Really Need to Find Yourself?
There will be lots of times when it seems the world wants you to think that something is wrong with you, or you’re outright ridiculous, or that what you want is unreasonable or impossible.
You should just calm down and be normal, like us.
Stop thinking so much!
People will think that you’re going out of your way, or hurting or straining yourself, when what you’re doing feels quite right and even normal to you.
Similarly, people may imagine that because you are not doing and thinking about things exactly as they do, you must be missing out.
Gee, you must be so deprived living like that. I can’t imagine.
Sometimes you’ll cave in to these messages. You won’t necessarily change your ways, but in the moment of conversation you’ll malfunction. You’ll try really hard to justify yourself to the other person. You’ll say it’s “just for now.” You’ll “admit” to being in the wrong. And, of course, you’ll feel stupid.
Sometimes feeling relatively stupid is a good sign. It means that you’re about to step into the next level of understanding. You have a whole lot of fun new things to learn, and a new world to explore. In these cases you’ll usually feel more curious (positive) than stupid (negative), though at the very least you’ll acknowledge your ignorance.
Other times, however, the feeling is wrongly placed. In particular, the feeling can arise when you’re markedly different from the people around you in some way—especially if someone present is convinced that something is wrong with you.
In these cases, the feeling of stupidity comes with you thinking you ought to beat yourself up. You’ll walk away from the situation thinking that you need to work on your social skills, or become more at peace with yourself, or even that you are mentally retarded and really ought to try your darndest to become more damn normal—even if it makes you unhappy.
When people tell you that you need to find yourself or figure out what to do with your life, they generally don’t mean well. They basically are telling you, in a roundabout way, that they think you are a confused, hapless individual—a lost soul. They don’t approve of your current path. They won’t say it outright, but they’re more or less trying to get you to admit that something is wrong with you.
I know, this might sound a little ridiculous. But every time I’ve been in a conversation like this (and at the age of 19, this has happened many times), I could tell the other person didn’t really care for what I believed to be in my best interest.
A particular pattern I’ve found is that such people seem to assume that if I am financially broke, I must be lost. I must not care about or do anything. I must not understand life. I’m basically invalid as a person. Oh, and, of course, I must not know what to do with my life.
Sometimes I fall to the fallacy that money will indeed make me a valid person. I imagine that there will come a point where I’ll finally have enough money that I can show myself to people and say, “Look, I work now!” Anyone who didn’t understand or accept me before surely will now. In the meantime- until I reach that point- I’ll have to stay under the radar, and keep pretending for certain others that I do indeed think I am stupid.
Obviously this line of thinking is so fricken silly that I don’t need to explain why it’s silly. It’s so silly it made me use the word “fricken” in writing. That’s quite a statement.
Looks Right, Feels Wrong
Another pattern I’ve noticed is that what I see on the outside of a person and how I feel about them on the inside are at odds with one another. Specifically, on the outside the person will seem that they are in touch with their emotions, or heart-centered, or that they care about me, or that we should be compatible (e.g. because we share mutual interests or similar thoughts), or any combination of the above. However, in my gut this person gives me a bad, bad feeling. Maybe just a few times. Or every time I see them. Or every time I think about them.
These differences in perception leave me feeling emotionally conflicted as well. The reality is that, unless you are super famous or globally-prominent (e.g. the President of the United States), most people are not actively trying to sabotage you. Ultimately, most people have good intentions—or, at least, they think they do. They want to have good intentions. They may just want to help, befriend, or understand you. At the very least, they just want to see what they think is right and best in the world.
Of course, what one person sees as right for you may be in outright opposition to what you see as right for you. When you feel very much on the right path, others will see you as being very much off. Similarly, what others see in themselves as being heart-centered and considerate may slither into you as poison.
Force à Fear
I’ve been on the other side of the fence too, though not nearly as often.
It’s terrible that something that is supposed to be so pure and wonderful- love and care- can turn into something so horrifying—mistrust, fear, and discouragement. I’ve seen this transmutation happen in my life in a variety of different ways. The essence, of course, is always the same: what looks like, is supposed to be, or started out as love turns into fear.
Those connections are the worst.
I learned this the hard way my last semester at school. In particular, I’ve found that relationships filled with distrust and misunderstanding (written about above) and relationships which I’ve tried to force to work often go hand in hand.
What happens is that I try to force things to be in a way which I honestly do not want them to be, though for whatever reason I assume that’s the best/only option. For instance, I’ll tell someone that I just want to be friends, when truthfully I’d like quite a bit more. Eventually, I (and perhaps the other person) become disgusted by and feel sorry about the whole thing, and I just want to high-tail it out of there.
It took a real blow to the balls for me to even begin to understand this. Never before had I let things become so horrifying between me and another person. However, after 19 years of running the pattern of forcing and basically assuming that human connections were doomed to feel dreadful and terrible for all time, something of that caliber was bound to happen.
The further you shove your head up your own ass (and thus become an asshat), the more it takes to return your eyeballs to the light of day. The longer you resist the truths that are dangling right in front of you, the more painful the process of accepting them will be. That doesn’t mean the task is impossible. I’m just letting you know: the longer you deny such truths, the harder it will be to live by them. Denial does nothing but complicate things.
Internal vs External Solutions
I don’t think all the lessons from this experience have sunk in quite yet. But I’m steadily feeling at peace with the whole thing. Simultaneously, I’m becoming more accepting of the idea of basing my interactions with others on how I really feel.
I realize that sounds so simple it’s laughable. That’s because it is. It’s so simple that it’s easy to miss.
