For many years I have been focusing on and asking myself about my own identity. Is the way we see ourselves the true expression of who we really are or is it the result of something else. And will we be comfortable with the same Identity our whole lives.
Most of us have heard how the way we perceive ourselves has a direct effect on the kind of life we will create and the kind of life we will settle for. The question that arises for me is, how we come to see ourselves the way we do and if the way we see ourselves doesn’t fit who we truly are, then how can we change our perception.
I would say a large part of this goes back to our early experiences with our parents or caregivers and how they treated us. With the way they treated us being the result of how they saw and treated themselves. This usually gives us the same level of emotional maturity or intelligence that they had.
As we go through life we can often find that although the world is full of so many people, all with their own perspective’s on life, that they can often treat us the same way we have always been treated and often in ways that go against how we truly want to be treated.
There is also certain ways that men and women are supposed to act in a given society. Whether its men who are not supposed to show their emotions or women who are made to feel as though their whole sense of value comes from how they look.
We can feel conflict with how we want to be seen and how we feel we should be seen and how we should act based on the pressures of the world. This can be with family, relationships and how society expects us to be.
During our younger years we can become labelled as being a certain way, which is usually based on a projection of the person and might not have anything to do with the situation or how we actually are. And at such a young age we can succumb to the external pressures, with not having the awareness required to question such labels. Through the constant repetition of the people around us, we can begin to embody the label and believe it. Although deep down we will never accept this as who we really are.
When we are younger and even as we get older the people around us can be full of ideas about what we should do and what would be the ‘right’ thing for us to do. This is often a projection of what is right and acceptable in their eyes and can also be a desire for us to become something they wished they were. As a consequence of this, connecting to our own unique purpose become’s extremely difficult. We can feel so overwhelmed by it all, that when it comes to what we really want to do, we can feel frustratingly confused about what that really is.
And of course, as a result of all of this we can come to a perception about how valuable we are. So although we can feel a strong urge to achieve something, due to the projections of those around us that we have taken on as our own and now identify with, we can feel as though we are not good enough to fulfil our own dreams.
Through our need to be approved of and accepted we can end up losing our authenticity. Creating relationships where we are constantly compromising and ignoring our own needs, and constantly doing what pleases others. This can then create dysfunctional relationships where we can feel completely unheard.
I think this is one of the biggest factors in stopping us from pursuing what is truly meaningful to us. Instead of doing what makes us happy, we can end up doing what pleases others as a result of the need for acceptance. Fame I believe corresponds with this in a big way. Fame for many people is seen as the ultimate achievement in today’s society. It can give people the feeling of being accepted and approved. This is why I believe it is so important to learn to differentiate the two; to understand what is real to us and what is coming from our need to be accepted. As what society or the people around us present as the ideal thing, might not have anything to do with our own hearts calling.
Felling approved of and accepted are extremely important to our own emotional and mental wellbeing. However, if our perception of what it means to have these needs met is dysfunctional, we can end up losing ourselves. By this I mean that if our subjective meaning of being approved and accepted of is about compromise and pleasing others then we are going to create a lot of pain for ourselves. So it is clear to see how important it is to ask ourselves what being approved and accepted actually means to us and from there we can begin to alter our perceptions
This shows why it is so important to choose our friends and the environments we spend our time in carefully. With them constantly influencing how we see ourselves and if their view of us is not how we truly see ourselves, then our friends can become extremely insidious. Although our true friends will always be more interested in who we truly are and in our journey of becoming who we truly are than in us living a life of mediocrity.
So the question is if we are not who are friends, society and family have told us then who are we?. We are the part that observes what is going on in our environment and our mind and not those things themselves. It is in our identification with our mind and our environment that cause us to become trapped by the views and expectations of others.
This reminds me of what is called an identity crises or mid life crises. From my perspective this is the result of becoming dissatisfied with how we see ourselves and the current meaning that our life has. How we were before doesn’t carry the same meaning and may not feel important to us any longer. At the time it can feel as though our very foundations have been shaken and life can feel unbearable.
It can, in the larger scale of things, be a great opportunity for us to connect to what really matters and what will make a difference in our own life and the lives of others. What will bring us true happiness, connection, and purpose, instead of living a life of just going through the motions and acting as if we are going to live forever.
There is also a massive benefit to our ego, when it comes to holding onto destructive identities. Although it can cause us endless frustration and pain, there is an element of safety in holding onto what we consciously see as no good to us. This is due to how the ego associates the same with safe. So even if we may consciously want to let go, to our ego it is familiar and therefore safe.
Problems arise when we allow our life to be run by our unconscious perceptions that are motivated by what is familiar and safe and not necessarily the outcome we want. Through an absence of awareness, experience become’s truth to our unconscious mind and the only way. This is why it is important to observe ourselves so we can question our perceptions and find healthy ways to take care of our needs.
An example of this is often displayed by a child that has numerous occasions of being ill around school time. This is due to the child’s perception of school. However if the Childs perception of school was changed, it might not feel the need to become ill as a way to have its needs taken care of and to actually feel heard. It could be said that if we don’t take care of our needs in a conscious way, our unconscious mind will find a way, and it might not be the most functional one.
I believe the more aware we become of what we don’t want to do and the more experiences we have of trying different things, the closer we get to what gives us true meaning.
By letting go of the perceptions we have, that which we are can be revealed, allowing us to become closer to our true self. My perspective is that no one else can show us who we are or tell us who we are, that is our own responsibility. I believe the only part anyone can play is in being a catalyst or a mirror. All of what I have written is based on my experience and what is currently true to me and is not the absolute truth by any means.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.