I feel like I’m at a crossroads. It almost feels as though I stuck between two worlds (and I’m talking subjective, abstract worlds here!). I have a foot in both worlds but I don’t permanently reside in either; I’m just stuck between the two in a state of constant flux and it’s extremely uncomfortable, confusing and disorienting. I know it’s time to stop trying to reconcile these two separate worlds – being caught between the two is actually quite painful and unhealthy. The word ‘stress’ actually means being pulled in two or more different directions…and I get that, really I do. I know I have to make a choice now as to which world I’m going to step into and permanently reside in. The question is: which one?
I think one of these worlds is the world of duality; “the world” as most people perceive and experience it. It’s the world of getting ahead, forging your way, caring a little too much about what other people think of you and basing all your actions and choices upon this ‘presentation of self’. It’s the ‘worldly world’, the rat race, the ego’s top choice…because it’s all really about ego – ego management, ego enhancement, ego damage limitation. The other world is a much more subjective and individualistic realm; it’s the realm of following your heart and daring to do what you really know to be true deep within you.
Contrary to the other world, the prerequisite for entering this world is to leave your ego at the door. It’s necessary to let go of all concern of what ‘others’ think, and to fearlessly, relentlessly follow your own path regardless of all criticism, judgement and misunderstanding that might be thrown in your direction. It’s the scarier path to take in some ways, as we all have an innate need to be validated and approved of by others. But, I keep asking myself – at what cost? To paraphrase a very famous quote: ‘what does it profit you to gain the approval of the world when you’ve lost your own soul?’
Most people, in the grips of their ego, base their every action upon the perceived reactions of others. This unconscious need to be validated and approved of drives so many people’s every action….unbridled people pleasing on a grand scale. I liked reading Byron Katie’s book “I Need Your Love – Is That True?” In it, she gets us to question some of the underlying assumptions we unconsciously carry with us, assumptions which render our lives little more than continued and insipid attempts at mass people-pleasing. For some people it’s actually like a religion.
But do we really need everyone – or as many people as possible – to approve of our every action? Can we absolutely know that we need that? Are the opinions of faceless strangers really more important than following what we, ourselves, know to be true? Byron Katie relates an amusing story about a woman who bought a magazine and then left it in the waiting room at her doctors surgery. The woman knew she wanted to go back to get the magazine, but she got all flustered and rehearsed and delivered a speech just so everyone else in the waiting room – none of whom she actually knew – would know that she wasn’t stealing the magazine. Because the opinions of strangers are just so darned important!
I laughed at the story but could recognise all the ways in which I’ve given the opinions of others (or my perceptions of what their opinions might be) so much credence that I couldn’t sleep at night. It’s crazy actually – particularly when I suddenly realised that I didn’t “need” other people to approve of me. Sure, it’s nice to feel approved of, but it’s not a necessity in life and besides, no matter how much energy and effort you expend, there will always be people that don’t approve of you. I should have learned that by now. Besides, it’s sad that a great many people don’t have clear vision; their experience of reality is clouded and filtered by a great deal of erroneous and downright toxic mindstuff. Desperately seeking the approval of people that are actually very mentally dysfunctional is in itself very mentally dysfunctional.
“Be true to yourself”, goes the cliched – but very salient – saying. Because being true to anyone else is actually quite impossible.
So how does this relate to my crossroads between worlds? Well, basically I’m feeling that in one world I can live after the world’s opinion, as I have done in the past for very many years. I can try to do and be what I think ‘others’ think I should do and be. I can try to make myself as ‘cool’ as possible, as ‘successful’ as possible and I can try to create and project the ‘ideal me’ as I would like the world to see it. But the more and more I think about that option the more it seems hollow, vacuous and totally unfulfilling. It’s how a great many people live their lives (and I mean that with absolutely no judgement, for a lot of the time it’s a very unconscious motivation).
The other world, to which my heart really calls me, is one in which I really don’t give two hoots what “the world” thinks of me. In this world, I just follow my heart. I do what feels right to me and what I feel called to do without the need to ‘spin doctor’ everything. I can really do and be what I feel I was born to do and be: I can be a crazy artist, an inspired writer and a mystic. I don’t have to subscribe to the general consensus of what goes and I’m not bound by the hegemonic notions of the way things are. Hah, I realise that I already inhabit this world on a part-time basis anyway. But I feel I have to inhabit it fully and unapologetically. By virtue of keeping a foothold in the other world (the road more travelled), I’m still filled too much with fears about how I appear to others and what people would think if they really got to know the ‘real me’. So what if people think I’m a nutcase? I’d actually like to give myself permission to be a nutcase if that’s what I feel like being.
The old world of normalcy or averageness has lost its appeal. If I stay there I’d lose all inspiration and drown out the voice of my soul…my art would dry up and all these ideas I have for bright, bold paintings and all the books I want to write would scatter in the wind. I’d be too busy trying to fit in and be like everyone else – and that, I know from experience, uses up a heck of a lot of energy – in order to pursue my creative dreams. I know to which world my heart is calling me…so perhaps it’s time to move out of the crossroads and go where I need to be going. Which is really just to ditch all concerns and fears about what others think, and to just unapologetically be what, in my deepest heart, I truly want to be.
Maybe you’d care to take this journey with me?