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This morning, I was exercising and listening to a podcast by Noah Rasheta, creator of “Secular Buddhism.”
The episode was titled “163—Sticks and Stones.” And during the podcast, he asked the question, “Are you it?”
Immediately, before I heard his explanation, I answered in my head, “No! I’m not it. I never was it. Not sure I ever will be it…”
Well, of course, I should have waited. Turns out the definition of “it” was so far removed from what I was expecting; I nearly stopped dead on the treadmill and catapulted off the back.
“It,” as it turns out, meant being unapologetically and authentically you, without having to prove it to anyone else. What other people say and think about who we are and what we do has a profound effect on us, even if we don’t want it to. The reason why we let their words affect us the way we do, and why we allow what others say to pervade our thoughts and actions is because we feel we have to defend the story of who we are to the rest of the world.
For sure, I’ve been engaged in trying to make myself a better person through psychological and spiritual work for a number of years. I’ve read many versions and interpretations of how we need to let go of our ego and not worry about what others think. How we see the world is uniquely from our own perspective, just like everyone else’s; therefore, we should not let anyone else’s opinion affect how we live our life or interfere with our own personal journey.
Well, of course not! Simple, right?
Uh…turns out not so simple.
We are a product of our family history, our society’s expectations and cultural norms, and now more than ever, the influences of global social media imagery and sound bite. We are all pieces of a complicated puzzle where the edges are always shifting, and we can’t quite connect the individual components into a cohesive whole.
Adrift in the crowd, but never quite fitting in.
So, let’s back up a tiny bit. When Noah Rasheta first asked, “Are you it?” I immediately interjected my own personal definition of “it.” This was decades of cultural molding and the need to defend my story. Talk about an aha moment. I was ready to defend my story (for better or worse) before I even knew where the episode trajectory was going. Oops.
When I say I was never “it,” my interpretation instantaneously went back to when I was a child and even well into my 20s and 30s. I was never popular, never part of the “in crowd,” and certainly never comfortable in my own skin. As I entered my 40s, the dissonance of a lifetime of wanting to be part of the “in crowd” clashed head-on with the realization that I had no desire to be any part of “that crowd.”
I didn’t want the social status, the cool friends, the material things that screamed success. I wanted meaning, curiosity, peace, and real connections. It turned out these things were even harder to find than the distasteful and arbitrary dictations of a materialistic and status-obsessed society.
What was I missing?
I was missing “it.” I was missing the authenticity of living life on my terms. I was missing the inner peace of being enough just as I am. I was missing the meaning of what was important to me in this life I am living. I was missing real connections because I was busy defending my story to others to prove that I was, indeed, enough.
Instead of letting other people think what they would and be okay if they misinterpreted who I am, I still had to tell my story.
The problem is, I did not understand that while I am the protagonist of my own story, I am a secondary character in everyone else’s. My role in their story has nothing to do with me. That is their story to build and live. I have my own story to construct, my own journey to pursue. But, now, I am not going to be so concerned with telling that story or explaining that journey.
I am perfectly imperfect, forever growing, insatiably curious, and very much an evolving story. How could I ever put that into words for someone else to understand?
See me the way you need to see me. If our stories intertwine in a complementary dance, I would love to take you along on my path in life. If our encounter was but a brief interlude, may your journey bring you to where you need to go—with peace, with meaning, with infinite curiosity and unconditional acceptance.
Because I am “it.” And so are you.