And How Sabotaging Self Can Lead to Purpose in Life!
I recently reread a little ditty of a dandy book titled Finding Your Own North Star by Martha Beck. It’s a short read but invaluable for getting me back on track to trusting my inner voice, my essential self.
Basically, Beck suggests we have two selves: the Social Self and the Essential Self. The Social Self was developed from our external experiences since birth. The Essential Self is our true spirit, who we were born and meant to be.
The Social Self avoids, conforms, imitates, predicts, plans and works hard. It clamours to fit in.
The Essential Self attracts, is distinctive, creative, surprising, spontaneous and playful. It proudly stands out.
We need both.
When we veer away from our true uniquely-meant-for-me life path, we tend to self-sabotage—whether it be in work, relationships, health or otherwise—and this is a good thing!
When we start to feel that tummy-turning, gut-churning gag reflex about certain things in life (like our job, partner, friends) and the choices we’re making (or avoiding) with regard to those things, is our Essential Self trying to tell us: Honey, you is off-track and need a serious course-correct a-sap!
Often we try to ignore our inner voice, because change is scary.
It’s so scary that some people won’t want us to change course; they might fear how it affects them (for example, fear of losing relationships)—or it might make them question their own lives.
But there are also other people who will be supportive of us finding our true path to happiness. We can also project our assumptions of what we think other people think about us. (Guilty here!) That’s our Social Self. Let’s stop doing that—it doesn’t do anyone any good.
The Social Self needs everyone’s permission to change; the Essential Self needs no one’s.
We only need a few real supporters to convince our Social Self that travelling down our true path is a good idea.
Therefore, another good idea: spend time with people who encourage you to follow your true path.
Sometimes, when we finally realize we’re on the wrong track, we go through a period of pain and struggle. We may have seemingly accomplished great things in our life, but they might feel meaningless. We start to ‘not show up’ anymore. In our jobs, marriages, friendships. When we start self-sabotaging ourselves, that’s our Essential Self tapping us on the shoulder. (Or perhaps punching us in the gut.)
My motto: if it feels good, do it; if it doesn’t feel good, don’t. (Big picture, Essential Self, gut-good!)
Sometimes it’s hard to know the difference between that big picture in the heat of the moment, and that’s part of why we self-sabotage. But deep down inside, whether we want to (/are ready to) admit it or not, we know what’s best for us.
There may be emotional wounds that still need healing before we can effectively get ourselves on the right track we know is out there for us. In order to move through this hindrance to get to the better side, we need to heal, and even when we have the courage to face those scaries, we don’t always know how to get past that washed out section of our path.
I know that this facing wounds and healing part sucks and I could fill a book on how to do this, but to try to simplify it to blog length proportion would be disrespectful and inadequate.
Plus, there are already many books on the eShelves to help with this. The most impactful to me have been:
- Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway® (Susan J. Jeffers)
- Man’s Search For Meaning (Victor E. Frankl)
- The Power of Now (Eckhart Tolle)
- How To Be Happy, Dammit! (Karen Salmansohn)
Healing emotional wounds means taking responsibility for our lives, dropping the victim attitude, and forgiving ourselves and others. When we can get to this point, we will experience (at least moments of) blissful joy for no good reason. (I promise this is true!)
As we accept responsibility for our lives, when we start to feel icky about things, here are some questions to ask ourselves:
- What am I feeling? (Happy, sad, disappointed, punch-a-pillow pissed off etc.)
- Why am I feeling this way? (Hint: It’s about me not them. Damn.)
- What will it take to make me happy? (Hint: This is something only I can do.)
- What’s the best way to get what I want/need? (Remember the feel-good intention: Do no harm.)
Fear can hold us back from moving forward or it can trigger feelings that let us know to pay attention because change is needed. (And we’re not talking about legit fears like coming across a cougar in the woods—or in a dimly lit bar close to closing time.)
Brian Tracy or Tony Robbins (or both) suggest we ask ourselves: “If fear weren’t an issue, what would I do/be/have?”
I say there is no bravery without fear.
Grief can also hold us back if we don’t process it. We all suffer losses in life. We must respectfully grieve in order to heal. This could be mourning the loss of a loved one, job, marriage, lifestyle, old identity. Take our time and remember: this too shall pass.
Honouring our grief allows it to move through us faster so it doesn’t fester.
Anger can grip and mire us but, again, it’s also a message. It means either our Essential Self is missing something or it can’t tolerate something. We have choices when this happens:
- Change the situation. (This could mean having a respectful conversation and asking for what we need, or finally leaving a job we hate.)
- Change our attitude. (This is the suck-it-up-buttercup-it-ain’t-that-bad-check-up-from-the-neck-up option.)
- Keep feeling punch-a-pillow pissed off. (Hint: No damn good.)
Joy! Joy is the answer. (Well, actually love is the answer, but joy gets the silver metal.) But we’re talking the real McCoy here, not the Photoshopped version. As in, the kind that really takes courage: facing fears, allowing grief, forgiving with compassion—all the tough stuff. Fake joy is Hollywood Joy: waves of ecstasy followed by the morning after.
Here are some simple things to start the joy ride. (Written for the ladies, but gentle-dudes can substitute less manly suggestions as applicable.)
My take on an any-time life crisis cycle (to paraphrase):
- Event (sudden or slow in coming) causes identity transformation. (“I” died.)
- A new Essential “me” dreaming and exploring possibilities. (Probably accompanied by a new car or hair do—and a lot more laughies.)
- I see the light! I walk, stumble, fall, crawl, get up, run, skip and trip toward the Essential Self path. I’m elated, exhausted and bruised, but happy to finally have the map.
- Dream-come-true success! Rainbows and unicorns and no-fat-no-sugar-cotton-candy coolio. Attitude of gratitude because I did write cycle which means (sigh) this too shall pass. Get ready for more change!
What have I (re)learned?
No one else can know the deepest desires of my heart, even if they can comprehend them.
Trust my self.
When I start self-sabotaging, I need to lean in and listen!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: elephant archives