You’re not a bad person — you just play one on TV.
This is the story of someone I love, and the story I've told myself about their truths.
I see you. I see your truth. Your truth is that you are so incredibly kind and giving. Your insistence is such that you feign shock even annoyance when it isn’t assumed that you’ll freely help.
But, you conditioned yourself to be something you were not to protect those you love most. It was out of love, but it was dishonest and you were playing someone you were not. The lines between the constructed you and the real you blurred such that you internalized it — even you couldn’t tell the two apart. And then, this became your internal world. It became the way others defined you, even those close to you. Tragically, you changing yourself for others, you putting on this ugly, ill-fitting suit for others, did not actually help. It hurt. It hurt you most of all.
It’s not the way you are. It’s not you.
You can change this. All you have to do is remember who you are, beyond the lies you told yourself inside the ill-fitting costume. That’s it. The answer is really that easy.
But, of course, it’s not so easy to implement. Your neural patterns are set now. You ski smoothly in the well-worn neural grooves of that way of being. It takes a commitment to continually remind yourself that you know who you are, and that thoughts, behaviors, and emotions may cloud this but they cannot take it away. It is always there, waiting for you to get out of the way, to stop constructing. Just stop, Ask yourself how you really feel in a given situation: not what you’ve always thought; not “I always do this” or “I’m this”; not your patterns and your immediate go-to that takes over the internal dialogue.
This takes a moment. You have to be willing to take a moment with yourself to remember what is actually true for you, how you actually feel. I promise you, you’ll be surprised at the answer.
And this is the work. It gets easier over time. The more you do it, the more fluid it is. Then, one day, the real you shows up more than the story you made up about you. And it feels incredible. It’s like something you’ve never before experienced.
It may seem cheesy and laughable and way too new-agey woo-woo for someone to say that you can and will experience joyous liberation through this. But I am here to tell you that is exactly what will happen. And when it does, It’s so full, there is no space for the judgement about how weird it is. It just is. And it’s deeply satisfying.
Joy is not a choice or response to some result — it is doing what we are meant to do, no matter the outcome. It is the background. It is the constant approach.
The first step isn’t: I know who I am.
The first step is: I know what I am not.
Just after penning this post, I flipped open my copy of Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu (Translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English) to the exactly appropriate page:
Truly good people are not aware of their goodness,
And are therefore good.
Foolish people try to be good,
And are therefore not good.
Truly good people do nothing,
Yet leave nothing undone.
Foolish people are always doing,
Yet much remains to be done.
When truly kind people do something, they leave nothing undone.
When just people do something, they leave a great deal to be done.
When disciplinarians do something and no one responds,
They roll up their sleeves and try to enforce order.
Therefore when Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
When kindness is lost, there is justice.
When justice is lost, there is ritual.
Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, and the beginning of confusion.
Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao.
It is the beginning of folly.
Therefore only truly great people dwell on what is real
and not what is on the surface.
On the fruit and not the flower.
Therefore accept the one and reject the other.