When you were born, you were whole, perfect, and complete. No one expected anything of you. You were fully in touch with your divinity. There was no need for yoga. You didn't make time to pray and meditate. You just were.
As a child, you didn't need to find yourself. You hadn't lost yourself! You were in touch with your soul. You were connected to your essence. You were completely free! You danced on the table naked and sang at the top of your lungs. You wore purple polka dots with red stripes and felt fabulous. You examined a blade of grass as if it contained the entire universe. Because it does.
You were free of self-consciousness, not afraid of rejection, and in touch with being alive. But the longer we live in the world, the more we get conditioned to second-guess our natural impulses, the more we begin to squelch our feelings, and the more we begin to question whether who we are at our core is really enough to get the love we are so desperate for.
It starts small. We did something that embarrassed our parents. Be quiet. We came home with bad grades and learned that trying hard wasn't good enough. You need to work harder. We learned that being loud and excited wasn't acceptable. You need to calm down. Behave. Be polite. Play it safe. Do the right thing. Don't be weird.
From the moment we can talk, we face these messages from all sides. Our parents, our teachers, TV, the internet. We learn to shut down our impulses. We start to diminish ourselves.
As a coping mechanism, we grow up, ultimately deciding that we have to be someone we're not in order to fit in, in order to be accepted, in order to survive.
We start to ask, who do I need to be in order to be loved? You see the difference? We learn to ask not "Who am I?" but "Who do I need to be?"
That's the moment. That's the moment we cut the ties with our soul and start to live a lie.
Who we need to become is different for each of us. It depends on our family dynamic. How our parents treat us. What gets us the attention we so desperately seek.
Well, Dad pats me on the head when I'm nice. Oh, OK, I'm the nice guy. I get validated and accepted this way. That's what I'll keep doing.
Or, wow, Mom took me out for ice cream when I brought home good grades. I want to do that again. I'm the smart one. I'll just keep getting good grades and achieving more to keep that look of pride on her face.
Or, OK, when we don't have money, Mom and Dad fight. So the answer to happiness must be more money. I'm never going to be without money again. I'm going to do everything I can to make it big so I never have to worry. I'm the successful one. Look at all I've accomplished!
Day by day, experience by experience, we discover what persona gets us the attention we're so desperate for. And in the process we get molded into people we are not. This creates a pattern, a way of being that we call "me." And this limited expression becomes the whole of our personality.
But we are so much more. So, who have you learned to be? It's time to shed the persona so you can discover the real you buried underneath.
What stories are you hiding?
As young children, we learn to avoid uncomfortable emotions. To pretend that everything is OK. We have been conditioned to suppress pain. Remember all those moments when our parents tried to soothe us by saying, "Don't cry. It's OK"? This tells us that such emotions aren't OK, that we should shove them under the rug.
When you were born, you were like a huge, crisp white sheet of paper. You were smooth. You were expansive. You were full of possibility. And then life happens. You were told to stop crying. And part of you crumpled up. You were bullied in school. Crumple. Your parents divorced. Crumple.
Before too long, you look nothing like that pristine sheet of paper. You are just a crumpled-up little ball, where you once felt like spreading your arms and shouting to the world "THIS IS ME!"
When we try to squeeze ourselves into a persona, we suppress all the parts of ourselves that don't fit into that character.
To be the good boy, you've got to suppress your anger. To be the funny one, you've got to quiet the smart and serious side of you. To be the angry girl, you've got to squash down your joy. You've got to continue to find things to be angry about.
What aspects have you suppressed your entire life? Your sexuality? Your creativity? Your anger? Your sadness?
In the process of holding onto your persona, you suppress the naturalness of your being. You spend so much energy trying to be proper, keep it together, fit in, look good, be liked, be appropriate, and not say the wrong thing that you end up feeling as if you are holding your breath. You don't want to move. It's like when you need to yawn but feel as if you shouldn't yawn. So you go through life holding back. Holding back the natural impulse to be who you truly are.
To be truly powerful requires that you get in touch with the entire range of yourself. All aspects of yourself. All shades of the rainbow of your being, not just a few colors.
Whether you've gone through life as the shy one, the life of the party, the damsel in distress, or the drama queen, recognize that there is more to who you are. Those personas are just patterns of conditioning that you learned to follow in order to survive. The strategy may have worked for you when you were 5 or 10 or 15, when you lived in the shadow of your parents and were desperate for acceptance and love.
But now you are an adult. Take a look at what persona you think has been "working" for you all these years. It is NOT who you are.
To start to break the grip of your conditioning is to be aware of your conditioning. The more you can be conscious and aware of your personas, the less you have to be ruled by them. When you live within a persona, you no longer have a range in how you respond to life. There is no creativity, no exploration. There is just a set way of being. And even when the music changes, you still have just five dance moves. Reggae? Mozart? Hip-hop? Jazz? It doesn't matter. You've got only five steps.
Listen, we don't always get to choose the music that gets played in our lives. It's not always going to be Mozart; it's not always going to be beautiful. But if you are stuck in five steps, you are always doing the same dance. The freer you are, the more you are able to spontaneously meet the moment with the right action. But when you are trapped in your persona, you can only sway awkwardly to the music, feeling confined, like you are out of sync, but you don't have any other options. You are unable to improvise.
Why do you think people go out and drink to have a good time? Because it allows them to loosen the ties of their persona for a brief moment. To get a taste of freedom. Yet it doesn't last. The moment is fleeting. So they have to go out and drink again and again and again.
But when you shed your persona, you realize that there are infinite possibilities for improvisation. There is so much more to who you are. There is so much more to life itself.
What have you been suppressing? What part of you is screaming to be expressed?
The real you is calling.
Within each of us is so much possibility. Why do you limit yourself? What would it mean if you would allow yourself to be both the nice guy and the badass, the bad girl and the good girl? Because it's not about the persona. It's about your relationship with the persona. When your persona owns you, you have no ability to choose.
But when you shed it, when you realize that deep within, you are so much more, then you can be all things. Freedom is about having access to the full range of your expression, not just one or two colors. It doesn't mean that you will never be nice or quiet when you shed that persona. You still have access to that shade, but it isn't your only color.
Underlying each of our personas is a positive intention. Our personas are trying to get us something we desire — love, attention, recognition, happiness. But we are going about it in a limiting way, a way that we learned early in our lives. When we realize that underlying our personas is a positive intention, then we can feel compassion for ourselves rather than judgment.
When you start to feel yourself acting out of your personas, you can make a different choice. You can check in. Why am I doing this? Is this what I really want? Is this how I deep down really want to act? You can recognize that within you is a whole rainbow of choices. At the end of the day, who are you trying to win over? Your parents? Your friends? God?
Is it worth it if you sacrifice the power of your soul? So can you do it? Can you let it go? The persona, the limits, the five-step dance? When you rip off the persona, you get one step closer to discovering the power of your soul. What are you waiting for?