Finding Yourself Under A Pile Of Received Opinions
Try this: find a quiet place, turn off all your electronic devices or keep them in another room, and sit quietly for 15 minutes. You can sit longer if you like, but if you’re like most people, 15 minutes will prove enough of a challenge. Have a pen and paper handy and record whatever thoughts you might have during this time.
After the 15 minutes are up, look through what you have written down and put a line through every thought you wrote down that was clearly you just recording thoughts you’d heard or read others express. Or better yet, write “Jimmy Kimmel said” or “I read in the paper that” in front of it in order to acknowledge it was not a thought of your own, and then put your own personal take on it. That now makes it a genuinely personal thought of your own. You have stamped your own identity on it in some small way.
Now go back again, carefully read through the thoughts you’ve committed to paper, and put a line through everything you wrote where you imagined you were speaking to an audience. In other words, if you wrote something a certain way in order that you might get an intended reaction from anyone should they read it, put a line through it.
Now, take a look at what is left.
This is you. This is your mind at work. This is you being an individual.
If you’re like most people, most of your thoughts will have been crossed out, because they either came from others or were modified in order to be what you expected others would want to hear.
That’s okay. Most of us are not individuals, not really. Most of us are walking around with a bunch of thoughts and opinions in our heads that are not our own but are in fact received opinions. Most of us have been heavily programmed throughout our lives so that most of what we consider to be us is not really us at all.
Look at the words that still remain without a line through them. Ask yourself if they sparkle. Ask yourself if the words and the ideas you have recorded connect to you on a deep level. Ask yourself if that which came from you is something you have a desire to share with others.
If your words and thoughts do not appear strong to you but rather weak and feeble, if you do not feel a pride and a conviction in what you wrote, if you don’t feel as if they are precious little gifts you have created and wish to share with others, this too is okay. It is okay because it is not your fault. For all your life you have never been encouraged to bring forth what is inside you, to nourish your own thoughts and opinions. Precious few people have ever asked you how you really feel about things, so it is only natural that your own feelings and thoughts have been neglected, stuffed in a dark closet, forgotten.
This is where a lot of people feel really uncomfortable and flee from the experiment: because they feel like they’ve got nothing worthy inside them. But nothing can be further from the truth! You fear to bring these thoughts and feelings into the light because they are such feeble things. You are embarrassed to have them, embarrassed to have them represent you. But it is only natural that that which has been hidden away in darkness will lack strength and vitality. And if they are ever to flourish and grow strong, which is to say if YOU are ever to flourish and grow strong, because your thoughts ARE you, only you can nourish them to health.
It does not take anyone special to repeat the thoughts of others, anyone can do that. It does not take anyone special to tell other people what we think they want to hear, most people are quite good at that. But only you, of all the people in the world, are able to tell people what you are thinking and feeling inside. You have within you a unique perspective that nobody else quite has. It is up to you to nourish it.
You may think you know about people, but you are the one soul, the one living being you will ever be able to explore honestly. You are the template by which you can begin to understand others. It is vital that you let yourself emerge from the pile of the received thoughts and the perceived expectations of others and let yourself be you, whoever that may be. I guarantee that as you come to know this person more, he/she will continue to surprise, amuse, and enlighten you. You will never tire of you.
But wait! This is not the best part, not by far. The really cool thing about it is that the more you explore and come to understand you, the more you will see you in others. You will recognize that the world is full of yous, each with a different story and perspective to share with you and deepen your own understanding of you and your capacities and potential. Understanding you, you will come to understand that there really is no you, nor they, but just an amazingly abundant amount of I/We/Us. And we are all learning from each other and we all do so much better when we help each other grow rather than compete with one another. Because believing that we are in competition with one another is what led some people to impose their thoughts upon you and make you feel like your own thoughts, that you, were not good enough.
P.S. You don’t have to write your own thoughts down to find yourself. I’m a writer, so that’s how I find me. But there are infinite ways of finding yourself, of expressing yourself, of being yourself. Find the one/s you like and enjoy the journey. Shine your light as I have hopefully shone mine. And when you walk among others and see that undeniable light of individuality in another’s eyes, you will know that your own journey towards becoming an individual may well have inspired them.