What many of us may understand but often forget is that we are molded as children to view the world through a certain lens. This lens is shaped by your own beliefs initially about yourself, what is valuable and what isn’t. Then those beliefs become imposed on other individuals as well. As children, our value rests largely in the hands of our fallible parents who are just human beings with the best intentions for us. Their only intention is for us to survive, and this is at the core of everything they do. Subsequently, parents begin to pile all of their fears, judgments, insecurities, and belief structures that they developed as children onto their only desire which is for us to survive.
As we begin to grow older the brain develops the capacity to now compare ourselves to others, often to our peers. We all remember the terrors of middle school when we became acquainted with our personalities and began seeing ourselves as separate from others. There are two stages in a human being’s life when the brain is most placid. This means you are literally consuming so much information and learning so many lessons, absorbing what you have learned more quickly and more deeply than you ever will again in your life. This unique point happens largely throughout your teenage years. That’s why the experiences you had as a teenager affect the way in which you make decisions and process challenges in your adult years.
I had a conversation not long ago with a man who told me he had spent a large part of his life making decisions and living on the basis of what he thought would impress his father, and what he thought the world deemed as important and valuable. Come to find out what he just spent the last twenty years of his life doing career-wise, was completely out of line with who he really was as a person. How do we know what the core self is? We hear so much about authenticity but what does it really mean and how does one even go about figuring out what their authentic self is?
If you are a man who identities with this gentleman’s story then you know what I mean when I say your true self is probably buried under a lot of confusing images of who you think you are, kind of a mask that you have put on in order to live within the mold that allows you to best survive in this world. However, you have had two feeling based experiences in your life that you will want to pay attention to, and these will serve as your initial road map to get out from behind this mask. First, you’ve had a lingering suspicion or feeling, that seems to come about from time to time telling you that something is not right. Often this will happen when you go to make a sizable decision or you experience a negative outcome as a result of a big choice you once made, perhaps taking a job, or marrying the wrong person.
The second ‘suspicious feeling’ we’ll call it, is that experience that gives you just a brief high, a feeling of freedom, a feeling of sheer joy, a feeling of complete and utter contentment in the present moment. But then it went away, and you instinctively shut it down because it felt like it couldn’t possibly be part of your ‘real’ life. My solution for you is actually incredibly simple. It is not about immediately quitting everything that makes you unhappy and going to live in an ashram in Nepal. It is about tapping into this magical and incredibly powerful tool we have called the brain.
The brain learns fastest and most intensely through experiences. Once you begin to hone in on those core experiences I just described more and more frequently, they become second nature. And because it feels too good living your life with these feelings of freedom and joy, for example. Over time you will begin to resist making choices in your life that create less satisfying experiences. Your choices will begin to change, and that is when you begin living life inside the skin of your true authentic self.