“I aim to please!” Isn’t that a statement that is so representative of the way so many of us live our lives? We strive so hard to please the people who are important to us. But at what point in pleasing them do we lose our own voice?Many of us live in the shadow of strong people. We grow up being told by parents, teachers and our religious community what we SHOULD do if we want to be happy. What we SHOULD do if we want to be successful. Interestingly though – how can they ever truly know what will make us happy and successful? They can’t. They often tell us things out of love and concern, but in reality, the things they communicate are true for them, not necessarily for us. And so many times, certain behaviors are modeled for us that we just KNOW are wrong for us. But we find ourselves repeating the patterns that, at a gut level, do not align with our own beliefs.
Imagine this…you grew up in a household where anything remotely sexual was never discussed. Maybe you grew up in an environment where anger and hurt were communicated through the silent treatment. Or maybe you grew up in a family where grades and performance were more important than the quality of your character.
As adults, we have the ability to choose our own way and our own path. But for so many of us it’s nearly impossible to turn off the voice in our head telling us what is right and what is wrong. Being conscious that this happens is really the all-important first step in changing the pattern.
It’s important to sit down and write out what you believe is expected of you. What beliefs have you been taught? Does expressing sorrow indicate weakness? Is it alright to “do whatever you have to do” and step on whatever toes you need to in order to achieve that job which signifies status? Is the love shared between a same sex couple wrong because your pastor or a parent told you it was? Think about all the messages you’ve received as children – communicated either by example or with words. Do this writing exercise over a week’s time so that you can revisit it as things pop up for you.
When you are satisfied you’re done, start a new list. Take each one of the expectations and beliefs you’ve written and assess whether you agree or disagree with it. If you disagree with it, write a sentence or two why you do not subscribe to that belief. Keep in mind that years of conditioning might not be undone just by conducting this exercise. But it is crucial for you to make a decision about what is right for YOU. It is only by spending the time to accept or reject beliefs that you can begin to find our own voice.
Perhaps the next time you hear a voice in your ear telling you that that “you are foolish if you…..” — YOU will decide for YOURSELF if it is right. We are granted freedom of thought and a mind of our own so we can have the ability to live our lives in alignment with our own values and beliefs. If using humor in a situation where that negative voice just won’t be quiet helps, close your eyes, smile and say, “You’re NOT the boss of me!” – because it’s true.