because it involves discovering who you are first, and that’s no mean feat in itself. Do you actually dare to consider who is actually walking around in your skin, or will you settle for who your world tells you it is?
There’s a huge, complex, invisible structure that exists to tell you who you are and what you should do, think and feel. This structure is the cultural consensus. It’s a shifting interconnecting network of collective thought-forms – a mind field.
The mind field comprises a combination of beliefs, stories, fears and the generalised interpretations of personal experience of every member of the social order. You can’t touch it, but you nevertheless feel its presence, and you are a part of it. This presence is an energy, albeit as yet undefined by science, and the more you conform to its prescribed way of being the more secure you will be in your sense of belonging, or so it seems.
The imperative to belong is one of the strongest control mechanisms operating inside you. It thrives on the process of comparing yourself with others, and with an idealised concept of what it means to be a good person. This is about approval, and it drives a process of self-judgement through guilt and shame that will keep you disempowered for as long as you choose to accept it in place of accepting yourself.
Mostly we don’t notice the mind field. It’s something we grow up with. We’re trained to conform through the process of reward and punishment:–
“There’s a good boy / girl” … (Hugs and kisses – approval equated with love);
“Oh you bad girl / boy” … (Exclusion, abandonment … slaps? equated to the withdrawal of love).
Doing “the right thing” is an ideological tenet that bestows the moral high ground; it’s even become the mantra of politicians.
This imperative is so endemic that people would far sooner be seen to be right than happy. Anywhere that you notice yourself at odds with the prevailing principle of rightness you are faced with the option of suppressing yourself or owning your right to be different.
The difficulty with this is that somewhere the process of stifling your true expression creates a fundamental resentment towards the suppressing agent – you!
It gets even worse, because as well as disapproving of yourself for being out of step with your family, friends, peers, teachers and mentors, the chances are you’ll start to disapprove of yourself for disapproving of yourself. When this happens to us we start looking for ways out – and we may disapprove of ourselves for taking those too.
Making a Shift
It’s not easy to make a truly meaningful shift. My own approach to this was initially set myself up as against the things that caused me to be in conflict with myself. Wherever I found I was suppressing my own energy to cultivate external acceptance I set myself up in opposition to whatever seemed to be the offending principle. This strategy started in school with bullying teachers and was something I practised for an awful lot of my adult life.
It seemed to be a way of preserving myself inside, and it took me a long while to see that it kept me tied to what I despised. Whilst I was holding myself in a consciousness of being against something that was wrong I was still defining myself in relation to that wrongness. I began to see that I simply had to stand for myself, whatever I loved, whatever I was passionate about, whatever filled me with joy.
What this meant was I had to accept myself and allow myself to be different. I also had to allow and accept the differences that others embodied and expressed. I didn’t have to agree with them or make them see my rightness. I just had to be myself and allow others the same privilege.
The Power of Fear
What will keep you stuck is fear. At a basic level this is the fear of leaving what’s familiar, leaving friends, family, jobs, everything you’ve relied upon to define yourself. This is far from easy and it takes a great deal of soul searching to step onto a path that could lead you away from all you’ve depended upon for your sense of identity. Then there’s the impact of disapproval.
Disapproval is like a worm in your mind eating away at your resolve and self-belief. It starts with “What will they think of me!” If it’s an important shift, that soon transmutes into “What do I think of me?” and heaps of self-judgement, particularly if you’re walking away from a relationship or a close community. One of the keys to getting through this is to focus on what you will feel like, and think of yourself, if you don’t make the changes at hand. This will be like a compass showing you the way ahead when you can’t actually see it.
But there’s another level of fear that can manifest when you step out on a path that’s very different from that approved by the collective consensus. This level of fear is paralysing in its intensity and it’s a function of your own sensitivity as you respond to the disapproval of the collective.
The disapproval I’m talking about is nothing less than the combined energy of each and every member of the collective, generated from whatever convention of wrongness they adopt. It’s what they judge, what they see themselves as being against. It’s what they (we) unconsciously project into the environment.
You cannot change any of that and its energy is effectively that of a psychic attack. Because the vibration of your consciousness can register as a threat to the existence of their rightness, you may well feel as if the foundation of your own existence is crumbling.
The inner experience of this can be seen as a “dark night of the soul”. No intellectual knowing will get you through it. What’s needed is surrender and trust in your own Divine Intelligence. But, once you recognise that its the fear of the collective defending itself against you it can be very self-empowering to do the following:-
- Set your intent to reclaim all the energy of judgement, resentment and anger that you’ve projected onto the collective.
- Then tell Divine Intelligence that you require all the judgement, resentment, anger and projection of the collective to be removed from you, transmuted into love and returned to its source.
The collective is not your enemy unless you set yourself against it. It’s actually challenging you to find your own way. You can only do that from a place of balance, appreciation and love.