Saturday, December 22, 2007

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

During the 1970's and 1980's there was a psychological movement that was so pervasive that it has created the uninhibited expressionism that we are exposed to on a daily basis. We were told how important it was for us to "express" how we felt about everything. Holding back our feelings was having negative effects on our health and our relationships. We were "suppressing" our feelings to such an extent that we could not be truly fulfilled in our lives.

Thirty years later...we see that self expression taken to the extremes and available to us 24/7 via technological advances. Anyone can say anything they want with relative anonymity in cyberspace. We can hide behind our screen name, email or blog and express our every thought and feeling. The availability to be anonymous and say what we want when we want has seeped out of the computer and into our daily lives. We have taken to expressing everything we think or feel without any thought for the repercussions. Rather than learning how to communicate in a productive and positive way, we have regressed into childish tantrums thrown out haplessly into the universe. The anonymity has lent itself to the inability to talk to someone face to face about an issue. More importantly it has given us the mistaken belief that we MUST express ourselves about whatever we think or feel.

There is a great danger in this trend that has manifested into two distinct problems. The first problem is that whatever you put out in to the universe comes back to you. The universe is a great cosmic boomerang. If you say it, think it, feel it, you have sent a message out into the world to make it true. It may not show up exactly as you thought or how you wished but it WILL show up. For instance, you will have friends who will tell you that they really want to have a relationship but they can't ever find the "right" guy/girl. They are saying that they want to meet someone, hence they will BUT if what they are really feeling is that they don't deserve a "right" guy/girl, or they don't feel good about who they are as a person, the response will be someone who isn't "right" for them.

The second problem is that saying everything you think or feel may make you feel better temporarily but it doesn't resolve the real issue. If you do not give yourself time to think about WHY you feel the way you do AND more importantly what part you play in the situation, expressing your feelings about it will be like constantly eating but still feeling hungry.

Acknowledging your feelings, thinking about why you feel the way you do and most importantly what you are doing or not doing that is helping to create this feeling, is an imperative part of your growth as a person. If you are not patient with your feelings you will never understand them.

Self-expression is a unique and wonderful part of being a human being. It is how we connect with one another and how we learn about ourselves and our world. But, just because you can express yourself at any given moment, doesn't mean you should. Next time, before you post that blog, or send that email or instant message, give yourself time to think about it and then decide whether you want to put it out into the universe.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Becoming You

Here is the myth: when you become an adult you somehow, "magically" know who you are. You are supposed to be a whole person, a completed individual at some intentionally hazy moment in time. This moment has been defined by our society and government as the 18th year of your existence. The reality is that at 18 you are a person transitioning into adulthood, the first step of which is leaving your parents house and going to college or work. Other steps hopefully follow, work, financial independence, possibly marriage and children. So at that point you should be a fully formed person and "adult", right? Yeah, right.

The first step to adulthood is independence but becoming you, knowing you, is far more complex and time consuming than transitioning into independence. Independence is an important part of understanding who you are but it is only a small part.

Have you ever purchased an inexpensive piece of furniture that requires assembly? You purchase the piece, bring it home, open the box and here is what you find: instructions (usually written by someone who has never tried to put the item together), and several pieces, including nuts, bolts and sometimes special "wrench's to insert said hardware. If you have never had this experience - the "put it together yourself" furniture - you must try it. If you want to really learn something about yourself - a "do it yourself" project will give you some great insight into your personality. But I digress...
My point is that YOU are the piece of "do it yourself" furniture. At 18 or 19 or even 20, you are just pieces or who you will become. Your job is to put it all together. Which does not happen in the manner, the speed or the method that you imagine it will happen. It's a slow process with a learning curve the size of the Jura Mountains (look it up).

As you begin this process you will put things together incorrectly and have to start over. You may be missing a piece or something may not fit exactly as you think it should. It will be frustrating and aggravating. There will be swearing, sweat and possibly tears and blood. Hopefully it won't require a trip to the emergency room but sometimes it does. You may put it all together and decide you don't like it and want something completely different. No matter won't be easy.

Putting YOU together is a process. You are in the process of creating YOU. Right now, you don't know what that is going to look like and you're not sure if all the pieces are going to fit right but you just have to dig in and get to work.

The path to adulthood is built upon experience and choice, learning what works for you and what doesn't and ultimately being unafraid to work at creating something out of a box full of pieces. You can't become YOU without learning to do it yourself.