Saturday, January 05, 2008

Who are you, really?

It's Christmas morning, in a hotel room in Dallas, and I'm getting dressed for an early dinner with my wife's family.

And I'm thinking to myself about the fact that I'm about to go to meet with mostly the same people I just spent Christmas Eve with, only now I'm dressing up in fancier clothes to do it.  Not only that, but the night before that, we were dressed really casually for dining out with just Leslie's mom.

So I find myself wondering, why the difference in clothes?

And my knee-jerk reaction is, "well, with Leslie's mom, we can really just relax and be ourselves pretty much.  We don't have to be all formal and fake."

And then I think, "wait a minute...  that implies that the real me is scruffy and unkempt, and the nicely dressed me is a fake!"

Hmmmmm.  That doesn't make any logical sense, does it?  And how in blue blazes did I end up with that idea?

Almost immediately, images from childhood spring to mind, reminding me of all the times my mother hurriedly cleaned up for company, and admonished us to be on our best behavior.  All the times she put on false fronts when dealing with almost anyone outside the family, pretending to be the nice perfect mother in front of company, when ten minutes earlier she was screaming at us -- and would resume the screaming ten seconds after the guests were gone.

Huh.  So that's where I got it from.  Dressing up nice, acting nice, cleaning house... all that stuff is what you do to fool other people about who you really are.  And now that I'm writing about it, I see the places where my dad's actions and beliefs supported this idea in other ways.  For example, that clothing is either comfortable (and to be worn whenever possible) or good looking (to only be worn when necessary).

We had different sets of towels, linens, plates, and so forth: one for us, and the "good" ones, to be saved for company.  Indeed, the more I think about it now, the more examples I find of this peculiar dichotomy: the best is for appearances, the rest is for who we "really" are.

Now, I'm not blaming my parents, and it's not clear to me that the beliefs I picked up from them are necessarily the same beliefs they were living out. (After all, I imagine it's possible to believe that you should offer company the best you have, without necessarily believing you don't deserve good things yourself.)

In other words, any conclusions my brain drew, are my own responsibility.

But it's interesting to think about how much of "who we are" can be drawn from the background of our childhoods.  Not the foreground activity, the overt beliefs and behaviors our parents intentionally try to embed in us, but in the covert beliefs implied by our parents' choices and actions.

I suppose, as my father used to put it, "actions speak louder than words."  Which makes sense, since most of the machinery in our heads was evolved to deal with actions, not words.

So who do you think you are?  Do you identify with your best moments, the times you did things right?  The times you were kind or generous or compassionate?  The times you thought things through, stood up for what you believe in?

Or do you identify with your worst moments?  The times you gave up on yourself, the times you snapped at the people you love, the times you didn't follow through?

If we look at "just the facts", we see that both kinds of moments are equally "real", just as I have worn both casual clothes and formal ones.  So from a purely logical point of view, it makes no sense to label one set of experiences "real" and the other "fake".

But our culture doesn't always encourage us to label ourselves good, and we often get better treatment through being self-deprecating.  We can also sometimes avoid undesired responsibility or avoid disappointment, by emphasizing our flaws.  For that matter, we don't have to worry about others making fun of our failures, as they might if we claimed to be good at something beforehand.

Unfortunately, our brains don't compartmentalize this behavior as an act we put on for company.  And so we conclude that the person we are at our worst, is our "real" self.

And once we come to that conclusion, we start living as if it were true.  And before long, it is.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

You could believe in yourself, instead.

And that will make all the difference.

--PJE

P.S. Believing in yourself isn't some empty and meaningless platitude.  It's actually our natural state, once you take away the negative beliefs and blocks.  It's the removal of these beliefs and blocks that forms the core of my one-on-one consulting practice, and of most of my workshops as well.  If you have these kinds of issues, I encourage you to contact me via this form.  Be sure to mention that you're interested in a one-on-one consultation.

People sometimes tell me that they don't believe I can help them, because they've got to be the most messed-up person I've ever worked with.  And I usually just laugh, because I have yet to meet anybody who's as messed-up as I was!

Sure, I can't always fix everything, every single time, in one session, from halfway around the world, with one arm tied behind my back.  But to be honest with you, when somebody has a problem I've never seen before, it doesn't bother me at all.  If you've noticed from my blog, I really enjoy learning something new! So if you think you've got a problem I've never seen before, I'd be especially interested in hearing from you.

In the meantime, though, you might also want to check out my December workshop, "Think Big, Walk Tall, and Live Large".  In it, I taught how we create our "secret identities", and how to stop believing that our "smaller self" is our real self.  Also, I'm doing a new workshop, called "What Do You Really Want?  How to Find Pleasure In A World Full Of Pain".  That one will be next Saturday at 3pm Eastern.

And until Friday, you can get both of these workshops (one via MP3 recording, one by live attendance) for only $99, by joining my Circle as an Associate member.  You'll get a whole lot more, too: newsletters like this one, and CDs like these, delivered to your door every month.  Just fill out this registration form, and within 24 hours I'll send you your login information for both workshops and for the private web forum where you can send me your questions directly, and read about what's going on with other members.  And then you'll be on your way to discovering the true you: the one that's not blocked, and not afraid, and is ready to finally really live.

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