Wednesday, November 20, 2013

being a person of purpose to yourself

There's always so much chatter and flapping around the subject of self purpose and living a life with meaning. I've always been interested in the chatter because I'm kind of a nut about intrapersonal and interpersonal psychology and the self help movement.

Most of what I read on the subject comes back to one philosophy: In order to have real meaning in your life, your purpose must somehow serve others for the greater good. To offer up something that is bigger than yourself. To make a difference in your world. Your community. Your family.

And while I agree with that truth, I want to explore it a bit deeper, because I feel like there's some pitfalls here.  Especially if you're already a people pleaser like me.

It's ridiculously easy to align ourselves with someone else's purpose. To grab a hold of someone else's coat tails and go along for the ride, claiming purpose and meaning while only really perpetuating someone else's goals or dreams or purpose without really figuring out what yours are.

The more I dig around and investigate my goals and dreams and purpose, the more I realize how absolutely clueless I am about what I even want.  Whenever I get frustrated about where I am in life, I tend to turn that focus on other people, to help them, be a listener, problem solver, counselor and friend.

I've been friends with people who will sit with me for hours and do nothing but talk about themselves and their lives and completely overlook the fact that another human being is sitting right next to them with their own frustrations and things to say. And when that quiet human being is me, I let it happen, time and time again. My inner voice says "they need me" or "who am I to complain when they have the real problems" or "I'm not important" or "their dream is bigger than mine". I become the Narcissist Whisperer.

Spoiler Alert: they don't care about you and your dreams or purpose.

Not only do I allow these relationships to emotionally entwine me, I empathically tune into their struggle and goals and invest myself in them. I was married for 11.5 years to someone I sacrificed my happiness for until I felt like I was slowly (or quickly as time went on) killing myself by living someone else's life. When he drove away the night we broke up, I felt myself wake up for the first time in a long time. It was startling and extremely, overwhelmingly empowering.

It's a huge life lesson and one I'm still struggling to learn. It's hard to find your voice and say "that's not going to serve MY purpose or happiness so I can't participate in that". My god, what if that person thinks you're an asshole or doesn't want to be in your life anymore because of your objection. What if someone...omg...what if someone doesn't like you? It's insane how that one little thought can destroy your inner integrity and self protection.  That little thought has led me to make some very bad decisions, ones that had I been tuned into my purpose, I could have done a quick check in "is this what I want, is this going to serve me or hurt me?" and kept myself on a path of meaningful, purposeful, happy living.  Instead, I have gone along with things that only cause shame, regret and my own suffering. That friends is what I define as Self Sabotage.

So while it's great to put your life purpose to use and serve your world for the greater good of humanity...I think the first place to start is figuring out how to serve yourself and PROTECT your own purpose first.

How to say no, how to put boundaries around relationships, how to differentiate between what I want and you want, how to discover what I want in the first place. How to speak your truth. How to object. How to listen more to my Wise Self and let her guide me. How to be happy outside of influence.

I think that is part of what this month of not drinking is also helping me understand. Drinking enables my Little Self to drive with reckless abandon through the structures and boundaries that my Wise Self so carefully constructed in an effort to keep myself on the right track to joy. 

So the challenge for me will be to strengthen my Wise Self muscles to the point of muscle memory, so that when I drink, She will be in charge, and decisions will be made according to MY happiness and boundaries.

And ultimately, as I figure out how to balance vulnerability with protection and self interest with supporting others, I'll be able to reach out and healthily be of service to something greater than myself. Until then, I am going to keep practicing, reading, strengthening and growing.

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