The process of becoming

 

The psychiatrist David Viscott once said, “You must think of yourself as becoming the person you want to be.” For me, this quotation brings up an interesting question: should we be focusing more on the person we are now or on the person we want to be? And are we already this person? That is, do we already have the qualities within ourselves that will enable us to become the person we want to be?

Earlier this week, I found myself telling a friend that we should focus on the present moment and the person we are now as opposed to thinking of ourselves as being a better, wiser, and smarter person at a future date. But then, upon reflecting, I disagreed with my advice. To be a free being, a person at one with himself or herself and his/her individuality, are we not always becoming and evolving? Do we not change on a monthly, weekly, and even daily basis? And if we do, how can we be content with the person we are now? How can we live “in the now” and yet desire to improve certain aspects of ourselves and our lives at the same time?

The ancient philosopher Plato famously immortalized Socrates in both The Republic and many of his other writings. The term “socratizing” was created to define the idea of constantly examining one’s life and questioning everything, even those things that one would commonly regard as “facts”. Socrates believed that death was preferable to a life in which one ceased to question commonly held beliefs and opinions.

Thus, to live a life inspired by Socrates is to exist in a world in which questioning is as natural as breathing. However, this type of life is not altogether welcome in a universe that is overridden with mindless television and other distractions. It has become much easier to adopt views that are handed to us by other people than to think for ourselves. Even those who regard themselves as “critical thinkers” and non-conformists oftentimes have sets of views that are as unoriginal as store-bought cake mixes.

So, what is it like to truly think “outside of the box”? Well, one of the keys to out-of-the-box thinking is the determination to question and examine everything. There are very few things that we should consider to be facts, and even information that we regard as factual needs to be examined and reanalyzed. If our thoughts help create our ultimate destiny, to consistently be thinking new thoughts and challenging our old ideas would seem to be the only way in which we can always be learning and growing. This means that we should continue the process of becoming as opposed to simply being.

The very concept of “being” is one that philosophers have focused on for centuries. As Martin Heidegger so aptly points out, “Being is the most universal concept.” Heidegger also thinks that the concept of ‘Being’ is “indefinable”. If the concept of ‘Being’ is incapable of being defined, the concept of “Becoming” is still more difficult to fathom. Yet, from the moment we are born, we are becoming something more than we are. For everything that we experience in some way becomes a part of our identity, whether consciously or not. The person who we become at different points of our life is indelibly a product of our environment and our experiences And even though we can choose our thoughts, we are oftentimes helpless to choose that which we experience. As for our environment, only at the point when we reach adulthood and are capable of being independent do we have direct control over our environment.  

For the most part, I assume that those of you who are reading my articles are not children. Thus, to say that you do not have control over your environment would be incorrect. However, I suspect that even as adults we oftentimes choose to stay in environments that are contributing in a negative way to our lives and goals. Moreover, we bring experiences into our lives that greatly restrict our choices and that also bring us pain and unhappiness. Does this mean that if we are homeless or without a job that we have brought this experience into our lives? No. However, it could mean that from choices we have made over the course of our lives that we have ended up without a home and/or a job.

I realize that accepting responsibility for your life isn’t easy if you have made a lot of mistakes. But not doing so will only make you less powerful than ever. In sharing my thoughts on this matter, I realize I am creating a breeding ground for detractors to attack me and say that I am suggesting that people choose that which happens to them. Why? Because those who feel threatened by me and the concepts I share in my articles will always find some way to criticize or denigrate me.  It is part of human nature that we reject truths that in some way threaten our “world view”. And, if we can find a way to disapprove of the truth that threatens us, we will do so, even if we end up looking foolish in the process.

On a very simple level, it would be like pretending that you were not interested in a man or woman whom you were actually very much attracted to because you knew that he/she would not reciprocate your feelings. In acting as if he/she isn’t “your type”, you manage to save your pride. But, at what cost? At the cost of lying to yourself, of course. Yet, isn’t that what many of us do each day?

