We’ve all had experiences where we felt like a fish out of water or were caught against the current, struggling. If we’re lucky, we regularly have experiences of feeling accepted and welcomed for who we are by people whose company we enjoy.
Acceptance, belonging, and purpose are core human desires. If you are a teenager in Peru’s mountains or a retired firefighter in New York City, you want to fit into your world and be appreciated.
Fear of Rejection Makes Us Reject Ourselves
If the world’s best feelings include love, belonging, approval, and recognition, rejection is one of the worst. It feels like a kind of failure or worthlessness. Rejection is so unpleasant that some people will do anything to avoid it. However, a fear of rejection makes us afraid to be ourselves.
When we give up our path to meet other people’s expectations, we are at odds with our true selves. People-pleasing is synonymous with low self-confidence. Subconsciously we’ve decided we are not good enough and are looking for the outside world to correct that for us.
Chasing approval is like a dog chasing its tail. We cannot catch it because it’s already ours.
Conformity’s Purpose Has Passed
The best thing about a world of increasing tolerance and acceptance is permission to be authentic to our natural values and preferences.
One hundred years ago, the railroad was well developed, but there were no cars, planes, phones, or televisions, and most U.S. homes did not have indoor plumbing! Women had just won the vote and the right to use birth control.
Sit with that for a moment. In three generations, we went from outhouses to wireless smartphones. Our world is different now than it has ever been before.
Since the time of civilization, financial and social structures have looked like pyramids. A small percentage at ‘the top’ enjoy more benefit, control, and influence. Their opulence is literally and figuratively supported by the much larger, less remunerated, masses of people.
The old system needed conformists willing to follow along, but the world is getting too fast, big, and interconnected for that. We need to think critically and for ourselves. We need to process and respect our feelings and inner wisdom or we are subject to manipulation and control.
Right now, we collectively have the technology and intelligence to feed, house, and clothe the world. With true world collaboration, we could live in modern comfort and luxury but also maintain balance with our ecosystem. We could even reforest the earth by changing our concept of how cities look and what materials we use. To do that, we have to work together towards a bigger vision.
What will create a world beyond our imagining are authentic individualists who collaborate, co-create, and boldly contribute in small ways to a future they will never see.
This means we don’t have to go along to get along anymore. Being authentic to our dreams and passions can and will help save the world.
As Ourselves, We Complete a Puzzle
Technology evolves exponentially, but people evolve sequentially.
The world has changed more than people have. In families, personality traits, addictions, and other patterns repeat with small variations generation after generation. Some people break free and live a more authentic life, but in the past, this was percentage tiny.
There weren’t even tools available to understand the human mind and emotions, let alone overcome trauma. Those tools have only really emerged over the past fifty years.
Authenticity has been the exception but should be the norm. The more empathy we have for ourselves, the better we understand the people around us.
To shed the mental and emotional blocks to authenticity, we may have to overcome:
· Childhood trauma
· Unhealthy family patterns
· Social expectations
· Our own desire to be loved/famous/important/liked/rich
Nurture Can Inhibit or Support
My mom has a younger brother she did not meet until she was in her 60s. When my mom was four-years-old, her father died suddenly. Alone in the late 1940s with no skills, three kids, and no husband, my grandmother secretly gave up her fourth child for adoption. Undoubtedly, a heartbreaking choice she felt she had to make. Later, she remarried but never mentioned the adopted son.
Six decades later my mom got a phone call from a young woman asking about my grandmother. It was her niece, a lawyer, who had tracked down her father’s birth family. My mother was thrilled to meet her youngest brother and his family. There is an unmistakable family resemblance both physically and in some mannerisms.
Here is the exciting part.
My family has musical or artistic talent on both sides. However, both sides also had strong beliefs against pursuing art as a profession. I grew up under the impression that I needed a ‘serious’ profession to survive.
My mom’s adopted brother was raised outside of this belief system. His adopted parents were not musical but supported his interests and talents. He became a professional musician. He produces music, sings, and plays multiple instruments and has supported his family with music for over 40 years.
His childhood environment gave him permission to develop and pursue his talents, so he did.
Give Yourself Permission
If a fulfilling and liberating life means being yourself and doing what you love, then no one knows your highest path better than you do. True visionaries stray from the beaten path and embrace their individuality.
The irony is that many people subdue themselves and try and fit in so that people will like them or give them things, but it’s a self-defeating choice.
If you think of well-known and well-respected figures; it’s fearlessly showing people how different you are that gains respect.
When we are being ourselves, the highest path folds out in front of us because we are aligned.