“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
– Carl Jung
“I never thought I was capable of this. Not in a million years did I ever think I would betray someone like this. Sometimes I don’t even think this is my life.” Tom, a childhood friend, said this to me over coffee, while speaking about an affair he’s been having with someone at work. His emotions took over his life, and he entered territory he never thought he’d find himself in. Living a life of secrets and lies, far outside your own truth, can feel exhilarating at first—that is, until it starts to mess with your beliefs about who it is you want to be in this world.
During his affair, Tom was living as a slave to his reactivity and instinctual urges. He regularly suppressed and ignored his internal values and logical mind in order to experience instant gratification and unrestrained ecstasy. As a result, he became overwhelmed with shame. He was guided exclusively by his emotions, only concerning himself with his feelings and ignoring everyone else’s. In the process of living this way, he lost the most valuable thing: himself.
When we indulge in behaviors that deviate from our personal value systems, our ability to think logically gets weaker and weaker over time. Before we know it, our lives start falling apart, our relationships are in shambles, people feel disconnected from us, and we struggle to get close to anyone. We find ourselves unhappy, and we don’t know why. Our inability to truly express ourselves, show our vulnerabilities, expose our shortcomings, and cope with discomfort stunt our growth and potential to live in a place of truth.
Everything Starts with Awareness
Giving yourself time to become more aware of yourself and your internal experience will allow you to manifest into action what you truly want. Experiencing your true self will help keep you feeling real, healthy, and truly satisfied, giving you the push you need to continue down that path. Becoming more self-aware will help you change your behaviors and stop filling the void inside you in unhealthy ways. It will open up a new journey, giving you your own voice and rewarding you with a life that feels like your own. As John Kim, LMFT puts it, “The highest currency you’ll ever have is self-awareness. Without it, it’s impossible to know what you need to change. Usually, people experience awareness by getting chopped at the knees over and over until they realize something has to change.”
You may have an understanding of what needs to change in your life. You might have become aware of it through your relationships, traumatic events, people’s responses to you, or your reactions to them. Being vulnerable and open to change means accepting all of your story and taking responsibility for your role in it. It isn’t about blaming others for it, acting like a victim, or ignoring your truth. Becoming who you truly are is a process. But if you want to practice self-awareness, you have to make the choice to accept where you’re at and fully accept all of your story without shame or regret. Speaker, bestselling author, and behavioral scientist, Steve Maraboli, explains it this way:
“There are times in my life when I have been medicine for some while poison others. I used to think I was a victim of my story until I realized the truth; that I am the creator of my story, I choose what type of person I will be and what type of impact I will leave on others. I will never choose the destructive path of self and outward victimization again.”
If you’re starting to feel powerless over your life and a victim to your circumstances, it’s time to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for your story and your life. When I listened to my friend Tom share his truth with me, I struggled to stay neutral. I could see that a big part of him didn’t want to end his affair, which brought him so much pleasure. So I asked him, “Do you want to live a life of pleasure or purpose?” Most of us aren’t used to doing what’s uncomfortable for us. We live our lives avoiding the tough decisions and doing what we’ve always done, even if it isn’t working for us. In the moment, it seems like we’ve found a shortcut. But as it turns out, that short cut ends up being the long way.
The truth is, like most of us, Tom was afraid. He was afraid of rejection, failure, being alone, and facing the unknown. He was scared to be himself, and as a result ended up creating an outlet for himself in the form of a love affair. He found a way to create a connection without actually having to get intimate or commit; it was the perfect way to hide.
Of course, changing is hard. That’s why most people don’t do it and, instead, just wait for the next thing that will bring them momentary pleasure. But experiencing your truth is not only about you; it’s about the world being able to experience you at your best.
Think about a typical day in your life. As you go through the details, ask yourself this question: When do I feel most like myself, and when do I feel disconnected? Take your time. Close your eyes if you have to. Dive into your experience of a typical day. Is it when you’re at the gym, having a drink with friends, outside in nature, driving, at work, or with family? Then ask, Where do I feel the most connection? If it’s hard for you to play back a typical day in your mind start practicing self-awareness by becoming aware of your internal experiences throughout the day, without judgement. Notice what makes you feel reactive and what seems okay with you. Start to become aware of what brings you joy and what makes you feel uneasy.
This work is all about looking within, getting to know yourself, and then changing your mindset and beliefs about what truly aligns with your Self. Living your life fully aware of yourself is freedom at its best.
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Article edited by Dr. Denise Fournier