Does it surprise you that I would admit that I lie to myself, too? I’m not ashamed of it for I understand that it’s part of what we oftentimes call “human nature”. Believe me, if we were completely honest with ourselves every minute of every day for 365 days of the year, we would find life almost unbearable. Could this be why suicide has been a problem that so many philosophers have been obsessed with? Is the “examined life” that Socrates promoted so difficult to stomach that committing suicide becomes a viable option?

For me, the idea of not examining life would be much less bearable than living a life where seeking the truth was the first priority. I am very tired of an existence in which persuasive lies masquerade as truth and in which people play roles. This is why I urge my readers to be their authentic selves. The problem is in finding that authentic self.

If we play a role for long enough, being ourselves may become nearly impossible. It may also be difficult for others to accept us as being a different person from the individual they have come to know. I recently read about a man whose self-concept was so warped that even years of psychotherapy prevented him from being able to disassociate himself from it. Our self-concepts are part of who we are. But must they also be an part of the person we become?

Well, if the person you want to become is different from the person you are now, then I would say that you will have to let go of the self-concept you are currently identifying yourself with. For example, if you are overweight but you want to be thin, you’ll have to change your self-concept to create a new reality. Similarly, if all of your past relationships with the opposite sex have been unsuccessful, you will need to make sure that you do not have a self-concept that matches up with a person who is incapable of having a healthy relationship before you pursue another man/woman. Otherwise, you will most likely find a way to sabotage any relationship that you begin, no matter how much potential the relationship has. Why? Scientific studies have shown that most of us are more inclined to pursue experiences that are congruent with the person we perceive ourselves to be instead of pursuing experiences that would be more in keeping with the person we want to be. The reasons for this are still being examined.  

Is it that we’re afraid of change? Or as some people have suggested, are we afraid of our own power? To me, the latter explanation makes very little sense, even though I have friends who would disagree with me. I’m sure that there are instances of people being afraid of how powerful they are, but, where are such people? Those people whom I have known who have been afraid to make changes in their lives seem to be convinced of their own powerlessness. They seem to regard themselves as being relatively insignificant in the scope of things, and the decisions they make on a daily basis seem to show their own sense of insignificance.

For me, the very word ‘power’ is a problem. I tend to see power as one of the things that is misused most often in the world. Moreover, it is the desire for power that has caused some of the events that have destroyed hundreds and even millions of lives. Thus, I prefer to embrace the idea of a life of purpose. There is nothing wrong with having powerful convictions, but we should be careful how we throw around words like “power”. 

What should we even try to have power over besides ourselves? Do we have the power to control anything other than our own thoughts, words, and actions? And, if we do, is it power that we should take? Only those who are weak need to have power over anything besides themselves. To control other people and to attempt to control events shows a lack of strength. We must give others the same freedom that we give ourselves.

But, what is freedom? Isn’t that also a word that is capable of being defined in more than one way? Are not those who promote the idea of freedom often the same people who try to take people’s freedom away? In answer to my first question, I would say that freedom is the ability to live your life as you choose to, without having to answer to someone else for your opinions, views, or decisions. As for defining freedom, I would suggest that it can be defined in both general and specific terms. My definition was very broad and general because examining freedom is not the object of this article.  Obviously, I do not believe that we are free to make decisions that adversely affect the lives of other people. In other words, we are not free to kill, rape, or harm other people, even if we want to do so.

My last question is the most complex to answer because I believe it is dependent upon specific circumstances and is a subject that is worthy of much debate. Are those who promote the concept of freedom oftentimes inclined to take freedom away from others? From personal observation, my answer would be yes. This is because that which we say we believe so often fails to match up with that which we truly believe. And, freedom is a word that most people would publicly define in a similar way, even though most of us have our own private concept of the term.  

