On the journey of self-improvement (it’s a journey not a destination), you never know what’s going to be a profoundly transformative experience. Right now, my big transformation is letting go of living up to my parents’ expectations, which ultimately is what letting go of approval seeking is all about. There’s a feeling of grief and sadness in saying goodbye to an old version of myself.
Much of self-improvement is preparation. You prepare yourself–spirit, thoughts, emotions, body–for that moment when something ignites your soul on fire. While it’s exhilarating to expand into a greater version of yourself, there must be a cooling down period in which things must reform.
We can never go back to the way things were, but sometimes we want to. When we can stop wanting to go back, then we can truly go forward. We have to want to change before it can happen.
Choosing to no longer seek the approval of (and trying to please) others may be the most challenging thing we ever face. Sometimes anger is our only way out, but when the anger subsides, we can feel the familiar pull of old habits. However (and whenever) it happens, turning the corner is the difference between night and day.
The Great Equalizer
Happiness is the great equalizer. We can never really tell if anyone else is truly happy. We can never truly make anyone else happy unless they really want to be happy.
I have to admit that as focused and (authentically) happy as I am now, through everything I’ve learned and overcome, there’s still pain and resistance to being happy, which requires all of my wisdom (as well as others) in order to find peace. It takes a deep and abiding appreciation of the journey and the process of life. We weren’t born to please others; we were born to be true to ourselves, and the sooner we realize that, the better we’ll feel.
I’m focused on embodying myself these days–really feeling what it means to be me–so I’m not trying to use my intellect to be happy. Intrinsic motivation is the only thing that’s truly fulfilling. Life flows into open spaces.
I’m enjoying art, writing, and music. There’s nothing for me to solve anymore. I’ve gone through the tough stuff, and now all I want to do is appreciate everything.
I know that whatever has gone away can be replaced by something greater. This is what it means to be a (better) man. That’s what it means to be human.
Rather than treating the symptoms, this year (the year of re-invention) is about finding the cure. In truth, I know what the cure is (and it’s not my cover of The Cure); it’s just a matter of taking the medicine. The healthy self is a confident self.*
I feel strongly about things, and I relate to the “feeler” types out there, but sometimes I admit that I get annoyed at our wishy-washyness (lack of backbone). It’s great to have deeply held values, but you have to stand up for them and that means – at times – standing up to others and standing up for yourself, especially when your happiness and peace of mind is at stake. As I sit here in my lovely apartment (that I worked for), I sometimes feel a disturbance in the Force; feelings of guilt and anxiety for doing my best and improving my life – and this being the year of re-invention – I choose to confront and ultimately transmute these energies.
I’ve got names for my bad guys:
- Asshole Judge
- Spilled Milk
- General Negativity
- Insecurity Blanket
- Infinite Sadness
- Inner Critic
- Depression Sinkhole
- Shameful Guilty Goblin
- Green Eyed Slime
- Fear Mongrel
I’m sick and tired of letting these inner demons run rampant. Feelings can help guide us, but only if we use them effectively. Their purpose is to allow us to express our true selves.
*The cure is to be happy, which requires being confident, and that means having confidence (trust) in yourself.
Like it or not, we all have emotions. A few years ago, I wrote about the Five Basic Emotions. This is about the Six Basic Emotions, which is essentially the same thing:
Six Basic Emotions is a term that refers to the theory of American psychologists Paul Ekman and Wallace V. Friesen.
Ekman and Friesen identified six basic emotions based on studying the isolated culture of people from the Fori tribe in Papua New Guinea in 1972. The tribe members were able to identify these six emotions on the pictures.
After that, they took pictures of facial expressions of people from the Fori tribe with the same emotions and they presented these pictures to people of other races and cultures all over the world. They also interpreted the emotions on the pictures correctly.
Following six basic emotions were identified:
Round and Round
Here’s a useful Emotions Wheel:
I like how, according to the wheel, we can get to the basic emotions by feeling more “surface level” kinds of emotions. For example, if we want to feel happy, we can begin with Amused, then move toward Interested, until we land on feeling Happy. We can also reverse engineer it and see what basic emotion is at the core of the more nuanced (and sometimes confusing) feelings.
Have fun discovering and feeling your emotions!
It’s a given that as we navigate through life, there will be blind spots; areas that we’re unaware of. So how do we deal with them? It’s like driving; we need to be aware that there are blind spots, and we get better at handling them with practice.
Maybe we can never be truly objective about our experiences, but we can do our best. We can ask ourselves if what we’re doing is genuinely making us happy. If there’s any confusion about whether we’re happy or not, that’s a clue to where the blind spots are.
When I look at my life, I have every reason to be happy, but there are certain negative thoughts, feelings, and situations that keep repeating. These are my blind spots, and I can never be completely objective about them, or see exactly what’s going on, because I’m experiencing my life as someone who’s inside the picture. The best we can do is be honest about how we feel, and look at the effect we’re having on the world around us, and that will guide us in the right direction.
After finding the freedom I was looking for, not just physically but emotionally, I realize that the adventure has only just begun. Not only do I wish to enjoy this new found freedom, but I also want to give something back; to be a light for others. Maybe I’m not completely out of the woods yet, but perhaps the woods aren’t something to be afraid of, and I can come and go as I please.
It’s a nice day, and a warm winter. I go about my daily routines like a castaway who’s been returned to civilization. Everything feels new, yet familiar at the same time.
I’m not running away from my feelings anymore, mainly because I’ve grown weary of doing that, and because it doesn’t work. The disowned parts of myself have been patiently waiting for my return. To do the things I’m meant to do is like being reborn as another person.