Who are you? I don’t mean what’s your name and where do you come from, I mean, who are you deep inside? Who are you in your quietest moments, with no-one to impress and no damns to give? Who are you, when you lose all self-consciousness and become simply your conscious Self?
Society has a way of encouraging us to conform to particular ways of being. At its best, that’s a good thing, inspiring us to look out for each other and behave with compassion; and the urge to ‘fit in’ is a primal one, evolved to ensure our survival. Humans are social animals, and we function best when we have the support and love of our tribe – a lone human 10,000 years ago would have been snaffled up by a predator pretty quickly, and it was our talent for collaborating and forming groups which allowed us to outsmart the hungry beasties. People within a tribe had their individual, complementary roles, as well as a common interest – survival – and in that respect the society was a mammoth success. (Pun intended. Pun always intended.)
Fast-forward several millenia, and things have evolved some more. As a race, we’ve succeeded to the detriment of most other species, and it doesn’t always feel like everyone has peaceful cohabitation as their driving force (understatement of the century alert). But how does society affect us as individuals? Does it champion freedom of expression, encouraging diversity and originality within wise and benign guidelines for getting along? Or does it stifle creativity and turn us into sausage-factory humans, playing roles, growing stiff and serious, and squashing our essence until we forget who we really are?
Well here’s the thing – it’s up to us. ‘Society’ isn’t some omnipotent, independent force to which we are beholden. We make it. Yes, there are laws which we have to abide by, and the whole non-violence, non-stealing schtick is a pretty good idea for all concerned. But when it comes to personal lifestyle choices like how we spend our time, how we earn our money, how we dress, what we own, whether we marry/have kids/co-habit with an imaginary friend who happens to be a tie-dyed llama, we’re fools to ourselves if we blindly do what we feel is expected of us. Because if we’re not hurting anyone, whose damn business is it anyway?
I’m absolutely not talking about being inconsiderate of others. The more we can walk in each other’s shoes, the kinder we become. But too often we stifle our creativity and wildness, letting ourselves be squashed and turning our volume down to fit in with…. what? Other people’s ideas and expectations, or, often, the voice of our own inner critic. But other people have their own lives to live, and you have yours. And that critical inner voice, that drive to conform, the suppression of our true natures, all come from one place.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of exclusion.
Fear of the unknown.
What might happen if you remove the mask and let the world see you in all your glorious, imperfect weirdness? If you dare to be you and follow your dreams?
Well, not everyone will like it – as someone who has chosen an unconventional career, chosen not to have children, and chosen to listen to my intuition when other people just couldn’t hear what I was hearing, that much I can promise you.
You might be ridiculed. You might be called a dreamer (which always seemed a pretty rubbish insult to me) and told you’ll never fulfill your fantasies. You’ll almost certainly be warned of the folly of your foolish ways and hear dark talk of regret and impending doom.
But you know what? That’s their fear – and their envy – talking. So let’s leave the naysayers in their contracted and safe world, and try again. What might happen?
You might feel wild and free.
You might make your own dreams come true.
You might discover that you really like yourself.
You might live a life that you really, truly, to the very bones of it, love.
You might embolden others to do the same.
And you will feel fear. Yes, you’ll definitely feel plenty of that.
But one thing really is certain.
You’ll never know until you try.
Part 2 of this blog, next week – how to peel back the mask and find out who you really are.
Quote: Erin Hanson