Adding More Self to Yourself

Adding More Self to Yourself

The Union Path Podcast

"Adding More Self to Yourself"


0:00:20 - John Coleman
It's kind of a funny question to ponder, it's kind of a funny idea to entertain. That is the idea of are we considering ourselves enough? Are we catering to ourselves enough? Are we doing things for ourselves enough? Because it's so funny in our culture, especially our American culture, there's so many pieces of evidence, there's so many examples we can so easily see that we all experience, perhaps on a daily basis, of difficult people, and these people are difficult precisely because they're self-centered, precisely because they're selfish, precisely because they only think about themselves. And so, like anything, it can be a natural knee-jerk reaction. When we encounter things that seem to cause problems or, at the very least, are uncomfortable or difficult for us, the ideal course of action is to simply do the opposite. If we witness someone behaving badly something we can adopt as well just do the opposite for whatever else, just don't do that.

Like a lot of things in life, especially a lot of things in midlife, this question of are we considering ourselves enough can get a little sticky, can get a little complicated, because it's highly nuanced. It's also highly individual, that obviously self-centeredness exists on a spectrum. You're not either a 10 or a zero. There's all sorts of shades of gray in between the extremes. Unlike most things, living on the extremes, whichever side we're on, isn't particularly good, isn't particularly helpful, isn't a particularly fun place to be, doesn't tend to build very solid relationships, doesn't tend to give us a very enjoyable experience walking through life. But what makes me think of this, what makes me consider this, is thinking about course of our lives, thinking about what happens to us, thinking about where we are, thinking about what we've done, thinking about the roles we've assumed. We look around our life, we look at the relationships we create. We look at the jobs we have. We look at the interactions we participate in. We look at our lives from an outward perspective and I think it's interesting to consider, or at least be aware of, how intentional that actually is, because one of the things that slips very easily tends to slip first when we stop considering ourselves.

Is this idea of intentionality, is this idea of doing things on purpose? Have we moved to a much more passive stance? We moved to a life that's much more just happening to us rather than us actively creating it? We're not really a full participant in our own life. It's almost like we become a little bit more of a spectator. Our life isn't something we go out and do.

Life is really much more something that just happens to us, a set of circumstances that needs to be managed, often outcomes that need to be coped with because we ourselves aren't choosing, we're letting life choose for us, we're letting life happen to us rather than fully participating, rather than fully co-creating our own life. And one of the areas where I think this gets really hard is in situations where, if we've come from a family system that didn't really encourage us, didn't really value the full version of who we are, we grew up in a family that seemed like it was always trying to change us, always trying to control us, always trying to make us be something different, always trying to make us do something different than what we actually wanted, and not from a minor perspective, but from major perspective. Because I think in those circumstances it's really hard to kind of inherit and install the belief that there's something fundamentally wrong with us, there's something fundamentally wrong with who we are, there's something fundamentally wrong with what we want. And if we can just do these other things instead, if we can just be this other thing instead, then things would be so much better. There's a problem here, right? The problem is when we're only doing things for other people, we lose ourselves. When we find ourselves on that zero side of the spectrum of self centeredness and we're only doing things for other people, we're only doing what other people want, we're only fulfilling other people's needs, we're only choosing other people's desires, while at the same time completely ignoring our own.

Living this way causes damage. At the very least, living this way stunts our life. It keeps us from the full life that we actually want to live. And simultaneously, the worst part and the best part is that we do this to ourselves. We do this through the choices that we make, and we can spot this pretty easily. We can spot this in just doing some pretty simple self awareness and asking ourselves how easy is it for us to disappoint other people? How much challenge do we feel, how much internal conflict and difficulty do we feel standing in that disappointment, being in the midst of that conflict? How hard is that for us? Of course, the point isn't to go through life joyfully letting people down or disappointing other people. A lot of times, that's just kind of a performative acting out.

When we look at our life, it is important to consider how strictly do we ourselves enforce the boundaries, of disappointing others on ourselves, and if we have been doing this, if we're constantly choosing what other people want, if we're constantly choosing the version and the vision of ourselves of what other people want us to be and completely ignoring our own internal guidance, our own desires, our own vision. This is a really important awareness. This is a really important thing to know Because, like a lot of things, there needs to be a balance. There needs to be a balance of considering ourselves along with considering others, because, again, to fowl out on either spectrum causes problems, causes damage, causes harm, causes a less than ideal life and sometimes, perhaps often, if we find ourselves a little lost, if we find ourselves a little dissatisfied, if we find ourselves a little disappointed when we look out at our life, look at the life that we're living, and know this just isn't enough.

