5 Reasons to FREAK OUT About Your Beliefs
It is no new truth that we are all easily caged by our belief systems. Our subconscious feeds us directives on a moment-to-moment basis and even the best of us find ourselves on the other end of a crisis with clear hindsight wondering "...what the fuck was I thinking?"
One of the wonderful things about having no employer is that there is one less influence tugging at my lower brain (another post on this later). However, one less influence means one less excuse: One less reason for not "choosing" your beliefs and cementing them into habit through repeated action.
Just a bit of a disclaimer: I will never write on a topic that I do not have bitter experience with. Rest assured, I have FREAKED OUT about my belief systems on more occasions than I care to admit. Here are 5 reasons you should too if you happen to relate to a place in my life where I did.
1. Becoming self-aware...and realizing you haven't been your whole life.
It is an unfortunate but necessary first step to become aware that the beliefs you thought you had you whole life - decent and honorable beliefs mind you - are nothing but nice little sleep-aides. Beliefs are not BELIEFS if one's actions don't reflect the ideal. And a shock it is to realize that you've been acting contrary to closely held ideals for years. For instance, thinking of myself as an assertive and courageous person, but failing to stand up to a cutter-in-line and opting to silently boil with rage instead...
2. You don't actually like the beliefs you practice.
I moved to Portland, OR about 9 months back and was beyond thrilled to be in a city that was so eco friendly and outdoorsy. I thought to myself "How wonderful to be in a place where EVERYBODY LIKES WHAT I LIKE!!!" (I think in all caps from time to time). But check it out, if I'm totally and completely honest with myself, I'm a shitty Urbanite through and through. I'll go on hikes and take trips to the coast and whatnot...but (here goes it)....I don't actually like any of it.
3. All of your beliefs are someone else's.
Goodness gracious! I can't even fit that pill in my mouth let alone swallow! (insert joke) This ties back to the original self awareness, but the despair goes a bit deeper. The proverbial floor gave way beneath me on this one. And again, I couldn't tell you when I adopted any of them it had been so long. I feared for my individuality. "Who the hell am I then?! If none of my beliefs are my own...doesn't that make me a mere composite of my environment? A walking mirror or sponge or parrot?"
4. The epiphany after the wreckage of 1, 2, & 3 (first good reason to freak)
"NO! I'm not a walking mirror-parrot-sponge!"
It was only after the dust settled did I notice that I did indeed have some fundamental, un-influenced, non-composited ideals of my own. And thank Jeeves for the painful collapse, because otherwise it's very likely I would've lived my entire life according to someone else's "handbook on life". I hate to use the phoenix metaphor, but honestly I had to die a painful and embarrassing death to rise again. And with the settled dust came a neat blank slate.
5. Realizing you can make 'em up as you go along!
Seriously, how programmed was I? Isn't this how beliefs are supposed to be formed? From one's own experience?! Alas, I was a product ...but now I'm not, and I won't dwell on the past any longer. The truth (and again, far from new) is that we as intelligent beings have much more choice in the matter than our environment or society will let on. The big choice, as Stephen Covey enjoys pointing out, is to be reactive OR proactive in forming our beliefs. And it IS a choice! Comforting news indeed, but we don't get off the hook that easy. There's a lot of tear-down and re-build left for us all.
The big takeaway I want you all to...take away...is this:
One cannot be truly happy in ignorance. I know this from experience.
One cannot be truly happy as a fraud. I know this from experience.
One cannot be truly happy living someone else's ideals. I know this from experience.
I don't claim to know what truly creates happiness, but I figure a process of elimination is as good a place to start as any.
Let me know in the comments if YOU'VE figured it out ;-)