Do you feel that you cruise through life not really knowing why you do the things you do? Be it your vocation in general, or the little actions and thoughts you notice in your quotidian? Maybe it’s switching off from the “outside world” all too often, or hoping you could. Maybe it’s repeatedly catching yourself day dreaming, recalling old decisions, ones that stray from how you like to think about yourself. Maybe it’s wishing you could revise the past, imagining what could have been. Ultimately you recognize how blessed you are, but often wonder what is “wrong” with you.
If you display traits of perfectionism, a tendency to please others, an “all or nothing” mindset, a need for control, detachment from personal feelings or needs, and difficulty in expressing emotions, your answers to those questions are likely to be a definite yes.
It took me some time to comprehend that these tendencies were anything but normal, for I was convincing myself we all face incertitude when approaching the “quarter life crisis”. While true, the difference is that few people actually think of themselves as a fraud, which is how I felt for majority of my young adult life. The more I felt out of place, the harder I adopted a personality that entirely fit, redirecting efforts to being “that person”. I cruised through life overcompensating for feelings of inadequacy.
Many of the things I worked hard to build for myself, the personality I adopted at work versus outside of it, my different temperament tailored to altered circumstances, none of it was my Self. I found an identity in being a chameleon. Most people in my life thought of me a different way, yet all sharing the same view: that they knew the “real AK”. It’s quite amazing actually, given that I had no idea who AK was. But one thing certain is that each of these opinions gave direction to my life. I was developing into the person others loved having around, and whether I was content didn’t quite matter. Indeed, I found fulfillment purely from making people proud of me, from making them happy, from hearing their praises and their continuous pursuit of being in my company. Did I want to be there? If they wanted me, the answer was yes. Did I want “it” for myself? If they did, again, the answer was yes. I abode by the general consensus and strived for “things” we tend to honor. A life in NYC, a prestigious job, tons of friends, a rich social life, the CFA, my very own apartment, you name it. However, fulfillment never came. I was blind to building anxiety, which I externalized via a rewarding distraction. Given my genetics and the environmental circumstances, it nearly cost me my life.
I believe that with grit and belief it’s possible to achieve all the things we aspire to. The question is will that really get us to where we want to be? Well, maybe not. We can be very different from someone we strive to be similar to. We can be very removed from circumstances we wish for ourselves. Our true character can be very disconnected from what we are chasing. I find that the stronger the starting contrast, the less prone we are to feeling satisfied as we approach, even reach, those sought-after goals. We kicked off of a vision that felt unnatural to begin with.
To find happiness, we must start by assessing our own reality and be true to who we are, our values and authentic personality.
Unease arises when we endure living with sensations that we don’t belong, when we are introverts who seamlessly come off as extroverts, when we blend in self-created situations, concurrently aware they give us meaninglessness, and that we bear deceitfulness. With all that comes unpleasant consciousness, which our brilliant mind works hard to bury: hello denial. And then, there is the body. Gut generated discomfort arises, so we look for ways to block it out: hello distraction. We unhealthily fill up the void, when what we should be doing is removing ourselves from the general context and work towards revealing our true identity. In doing so, we can unclog the enshrouded shameful thoughts, a necessary process towards healthily replenishing the space, creating an environment in line with our reality: one where we fit as effortlessly as Cinderella’s shoe on her foot. At that moment her happiest journey began. And so can ours – as soon as we quit pretending to fit in what doesn’t quite suit us, and change into what’s tallied to our very own Self.
The million dollar question remains, how do we go about finding this Self and how do we get on exposing “its” true nature? I will attempt to crack this in my next post. Stay tuned.