We want more, we want something different, we want something to change. We want a life we can fully engage with, fully participate in, we want a life we can feel fully alive in, rather than a life that just feels like it's happening to us, feels like we just kind of fell backwards into, and this is just the way things are, because if we've developed these habits. If we've developed these patterns of constantly choosing other people and while ignoring ourselves, we'll find our lives to be very confusing. We'll find our lives to be very fractured. We won't really have a sense of momentum. It'll feel like we're constantly starting and stopping. We're constantly having to change, do this or that, we try to make something happen. We don't really feel a flow in our life. We don't really feel a pull through our life. We feel like everything is effort, everything amounts to something we have to do, we have to get done. Life feels very manual. Life feels very effortful.

In my opinion, we feel this way because we ourselves, at our core, aren't really invested in our life. We're actually doing things for far more superficial reasons. We're doing things to gain the favor of someone else. We're doing things to spare ourselves the rejection from someone else. We're doing things to look good in someone else's eyes. We're doing things to get pats on the head, to be told that we're good With the very least. We're doing things to avoid the guilt of disappointing someone else, of putting our needs below someone else's wants. And, odds are, if we find ourselves doing this with one particular type of circumstance, we probably do this with all sorts of different types of circumstances. We can look at our upbringing, we can look at our jobs, we can look at our relationships and we'll see a common thread that often how we do one thing is how we do all sorts of things.

Because we're the same person, we're making choices from the same place and sometimes if we find ourselves living a life that just isn't satisfying, just isn't fulfilling, just isn't what we want, it's because we haven't actually chosen what we want. We've chosen what we believe other people want for us, or we've put other people's wants ahead of our own. We've let someone else's disappointment, we've let the conflict of defying someone else's expectations of us Run roughshod over what we actually want, over the life we actually want to live, that we've built this self. We've built ourselves. That's actually pretty short on self. We don't really know ourselves very well. We've lost touch, we've fallen out of contact with who we really are, because we've ignored what we actually want. We've ignored how we actually feel. We've elevated and prioritized other people's ideas, other people's feelings, other people's expectations, other people's wants, and have stopped fully considering our own.

In fact, perhaps we've gotten to the point where we fully ignore our own, and this is a pretty sure path towards living a life that isn't actually ours, that feels uncomfortable, that feels unsettling, that isn't rewarding, that isn't nourishing, that just, on some level, just feels uncomfortable and difficult all the time. And it feels this way because this life didn't originate from within us. This life didn't come from us. This is a life we're putting upon ourselves. This is a life we're trying to contort ourselves to fit into, instead of a life that inherently and genuinely fits us. And again, this isn't about being overly self-centered, this isn't about only choosing what's for our own immediate and maximum gratification, but this is about considering ourselves, considering ourselves as much as we consider others.

Doing things for the benefit of all involved, us included, is such a funny thing that our minds can do. Then, when we can think about everyone, when we think about a group, we can forget ourselves. We're an everyone, we're a member of the group. Why don't we matter? Why shouldn't we be considered?

I think there's a lot of ideas, a lot of old ideas floating around that the path to the best life is a quote, unquote selfless one. Well, at least my opinion, a selfless life is impossible because our experience of life there is only self. We can't experience life through anyone else. We can't feel anyone else's feelings. We can't sense anyone else's sensations. We can't think anyone else's thoughts. Everything in our life is happening inside of ourselves. No matter how much attention we're paying to someone else, that attention is being paid from within us. Everything we're taking in, we're taking in within us. We get down to the most fundamental. There is only self. In the deeper that we go within ourselves, the more we learn about ourselves, the more self aware we are. We realize this is fundamentally true with all of existence that the root of ourselves is the root of everyone else's self too, that we find our way to others through ourselves, because this is the instrument that we walk through life with. We can't escape it.

And these ideas of being selfless, of the virtues of being quote unquote selfless, I think at the very least have been misunderstood, if not intentionally twisted. I think they've been misunderstood from the perspective of not being overly quote unquote self centered, which means being overly rooted, overly focused on our own personal gain, usually our own material or physical gain, not doing things simply for the benefit of our own immediate gratification, Acting as part of a whole, acting as part of a community, acting as part of a oneness with everyone and everything else. But no matter how deeply we experience this oneness, this is still experienced through ourselves. It's inescapable. It's kind of like the idea that gets thrown around a lot of escaping or destroying our ego. Well, at least the way that I think about it, the way that makes sense to me, is our ego, as it's talked about, is our idea, is our consciousness of ourselves. It's what we identify as when we think of ourselves, it's what we think about, and so, as long as we exist, as long as we're conscious, we will always have a concept of ourselves. And so this idea of destroying the ego is actually impossible, because if we've installed this belief that we've completely destroyed our ego, then what our ego is is a person with a destroyed ego. Our ego is only how we define ourselves, and we get to choose. So, since there's no escaping self, there's no escaping ego, we might as well choose wisely. We might as well engage fully with ourselves through ourselves, because that's the only choice that we have. That's how life works, that's how existence works, that's how consciousness is felt and interacted with and expressed is through ourselves that we, as living beings, are the medium of consciousness, and in my opinion, it's equally misguided to degrade the medium as it is to degrade consciousness itself, because one can't exist without the other. In order for consciousness to be expressed, it must be expressed through a medium.

