Here’s something I do all the time: When life goes as planned and I achieve my goals, I feel good about myself. When life throws a curveball and things do go as I want them to, I am upset and I feel bad about myself.
But frankly… I’m sick of it. I’m sick of allowing my life situation (if things ‘go well’ or not) to define me and my self worth.
Suddenly, in a moment of clarity I see that this approach is misguided. And a huge waste of time and energy.
Allow me to unpack this further:
When I got my PhD, received some award, or was ‘successful’ at my job, was I a better person? No, I was the same person as at this very moment.
As I write this post, a grant I applied for was not funded, and the Seekers Collective website has been delayed month after month, despite our best efforts to launch. Does this make me less of a person? No, I’m the same as when I met my goals.
This probably reads as self evident. And yet, as life unfolds, why do we constantly link our worth with our accomplishments or lack thereof?
The other day I found myself in this situation that I’d normally interpret (and take on) as a personal failure: one which would easily drag me into a cloud of mild depression for a few days. Instead of taking that familiar road, I dared to challenge this link that I usually make between my life situation and how I feel about myself.
I simply got fed up with allowing my circumstances to affect how I feel about myself.
Rather than dragging myself through the muck, I simply decided to feel good about life and myself, irrespective of my life situation not currently going as planned.
I chose to see that who I am and my life are separate from my life situation.
The simplicity and ease of it was breathtaking, and is the reason that I decided to write about it here. Making this choice to focus on my worth and how it’s different from my life situation felt strangely easy: so simple that it felt insane that for 38 years of my life I constantly chose mental self-flagellation.
I realized that this is what ‘conscious living’ is really about. That’s what spiritual texts mean when they talk about ‘choice’.
Living consciously is knowing and feeling that I am *not* my life situation, I am *not* my identity, I am *not* my thoughts and emotions that keep this identity alive.
By now you’re likely asking: Wait, if I’m not my identity, who am I?
Who Am I?
This might seem like a trivial question, but it’s only the most important spiritual question we can ask ourselves.
Entire books are written in an attempt to answer this question. Spiritual teachers and long-time practicants recommend asking ourselves this question as a tool of self-discovery. Now I understand why.
Personally, I can think of no better spiritual practice than to constantly come back to this question, and to remind myself that I AM *not* my life situation and thus I need not take life vicissitudes personally.
But here’s the part we usually forget: The answer to the ‘Who Am I?’ question cannot be uttered, cannot be thought, it can only be felt.
To know Who You Are, you have to feel it.
That makes it indescribable, because as soon as you try to answer this question in your mind or out loud, you lose its essence.
So all you can do is just that: Ask yourself ‘Who Am I?’ and then allow yourself to feel the answer within, through and beyond your body.
You’ll start developing a sense of who you truly are – as a knowing and a feeling.
You won’t be able to convey it to others. But you’ll start to feel the peace that comes with the knowing that your essence is not at the effect of your life situation, and thus cannot be enhanced by anything you accomplish, nor diminished when plans fall through.
Why is this helpful?
Because when the next wave comes, you’ll know that all you have to do is let it come and go, that you don’t have to let it sink you into the depth of the ocean.
Note to self: The next time my circumstances are sending my self worth on a rollercoaster (and they will!), I can step back from what’s happening on the outside and turn within. I can remember that it’s just another wave, and I am not that wave: I am the water itself.
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