Is this who I am, or do I need to fix this?
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Most people don't know their minds. They view themselves as a collection of desires to satiate and dislikes to avoid, rarely questioning the validity of these impulses or the strategies they use to navigate them, let alone where they come from. Others jump to adopting spirituality and new-age philosophies because it feels good to think you are one with everything. Everything, though, includes mass murderers, rapists, genocidal maniacs, junkies on the street, and the black slime that floats around your shower drain when you forget to clean up for too long. Oh, sorry. I stand corrected. "Everything," except all the ugly, despicable things and people.
I spend a lot of time poking around my own head and the heads of my clients, deciphering what is actually happening, where it is coming from, and what should be done about it. I have more than an ounce of curiosity. I think I have a bucketful.
If we accept that change is constant, we can agree that we all will change as people over time. The task at hand is to change conscientiously, deliberately, and skillfully into a better version of ourselves, happier, stronger, more resilient, creative, wiser, and better people all around. The alternative is letting life bang us around until all we have left is cynicism, self-criticism, regrets, and missed opportunities.
Maybe you will get lucky. It's possible. But maybe you won't. That's more likely. So, better do your inner work as an insurance policy. The older you get, the stronger you feel the cumulative impact of being stupid about who you really are, your tendencies, motivations, why you do what you do, and how you do it.
When I stare at aspects of my mind, like anger, fear, anxiety, introversion, self-criticism, and ambition, I ask myself, "Is this who I am, or is this something I need to fix?" Depending on the circumstances, the question may sound differently but it is still the same question. For example, "Am I loving to my dog because I am a loving person, for her sake, or am I stupidly attached to her for my own sake?"
Humans have a prefrontal cortex. We can get tricky and covert in our motivations, then justify our behavior and rationalize our intentions. But we also have the much older, instinctual parts of our brains that we find harder to access and understand despite their strong influence on us.
Yep, messy. But does it matter? And how can we tell what is us and what needs fixing?
I don't think you can tell just by looking at yourself because you're like one of those abstract paintings where you don't see what's there unless you squint your eyes and tilt your head just the right way. Your mind is adept at tricking you into believing your own justifications and stories. But suppose you possess humility and look at the consequences of your actions, the outcomes of your life and relationships. In that case, you can see how certain aspects of yourself contribute to these outcomes and consequences.
How do you affect your life?
How does your anger, need for loyalty, striving for respect, impulsiveness, ambition, self-criticism, need for control, ability to trust, striving, desire for power, recognition, status and image, righteousness, etc., affect your life and relationships? Is that thing about you working for you in a positive way, minimizing suffering, increasing a sense of well-being, improving relationships, or not? Are you aware of it and at peace with it, enough to make fun of it, or is it driving you in self-destructive ways, keeping you up at night, confusing you, and complicating the rest of your life? Is it holding you back in some way that is important for you to move forward?
To answer these questions, you need to make time to process yourself. Others can help. We all walk around with blind spots, but friends, family, and professionals can help you see through them with their observations, insights, and perspectives, even with their experiences in the past. Don't stop engaging with that thing, but don't get stuck overanalyzing, either.
Watch for feedback from the world around you. If you feel that people "always" perceive you in a certain way, that's probably because you come across that way. Find out why you come across that way. What are you doing or not doing? Is this how you want to be seen and known? How is it affecting the quality of your life, relationships, and your career? Is it working for you in a positive, productive way? How does it match up with the way you see yourself?
This kind of generative drive work takes time. Insights may feel instant, but they result from your self-curiosity at work for a while before things click together insightfully. So, take your time, but hurry up because this life is truly short. You want to live most of it in the best possible way.
You don't have to be what you've always been if it's not working well for you.
In other news:
I will speak at the 39th Cuesta College Writers Conference this year on Oct 14th!!! Hope to see you at the conference (if you happen to be near it on the Central Coast of California). Fun fact: I started as a writer attending this conference a few years ago, learning a lot and meeting inspiring writers. Feels like a full circle.
This year's conference is a 1-day event featuring over 50 industry experts and thought leaders who will be speaking on a wide range of 'creator economy' topics ranging from A.I. to Screenwriting to Podcasting (and of course writing & publishing). Learn more at https://www.cuesta.edu/communityprograms/writers-conference.
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My services: www.valpetrova.com