During the semester it occurred to me that I was a social buffoon. For so long I had related to people on the basis of fear. I treated the social world like a battlefield, where I thought I constantly had to defend against, justify myself to, and charm and impress other people. It was exhausting.
I knew I had to change that about myself. So, in a way, it made sense for me to declare that something was wrong with me. Not inherently and unchangeably wrong—just a thing I had to fix. You can see my thoughts from this time in the March and April 2016 archives.
That was 3 months ago. At that time, thinking that I had to “work on myself” made sense. It helped me to become a better listener, more considerate of others, and to not run away from situations so quickly. I got myself to feel more comfortable around others, and not feel like I had to fight some battle all the time.
All in all, I did wonders for myself.
Recently, however, I realized that I can’t quite stay on that track any longer. To continue thinking that I have to work on myself will only create delay and, worst of all, lead me to try to find something wrong with myself where there is in fact nothing of the sort.
As long as I think that I have more work to do on myself, I won’t allow myself to have the connections that I’d really like to. I’ll keep thinking that I’m doing everything wrong, that I need to sit at the foot of the master and listen to everyone.
That would be similar to me thinking I had to take another programming class before I could create and share a web application. I could have done that, and delayed the simple little project for months on end. Or I could have done it the way I did, which was dive in with the skills I had, learn what I needed to learn along the way, enjoy the experience, and get it done in a matter of days. The choice there was to continue working on myself (by taking a class) or to go directly for what I wanted (by creating the program). I went with the latter.
At this point, I need to switch strategies. Rather than cultivate outward social skills and do what seems right intellectually, I need to trust myself emotionally. On top of that, rather than focus on how I need to change, it’s time to focus on who I’m allowing to take up space in my life.
Previously, the key question to ask myself continually was, Am I treating this like a battleground, or a playground? Now I need to ask, How do I feel about this person right now? Am I better off connecting, or disconnecting?
The “right now” part of How do I feel about this person right now? is very important. I can’t stress it enough. The only way trusting your gut will work is by eschewing obligations to the past and formalities and labels and relationship roles and such. The gut doesn’t play that way. If it feels wrong right now, then don’t connect right now. Maybe you can later. Then again, maybe you’ll never want to.
Anyway, if I continue to focus on “work” to be done on myself, I’ll keep thinking that I’m the source of all problems and discontentment. Obviously I am 100% responsible for everything that passes through my consciousness. I don’t deny that.
That being said, it’s important to differentiate between an “internal” solution and an “external” one. I could just float around and do my best to be very polite and upright and bulletproof toward everyone who passes on my path. That would be an internal solution. Or I can just say “Fuck it” if a connection is making me imagine that something is wrong with me, and move on. That’s an external solution.
I’ve always had difficulty coming to terms with the notion of how greatly people are influenced by each other. In particular, whenever I heard that, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with,” I would try to write off the idea. But, at the same time, my brain would try very hard to get through to me an important message: Oh shit.
Subconsciously, I knew the truth. But I wasn’t prepared to admit it to myself.
At this point I feel the only way I can possibly make progress is to embrace that truth. Even if I’m a little resistant to it still, I can’t really know whether it’s true unless I play with it full-out.
It’s a hard truth to contend with because it involves a lot of saying no. You have to say no where, intellectually, it might seem sensible to say yes.
I know that person means well, or seems very kind, or might even be the perfect match for you. But if it feels off to you… Try backing off for a while.
The “Fuck it” solution may seem harsher and less evolved, but I do quite like it. I find it easier to think more clearly, do the things I want to do, and make changes with less social resistance and unnecessary bickering and interrogation and blahblahblah. It also helps me avoid mistaking tolerance for love (thank you, Steve Pavlina). Perhaps it is the external path to peace.
By the way, I never actually say “Fuck it” to people and then march away proudly. That would be a bit rude. :P
You Can’t Talk to Everybody!
If ultimately you are unconditionally loved by everyone (let’s say, their higher selves), that means you are not obligated to anyone. No one will be damaged if you don’t talk to them or be exactly the way they want you to be. If you truly are loved by all, then it would be in everyone’s best interest that you do precisely what you want to do. If I love you, it means I set you free—in particular, to be yourself.
On a pragmatic level, you can’t talk to everyone. There are 7 billion people on this Earth. You just can’t. Even people who speak the same language and live in the same country as you might as well live in another world. You’ll meet people who have totally different thoughts and desires from you. You’ll wonder whether you’re even a part of the same species. If you can communicate at all, it might not be very pleasant.
Since you have limited time, and can make only a limited number of meaningful connections, you might as well go for the gusto. This way of thinking can lead you to be analytical, so don’t get too carried away with it. If you get analytical you’ll miss the point, which is to focus on connections that feel right to you. Still, it’s helpful to remember: you can’t talk to everyone, so don’t feel guilty about telling some people “no.”
If you only extract one paragraph from this article, let it be this.
REFUSE to believe that anything is wrong with you. Thinking that way will only lead you to flail around in your current world, which you probably are feeling done with in some regard anyway. Instead, believe in yourself. Be firm about what you want, and go after it. Not everyone will want to go along for the ride with you. You don’t need them. Be so committed to your path that even if God himself told you to defy your commitment, you would not. As for the people you can’t shake off no matter what you do, and who seem to never disapprove—well, at least give them some thought. They must be an interesting breed.
Now, go be weird. Oh, and if someone tells you that you need to “find yourself,” they probably aren’t your friend. ;)
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