You Can Do Things Differently.
Updated: Apr 17
Yes, you do see two laundry baskets in my living room. You're right: my hoodie is about ten years old.
On a typical day you will see me singing to myself in the grocery store, and I will probably be wearing very functional outdoorsy pants with layers of hoodie/fleece/vest and my hair flying loose or pulled back in a ponytail, depending on when I last washed my hair or whether I was recently wearing a bike helmet. I will likely be wearing older running shoes or big rubber boots, probably with some evidence of muck left over from hiking with my dog or visiting with some equine buddies (don't worry, I won't be tracking mud on the floor for someone else to clean up!). My eyes may have some bags under them but I will (hopefully!) display a pleasant expression, and I will notice you and smile. You will see me as I am.
What you will not see is a stylish haircut, and you will not see me looking at a cell phone. You will not see make-up, and you will not see the latest fashion trends. There is nothing inherently wrong with these things, they just do not accurately fit with who I am or the values I hold deeply.
I have been told that I'll never be able to build my business without going all-in with social media. I've been told I can't function in this world without being tied to a smartphone. I look at other people's posts and pictures, noticing that most of them look awesomely attractive, buffed and shiny, made-up to look flawless. I feel the expectation that I should follow that path, too. I may one day pay for stunning head shots, but for now I'm choosing to show up as authentically me. What you see is what you get, and what you get is what you see.
The messages we get from our culture are there for a reason. They have an agenda and that agenda is often not to encourage health and fullness of life. Often, if we really take the time to think about it, we are allowing the current to sweep us along instead of living into our deepest values and who we truly are. The agenda is to keep us discontent, comparing with everyone else, and competing against each other. I want to live differently, and you can, too.
There are reasons for feeling unsettled and uncomfortable with ourselves. Cognitive Dissonance Theory can help to describe a cause of this phenomenon. When we behave in a way that is inconsistent with our deepest-held values, we become mentally conflicted. Experiencing heightened anxiety and a decreased sense of fulfillment in life is common. The thoughts we nurture, the choices we make, and the way we behave will combine to create a lifestyle that either compliments or contradicts our deeply-held values. We encounter either contentment and inner peace or feelings of scarcity and uneasiness. Sometimes I find myself conforming just to fit in, but if I want to show up authentically in the world, it will be an ongoing process of examination and redirection. When my conscience tingles, or my intuition whispers, or my inner-being counsels, that's when I know it's time to seek out a trusted confidante to help me re-evaluate my level of consistency.
If you are feeling unsettled, uncomfortable with yourself, or confused about why you're just not feeling right, seeking out a helping professional might be an appropriate next step for you. If you want to feel at home with who you are and show up in a meaningful way in this world, here are some practical steps to begin the process of living harmoniously with your values:
Make a list of the lessons that would be most important for you to teach a/your child to equip them for life. This is essentially a collection of your deepest-held values.
Read over each item, taking a few minutes to ask yourself if there are ways you are living contrary to those values.
Find someone who knows you well and who exemplifies the values you esteem. This should be someone who does not benefit from your inconsistencies and whose motivation is for you to live your best and healthiest life. Ask them to honestly share with you examples of times they have witnessed you behaving in ways that are not in line with the values you have listed.
Words of caution: We all have blind-spots, areas we cannot clearly see to assess. You will have to be ready for honest feedback, and you will have to put aside any defensiveness you may feel. Here are some things to remember:
Give the person your list of values ahead of time. You will benefit most from their responses if they have had time to thoughtfully consider their words.
Arrange a time to meet in person to receive feedback. You will need to be able to observe and display body language, facial expressions, and tones of voice in this conversation. Texting, email, phone, and even video communication are fraught with opportunity for misunderstanding and hurt feelings. Make sure you speak in person.
Practice saying the following things before you meet:
a) "Thank you for sharing that with me."
b) "Please say more about that so I can better understand what you mean."
c) "I'll think about that."
d) "Thank you for showing that you care for me by being honest."
When you meet, keep your replies only to the statements listed above. This is not an exercise in arguing, rather it is an opportunity for growth and self-reflection.
Over the coming weeks my goal is to touch on some of the commonly-held beliefs endorsed by our existing culture that do not result in a purposeful, satisfied life. I plan to do things differently.
You can, too.