Even if we don’t always have the best things to say about ourselves, most of us are pretty attached to who we are.
The identity we’ve built for ourselves wasn’t an accident. It is the result of a lifetime of choices, which (at the very least) made sense to us at the time we made them. Even in my most dark moments – the times when I would ‘trade places’ with just about anyone else – I wouldn’t trade my ‘ego’ with theirs. That’s the equivalent of dying – no longer being you.
On the other hand, most (if not all of us) have at one point in our lives asked “How did I get here?” as if our bodies got hijacked by someone else and we just happened to noticed it.
Have you ever felt hijacked?
Like your choices aren’t really your own, your life isn’t really your own?
Are you experiencing it right now?
To some extent, we really ARE hijacked. There’s a brilliant quote from Jack Kornfield that encapsulates what this looks like and how it happens:
Every facet, every compartment of your mind is to be programmed by you; if you don’t take the responsibility to program your own mind, the world will program it for you.
That’s pretty powerful, and we see evidence of it all the time. We are highly persuaded by a host of programming when it comes to the things we buy, what we find ‘fashionable’, where we decide to live, go to school, who to befriend, etc…
The more disturbing element is that persuasion and social pressure moves out into the territory of how we see ourselves and what ‘kind of person’ we want to become. It’s not just how decide what fills our houses and wardrobes, it’s how we decide what fills our identity.
We, effectively, “outsource” our identity.
Our values, what we believe, what we stand for… we look to others to set these things, and we grow further and further away from our true authentic selves.
This is not to say we should be living as though we’re in a vacuum, doing whatever we want without considering other people. Nor is it to say that we shouldn’t be influenced by what is important to others, or that it’s bad for those things to become sincerely important to us. However, when it comes to our values and our personal identity, we can seek the wisdom and input of others, but we cannot outsource them. We can’t look to others to tell us what they are. When we do this, we slowly lose ourselves in the process.
What are the ways in which we outsource our values and identity?
We do this when we adopt the belief system of our youth without scrutiny. We do this when we cannot understand who we are outside of our families. We do this when someone implies we are a certain way when we’re young, and we never shake the thought that this is ‘who I am’.
We also do it when we form our identity based upon a comparison to someone else. (“My sister is the pretty one, I’m the smart one.”) We do it in a 101 ways that end up hurting us.
This choice to outsource our values and identity develops based upon two main factors:
1) It’s easy to outsource. It means we’re not responsible if we end up being wrong. Instead, we end up with with something far worse: an ‘external locus of control’.
2) We don’t know we have permission to take control of our self-identity, and so we simply never do.
What is an “external locus of control?”
What does having permission to take control of your self-identity do for you?
We’ll talk about that in an upcoming post. But first – have you ever noticed yourself “outsourcing” your values and identity? How did that look for you?
Share your experience in the comments.