Identity Is Fluid
We all think we know who we are. We know what choices we would make in different situations. We know where we live, what we look like, who we love, etc. But in reality, most of the things about us are the result of our past history. They are stories and coping mechanisms that we have put in place to explain and handle the life we have led so far.
But what if your life had been different? What if the way you interpreted situations had been different? What if the way you reacted to those situations had been different? What if YOU had been different?
The You of Today Isn’t YOU
You think it’s you, but in reality, you’ve forgotten who the real you is. S/he has been buried underneath those coping mechanisms, assumptions, beliefs, and stories for so long, that person is effectively lost to you. There may be pieces of that person peeking around the edges, but you’ve lost track of which ones those pieces are. And you don’t even realize it!
It Starts Small
When you’re three years old, your mother complains that you’re too loud as you enthusiastically bang on that new drum Uncle Jim got you to torture your mother. In your mind, you ask yourself if you’re just too much. After a few more complaints from your mother or others, you might even start to believe it. And we’re off to the races! You start tamping down who you are or pumping up the volume to spite those who don’t love you as you are. And that mousie-ness or rebellion gets integrated into your personality and creates more situations for you to have more of those experiences and cement in place more of who you think you are. But it’s all based on a faulty assumption made by a 3-year-old who didn’t realize that listening to a drum being beat on was not nearly as much fun as beating on that drum yourself.
Then It Grows
Now take that experience and compound it by adding in even more experiences with even more self-definitions based on them and you begin to see what I’m shooting at. And not all of these take place in childhood. How many of us have twisted ourselves into pretzels trying to make a partner happy, to the point where we’ve forgotten who we were in the first place? It can and does happen at all times in our lives. The predominant stories we tell ourselves become our truths, if they go unchecked for long enough.
This Is Why You’re Not Happy
So you walk around making decisions based on who you think you are. The problem is that your true self is the one that determines whether or not you’re happy. And so, if you go around trying to make your persona happy and it has very different goals than your true self, you’re going to have a problem in the happiness department.
Adding More Coping Skills vs. Peeling Away The Layers
The purpose of most personal growth programs is to make you happy. But here’s the rub. Most of them go about it by giving you even more coping mechanisms. These layer on even more to your identity. (Now, in addition to all the things you believe about yourself, you’re also accepting the role of “spiritual person” which has its own rules and beliefs associated with it.) So they do a great job of making you more enlightenedly functional, but they get you no closer to the real you.
Finding The Real You
Finding the real you, requires that you dig down into the layers of your persona, down into the foundation that you’ve used to build your life. The goal is to determine which pieces are you and which are artifice placed there by others or by your own faulty beliefs. And you need to question everything. Especially the things you believe are already parts of the real you.
This is a process I call foundational deconstruction, where you literally take apart the foundation of your belief in who you are. It’s a tough process, but one of the most worthwhile ones you’ll ever do. Think of it as de-brainwashing. You’ve been brainwashed into believing that this is who you are. Now it’s time to remove that conditioning and really see the person you’ve been all along.
Are You Ready?
Are you ready to deconstruct your foundation? What parts do you think are you? What parts do you think aren’t? (Hint – if you can think of something that is emotionally challenging that is associated with an identity you hold, it’s likely persona.) Share below, I’d love to see what you’re working on.