Lately I have been hearing people talk about “deserving to be here.” And I’ve struggled to relate. I am where I am. It just is, it’s not a question of deserving or not deserving. But I find that I don’t actually feel like I “deserve” to state what I do or do not value.
I mean, I can state things that make me angry or upset. I can toss out casual preferences. But in terms of really holding that the things that I think are important, ARE important–if only to me, but it is me only that things need to be important. Not in a self-absorbed sort of way, but in the honest fact that the only person in the universe who is me, is me, and it is me that I have to be, and ought to be, and am–regardless of how hard I might at times try to mute that.
I often struggle with this in terms of things I haven’t tried yet. Who am I to say I shouldn’t want to pursue things that “people” say would be good for me? Who am I to declare that I want to pursue things that “people” say would not benefit me?
I know part of this reason is that I have a strong negative reaction to, well, people who have strong negative reactions. People adamantly make declarations of the worth of things they’ve never experienced. But that’s not the whole picture, and I feel like it’s time to poke at that part of me a bit.
Because I feel like it partly has to do with trying too hard. Because the times when I most find myself enjoying myself and excelling are in things I’ve nearly stumbled into by accident or haven’t attempted to schedule, plan, discipline, scheme, goal-set or achieve. One might think that is because the scheduling, etc., becomes itself a burden, but one would be quite wrong. I enjoy scheduling and planning and scheming.
I think it’s because I drink too much from the well of “ought.” Of other peoples’ ideas promulgated regarding success, and the worth of measuring things. Of the religion of hard work and discipline accomplishing all things. It’s a powerful idea, because it promotes the glorification of self. But mixed in with that is the idea that, you know, it’s allowed to be unpleasant, because that’s part of hard work and discipline. Sacrificing yourself for your goals is indeed part of the process.
So when I say, “yeah, but I don’t want to,” I immediately feel guilty. Shirking the valuable experiences that would shape me into a better person. If I was disciplined, if I didn’t avoid pain that made me grow, if I was willing to be challenged. . .if, if, if. But why can’t I simply value that I don’t want to?
Why is that something that is supposed to be smooshed, instead of acknowledged as part of my person? Why is it not okay for me to simply accept that some people do some things and other people do other things, and this is simply not something I want to choose to do? Instead, I feel this guilt to somehow conform and perform, instead of assert the authenticity of who I am, including: Not That. And including: Yes, That. Both halves.
Because, I don’t know, it seems rude to assert you aren’t something when you’ve not yet tried it. Because it seems like a value judgement on other people. By refusing what other people say is important, it feels like disputing their value. And also sometimes, feeling as though I have to justify what I feel is important by demonstrating it’s value in terms that other people can understand.
Yet I know I am my most valuable when I am most myself. And I am not most myself when I am acting from a place of fear, insecurity or people-pleasing (and there is a fine but very important line between serving people and pleasing people). All things that I am continually acting out of.
But one does have to say “no” before one can say “yes,” and I am pathetically poor at saying “no,” especially to fear, insecurity or people-pleasing.
Last night I was looking at books that claim to help you do just that, and just feeling so frustrated. It doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing that you should actually have to read a book about, and it nearly doesn’t seem like a thing that reading a book would help. I do know I need to say “no;” what will more words help? And yet at the same time, if “knowing” is enough, why, for years on end, have I not said “no”? (There is some reflection there of the inadequacy of discipline and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps as being effective means of actually solving problems.)
But that in and of itself is part of the problem: saying, “part of who I authentically am is someone who is struggling to say no to things she knows she should say no to; and part of who I authentically am is someone who sometimes finds benefits in hearing other people talk through the same problem.” That is an exceptionally true statement, but yet I’m–for lack of a better word–afraid of what people would think of me with things that are frequently labeled self-help (ironic, in the sense that by the time you are trying to see what other people have to say in the matter, you have actually already moved beyond “self” help).
It is one thing to say it is valid to be yourself. But it’s another to actually act on that. I’m here, because I’m here. I’m sick, because I’m sick. But what do I say “no” to, and what do I still pursue?
And some people like to say, “How you respond to your circumstances in your control!” But I don’t think that’s fair or complete, and I think it’s terribly misleading, and I think it’s barely true on the superficial level. I am who I am. But part of “choosing” is choosing to honor who I already am. I don’t think change involves struggling to be a different person. I think change involves reconciling who I really am with who it is I am acting in, resolving conflict rather than causing it. Some people think that growth only comes through hard things and that resolving conflict rather than fighting to overcome conflict is taking the easy way out. But they’re only half-right. Resolving conflict is nearly always more difficult than fighting through conflict, and the rewards are almost always far greater.
But I still feel like I’m only saying what I “know,” and I’m still very much doubting my ability to respond with the appropriate action.