There is a dearly held belief in our culture about the possibility of being anything in this lifetime. I think culturally it’s more about the possibility of opportunity – that if your passion is insects, you can become an expert in bugs. If you want to be an astronaut, there are paths you can take to accomplish that. More or less, it’s true. If you’re determined enough, you can do what you set out to do. There is mobility and opportunity.
There is also a more personal level to this idea, which I think is pernicious and destructive. It’s the idea that we ourselves can become anything, if we try hard enough. It’s a terrible lie and does us a terrible disservice.
Parenting books did me in. I had to stop reading them. They each held out convincing ways of being the perfect parent – if I just followed their proven system then my children would be happy, healthy, creative, socially successful, cooperative, and ultimately successful adults. I could congratulate myself on being a successful parent.
The trouble was, I could never really do it. Whatever their system was, I couldn’t sustain it, or my kids would have none of it. Over and over again. What was wrong with me? I was obviously a failure as a parent.
So I gave up the parenting books and just winged it. Messy, full of pot holes and failed experiments and inconsistencies, but my husband and I did the best we could. Our two sons are spectacular men, in spite of their upbringing. So nope, I couldn’t be That Person in the endless stream of The Kind of Parent I Should Be.
In personal relationships, we hold out this idea that if we are “X” some of the time – patient, spontaneous, logical, even-keeled, understanding, sexy, whatever – we should be that way all the time. How many times had I heard, “Why can’t you be more “X?” Or, “You were able to do “X” then, why can’t you do it now?”
The reason is, like with the parenting thing, I could force myself to do “X” for a while, but it wasn’t natural and I couldn’t sustain it.
And similarly, I felt bad about myself for not being able to “be” that way. What was wrong with me, why couldn’t I be more neat/organized/structured/consistent, outgoing/considerate/endless list ____?
In my relationship with my husband, this was an ongoing conversation. He wanted me to be more “X,” because sometimes I was, and he liked that. I wanted him to be more “X,” because sometimes he was, and I liked that. We were both frustrated that the other person wasn’t more like we wanted them to be, thought they should aspire to be, used to be but weren’t anymore, would be better people if only they were, research shows it would be better if you were more… on and on, the list of reasons why we were justified in asking for it.
But it was really demoralizing. It was impossible for us to be whom the other person wanted us to be. I felt like a comprehensive failure. He felt angry and resentful.
Finally, we gave up. It was the best thing we could have done.
Now, left to ourselves, we’ve discovered not only who we each are as ourselves, and embraced that, we can see the other person as they are, and embrace that too. We talk at length about the process of those discoveries. We laugh about the fact that, now that we’re not living together as husband and wife, the things that used to trigger the anger and resentment no longer hold any charge for us. “I don’t have to give a shit about that anymore!” we say gleefully.
It’s a huge relief.
So no, I can’t be “anything.” Neither can he. Neither can anyone. The biggest responsibility we have is to do the work to discover who we actually are – what is our unique conglomeration of quirky traits and preferences and skills and gifts and paradoxes that makes it possible for us to bring our gifts to the world?
And do we have the courage to Be That, in spite of the pressure to Be Something Else, so that we fit in to some external structure, or so that someone else feels comfortable?
As Steven Pressfield wrote in “The War of Art:”
Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
If we were born to paint, it’s our job to become a painter.
If we were born to raise and nurture children, it’s our job to become a mother [or father].
If we were born to overthrow the order of ignorance and injustice of the world, it’s our job to realize it and get down to business.”
So this is what I bring to my work with clients. Who are You? Who is the You that you had to hide or shut down or contort to become who you thought you should be? That person is still there. That wiring, all those gifts, are still there, waiting to be re-awakened. Your Human Design can help you remember. Energy Psych can help you clear all that isn’t you. Neurofeedback can help your brain re-wire itself so that it works as it is meant to. What are you waiting for?