What an incredible opportunity it is to have a life. At all.
To fulfill that opportunity, we need a fundamental orientation inside that treats our life as if it matters. As if our happiness is important, as if being mistreated is not alright, as if we deserve the same care and goodwill as any other person. As if on the day we were born we were given a bag of pearls, one for each day we will ever have, and every day we spend one of those pearls, never to see it again, and the supply in the bag is steadily dwindling, and one day there will be just 365 left (though we never know which day that is as we cross it), then 10, and then one, and none.
Nonetheless, being fully on your own side, steadfastly pursuing your own best interests – which always involve being virtuous, caring toward others, mentally steady, and wise – is actually quite uncommon. There are lots of reasons for the inhibition of assertiveness, self-expression, ambition, drive, self-care, and aspirations:
- Many of us were raised to feel that it was vain, sinful, or disloyal to others to value our own needs and pursue their fulfillment without apology (of course, without harming others in the process).
- In childhood or later, sometimes expression of how one truly feels or what one truly wants provokes the kind of shaming attacks that makes people keep quiet in the future; as the Japanese proverb says, the nail that stands out gets hammered down.
- If our efforts were routinely thwarted, or painful things happened to us that we couldn’t prevent, it’s natural to develop what’s called “learned helplessness” – which animal studies have shown is remarkably easy to learn and remarkably hard to undo.
- Sometimes cultural or religious norms undermine healthy autonomy or self-direction. For example, girls tend to be raised in ways that value tending to the needs of others ahead of one’s own.
Deep down, in your heart of hearts, you probably know the essence, the crux of what would be great for you to be or do more of – or be or do less of – in the remainder of your life. What are those things?
Also, you probably know deep down where you have held back in pursuing your highest and sweetest aspirations – your heart’s deepest yearnings.
If you’re going to truly take advantage of this amazing opportunity, the opportunity to have a life at all, you’ll have to release the neurological circuitry inhibiting the expression into the world of the true self – your true self – and begin to strengthen your will for feeding the taproots of your precious life.