I think you could make a pretty conclusive argument that, at the core of, why are we all here? What is this all about? What's going on here? Well, we are consciousness expressing itself and through that expression, that consciousness expands and that as our consciousness expands, our expression gets to grow right along with it. And on and on, and on, and on it goes. This is the flow of life, growth and expansion of consciousness. And we are the ones who get to participate in that growth and that expansion. But the problem is we stunt that growth, we dilute or misdirect that expansion by not fully expressing ourselves, by not fully expressing ourselves as a part of a whole.

In my opinion anyway, one of the surest ways to get lost, one of the surest ways to lose ourselves, one of the surest ways to live a life less than it could be, is to stop choosing ourselves, stop considering ourselves, stop including ourselves, stop living a full life with our full selves. And again, falling into these patterns is really easy to do. There are all sorts of pressures in our society that will urge us to choose other over self. But the problem is, if we learn this lesson a little too much, especially if we grow up in a household that's constantly trying to change us, trying to make us different, and we lean into that a little too much, we can find ourselves living a life that isn't really ours, living a life that feels kind of empty, kind of hollow, unfulfilling, hard, effortful. We can feel like we have a lot of bad luck. We can feel like bad things always happen to us Because we're not living a life that's actually ours.

We're trying to live a life without the benefit of the flow of life. We're living an artificial life that we ourselves have to completely manufacture and sustain, and so no wonder it's hard, no wonder it's effortful. It's kind of like trying to grow a flower in a lab, in a beaker, using only chemicals and science. It's a lot more work than the natural way. It's a lot more work than the life way, and we can choose to change. We can choose to change whenever we wish.

We can choose to try, because the only problem with too much self-awareness, with too much self-consideration, is when it's done in a vacuum. It's done as a substitute for awareness as a whole, for consciousness as a whole, then we're a little too focused on ourselves. When that causes problems is when it's being done unconsciously and that there is another way to do it, there is a better way to do it of we can actually focus on ourselves, consciously. Focus on ourselves, not for the diminishment or the degrading of anyone or anything else. Focus on ourselves as an act of inclusion, as an act of us too, of choosing to do things for the benefit of all involved, ourselves included.

Choosing to live from and through our full selves rather than just through the fractionalized or fractured part of ourselves that we believe is acceptable and appropriate for others. We can actually add more self to ourselves, we can build a fuller life, we can build greater confidence. We can have an easier and more pleasant and more nourishing experience going through life because we're living it through ourselves, through our full selves. We're listening to what we actually want, we're considering it, we're acknowledging it and then taking into account what the next best step for ourselves feels like, what the choice would be for the benefit of all involved, ourselves included, because it's a funny thing we do of when we think if we consider ourselves well, then other people don't matter. No, that's not true. Again, that's the extreme version that's out on the end, and the solution for that isn't to only think of other people, never think of ourselves, because that's equally as bad, that's equally as damaging.

Find the spot in the middle. Find the spot of full inclusivity, full inclusion. Include ourselves in our own life, include ourselves in our own decision making. Include ourselves in the myriad of choices that we make every day about what to do next. Consider what we actually want. Consider what actually feels good, what actually is nourishing. Trust that we are the way we are for a reason and that ultimately, at its core, that reason is a good one and that, yes, the work of our life is going to be trying to figure out, trying our best to live life as who we are. Oftentimes, if not the vast majority of the time, this isn't automatic. We have to go through life and find our fit, but this work is only doable if we acknowledge ourselves. Finding and living the full life that is actually ours is only accomplished through living through our full selves, considering our full selves, including our full selves, doing things for the good of all involved, ourselves included.

Not looking at ways to diminish ourselves, to cater to the preferences of someone else is the way to make ourselves feel, to cater to someone else is the way to make ourselves greater. But also, not looking at ways to diminish other people Just to cater to our own preferences is making us greater either. Looking for the path, looking for the way through life that benefits everyone, that is truly the win-win, that is truly the ideal. That's our work To be able to give and receive, to be able to gain and sacrifice, Because that's what we're here to do. We're here to expand consciousness beyond where it's been expanded before and along the way we get to reap the benefits of that expanded consciousness that we're here to create and participate at the same time. And we do this living fully through ourselves. We do this by living fully as our full selves and we do this by choosing and including ourselves in the choices that we make.

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