Many of us spend our lives trying to bridge the gap between who we are and who we want to be.
Or, more accurately, who we think we want to be.
We never stop to question whether what we are striving for is what we actually want, or if it is just who we think we need to be to meet the expectations of others.
Often these “others” are people close to us: parents, community, mentors, friends. The expectations of these loved ones aren’t always explicit, but they have been conditioned for so long that they have become ingrained in us. We think these are our desires. We have internalized them.
And so, we follow a map to a destination that isn’t a place we really wanted to go in the first place. Once there, we find that this place looked nice in the pictures but really isn’t what we wanted or expected. Then we feel lost and alone and without purpose.
We start to wonder whether we took a wrong turn somewhere. Maybe the map led us to the wrong place.
There was no wrong turn. We are where we were trying to go.
We are where our mind told us to go.
The problem is that this wasn’t what we really wanted. It wasn’t what we wanted in our hearts or souls.
We were so busy listening to the voices in our heads — the GPS giving us directions — that we never even heard the voice from our heart questioning whether we were putting the right destination into the program.
So we followed a guide to take us to a destination we never really wanted in the first place. It looks like what we wanted. From high above, or in a picture, it looks like the image from the catalog of success. Especially if you come from a certain type of culture where that picture of success looks the same for many people.
We get out of the car and look around at this place that looked so great in the picture. And maybe, in the beginning, it looks and feels great. But at some point, we start to wonder, “is this really it?”
Many people hear the voice in their head that says
Yes. This is exactly like the picture. This is the destination you wanted. Settle in. This is it.
And this is what they do. They think they have arrived and they unpack their bags. And then they head to the bar for a drink, to help them forget that this is all there is. They buy nice things and take great vacations and engage in competitions with friends to see who can build bigger houses or earn more money. They work all the time because work is an escape. Or they drink. Or they tune out. They don’t explore their feelings. To explore their feelings would be to risk admitting that this is not what they wanted.
This is the cause of so much suffering.
The gap between where we are now and where we want to be is easy to navigate if we are honest with ourselves about where we are and what we want for ourselves.
Our greatest suffering comes when we try to live in the identity of who we think we need to be for other people, rather than living in our truth. To successfully become the person who we think we need to be requires us to violate who we really are at our core.
We may be able to live for a while in this state, but in the long run, it is unsustainable. In the long run, it is suffering.
Not just emotional suffering. It will all manifest physically. Back pains. IBS. Chronic Fatigue. Fibromyalgia.
The real question to answer is who do you want to become? That’s the gap that is worth bridging.
To go from who you are today to who you want to be is not hard. The challenge is in separating who you want to be from who you think you need to be in for everyone else.
The work required for this is intense, demanding and painful at times. Many people do not even attempt it. They internalize the external expectations of their conditioning so that if you asked them who they want to be, they would tell you who they think they need to be for others. To them, it’s all the same. Until one day, it’s not. They wake up wondering why they feel unfulfilled or burnt out or indecisive and non-committal. They wonder why they have no real joy in life.
The commitment to shed the expectations of loved ones and discover who we want to be for ourselves is a commitment to a tough road. It’s a journey filled with detours and dead ends and pushing big rocks up steep hills.
But the rewards — to live a life that is really true to yourself, to feel aligned in every aspect of who you are, to walk this earth with an open heart — far outweigh any pain experienced along the way.
This is the journey to which I have committed. To discover the woman who I want to become. To shed the layers of expectations from others that have been so ingrained that they are a part of me.
I think that’s a journey well worth taking, and I invite you to join me on it.