What comes with knowing yourself? Oftentimes it’s too overwhelming and intimidating, and we return to our previous patterns. If we’re persistent enough to embrace who we really are, it can still be a lonely road. Sometimes, finding out the truth about ourselves just seems to be too much trouble. So we keep making the same mistakes and falling into the same patterns because we haven’t really unwound and understood the root of these patterns in the first place!
Someone once (or twice) said, know thyself. Let’s see; the Oracle of Delphi, Jesus, well, heck, about everybody worth mentioning has some twist on it. Why? Most of us who have been in therapy, read numerous self-help books, etc., are left being mostly acutely aware of what is wrong with us and eventually head back to the barn (what’s familiar). There is only so much we can take. And those of us who hang in there still complain of the loneliness and austere life it seems the road less traveled requires. “To Hell with it!” we say, “Life is short and I need a reward for all this vigilance and self-examination, arrgh…pass the Kool-Aid.” So, we continue the search, now seeking elsewhere for guidance, and perhaps decide Popeye was right, “I am what I am” and get on with life.
If knowing the truth and ourselves is that much trouble, I can’t be bothered: I have bills to pay, mountains to climb, kids to feed, men to seduce (who will hopefully rescue me from it all), women to charm (who will hopefully distract me from my failures), pounds to lose, wrinkles to conquer, a legacy to leave so I can get to Happily Ever After already. So we ditch Buddha for Santa Claus (& Popeye) and keep looking for the secret. “Know thyself, ha!” we mutter and join the proverbial “if ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” crowd.
We manage to skate for a while on our latest distractions: a new love interest, new job, new cosmetic procedure, sudden influx of cash, new handbag or project. Yet the gap between how we act and who we are widens, and no matter what we tell ourselves, eventually the suffering returns, most of it silent. And we wonder why. So we up the dues: get more sex, more stuff, more money, more attention, better projects, a different house, another baby, another job, travel (that’s it! I need a vacation!), a face lift, a tummy tuck, lose 20 pounds, a younger wife, get another degree, REDECORATE for God’s sake… THIS IS AMERICA! The pursuit of happiness is my birthright!
Beneath the façade of fake smiles and the it’s all good story swells the raging sea of discontent, the cauldron of disappointment, chilled by terror and fueled by resentment that things are not different. This cocktail is lethal—we chase it down with envy and regret as the elusive dream slips further away.
According to scientists, our daily behavior is 90% subconscious. From years one to five a projection reel spliced with trauma, false beliefs and genetic inheritance has been cast upon our nubile brains: the reel continually spins out our reality, like the daily press, in predictable neural loops over our lifetime. It seems who we are is simply who someone else (“they”) told us to be. Most of us were duped and now are understandably pissed, as we find interrupting these patterns and uncovering who we really are feels like trying to stop a nose-diving 747 jet with a diaphragm.
You might cry, “Why do I pretend to be more than I am, have more than I have? Why do I feel that I am not enough, why don’t I want what I have, how come happiness escapes me, why do I believe that when I get (blank) everything will be okay, but that never seems to come?” The good news is, what is fake about you is NOT who you are! Who you are is magnificent, eternal, and unique. Yet until we know this true self we feel trapped in a life directed by an unconscious dictator, our subconscious beliefs and patterns.
While you may be tired, overwhelmed and have no bandwidth right now as survival is taking its toll, as my mother would say, “Don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle.” Here is an exercise that may help you reignite your search for freedom of being, as well as put some pep back in your step—the energy it takes to pretend to be someone you are not, be fake, is extraordinary.
What’s fake about me? Exercise
1. Get a piece of paper and write down all the things that are fake about you (you may burn after reading, of course). Examples might be that you are:
Fake skinny: you spend an inordinate amount of time watching your weight so that people will find you attractive or so you will feel loved or seen. You fear that if you were fat you would never be happy, popular, get a man, be loved or accepted.
Fake nice: you spend much of your time trying to make people like you, manipulating your circumstances by being nice so you can get what you want, while underneath you seethe with resentment or envy of those who don’t seem to care what others think.
Fake rich: you pretend to be successful, you have mortgaged your life so others will think you are a person of worth, you lease your car that you cannot afford, buy clothes to create a false image, live in a house beyond your means, etc.
You get the idea, go ahead and explore all the fake parts: fake smart, because you believe you need to know so you can hide your fear of being inept or stupid; fake pretty, in hopes of being perfect-looking so you can finally be important, special or loved; fake happy, because you know people don’t want to hear your problems and would never want to be around someone as depressed and messed up as you really feel. Fake straight, fake sexy, fake sensitive, fake caring, fake in control, fake good mom, fake happy marriage, fake great relationship, fake healthy, fake spiritual, and on and on. Let it out. You have an opportunity to relieve yourself of the burden of living this secret life by simply admitting it!
2. Be with it. Sit down with what’s fake about you and move deeper into it. Exaggerate it, even. Give it a voice. Let the fake part or parts have a turn telling you about themselves. You might be surprised at what they have to say!
3. Feel it. Whatever feeling or emotions come, let yourself have them. Like a wave, they will not hurt you; they will wash through you and heal you if you have the courage to feel them all the way. (It could be helpful to have an enlightened witness to share this part of the process with, someone you trust to your core.)
4. Allow it. Relaxing into this allowing, comes freedom. In the acceptance comes understanding and then compassion. Including all our parts allows us greater freedom of being. Developing unconditional love for ourselves expands our capacity for intimacy and joy.
5. Know this is not all of who you are. My teacher Kathy reminds me of this fact all the time. I feel relieved and all at once welcomed back to the human race and condition. We find our right size again. This perspective gives space for a sense of peace and well-being, room to breathe and dream forward your heart’s true desires again. Your soul shines, your authentic self is free to be!
Namasté and blessings, freedom seekers!