As I have said more than once, the purpose of my articles is not to sway you to see things the way I do—but rather to prompt you to examine your own views. If I challenge some of your beliefs, perhaps you should look within yourself instead of finding fault with me. As interested as some people are in contemplating the cosmos without, I tend to think that the cosmos within is worth a lot more thought. What do you think? If the person you are now is not the same as the person you want to be, might it  not be worth spending some time in self-examination? That’s a question only you can answer, and it may well depend on whether you choose the security of the present over the unpredictability of the future.

Until soon,

Alexis, your SuccessDiva

This page and all written material at the SuccessDiva Pages is written by Alexis Wingate. (C) Copyright 2010 by Alexis Wingate, the SuccessDiva. All Rights Reserved

You are the Captain!

Sometimes I look around and wonder: where is honesty and where is truth? I think all of us probably put on a mask to face the world with, whether it is thick or paper thin, sturdy or flimsy. If we think that the face we show to everyone else is the face that we see when we dare to really look inside ourselves. . .well, I think we’re lying to ourselves. And that never gets you anywhere, does it? Was it not John Keats, the poet, who said the oft-repeated phrase, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty–that is all/Ye know on earth, all ye need to know.” Yet T. S. Eliot felt these simple yet profound words detracted from the rest of Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn.  You don’t have to have lived very long on this planet to understand that you need to know a lot more than this in order to survive. The world can be a brutal place and people can be ruthless. Were I to tell you otherwise, I would be simply giving you the false impression that the world is a warm and loving place. Yes, it can be. But is it? And if it isn’t, why is it not? Why aren’t more people living fulfilled lives? Where are the people who are living richly, fully, happily, and successfully? Why aren’t there more of them?

Well, have you ever heard of the fight or flight response?? Sure you have. In fact, I would imagine that you have chosen to react to at least one situation in your life in the past year by either fighting it or running away from it? Am I right? If not, think back to a time when you did, in fact, try to fight back at someone or something? Why did you do it? Underneath all that anger and resentment and, yes, even hate, was there possibly. . .if I’m wrong, don’t get upset. . .but could there not have been just a tiny bit of fear? In other words, did you use anger to mask the fact that you were actually apprehensive, that you really felt afraid? When you were a child and your mother or father didn’t buy you a toy that you wanted, for example, and you got angry at them, couldn’t you have also been afraid that them not giving you something you really wanted meant that they didn’t love you as much as they should? Think about it. And later on, when that girl or guy whom you wanted to go out with in high school never seemed to reciprocate your attention, what made you decide to start avoiding them? Wasn’t it fear? Weren’t you afraid of being hurt?

Well, you’re probably not in high school right now. . .and, if you are, I applaud you for being willing to start making the changes that will enable you to create the life of your dreams at such a young age. But whether you are in high school or it’s been several decades since you finished high school, the insight your Success Diva is giving you will always be applicable. That same anger that you felt when you were a child. . . and that same fear (and maybe anger, too) that you felt when you were a teenager. . .well, these are two emotions that are still ruling your world, to a large extent. “What?” you say, “Success Diva is saying I’m driven by anger and fear! Well, she’s going too far this time!” No, I’m not going far enough. This is just the tip of the iceberg that hit the Titanic as far as these two emotions are concerned. I will be talking about them more and more as I continue becoming more and more a part of your life. You see, The Success Diva has been driven by anger and fear, too, along with other things such as hate, resentment, contempt, vindictiveness, and other negative emotions.  There was a time when the only way I knew to react to being hurt or mistreated by someone was to get angry. There were times when I would get comments such as “Well, you’ve got a temper to match the color of your hair,” and I knew those comments were valid, although I dislike redheads being automatically labelled as “short-tempered.” The thing about it is, my hair is still red. However, I rarely get angry anymore, and, when I do, I find ways to eliminate it before it injures me or someone else. I know you’re probably thinking that I’m making it sound awfully easy to stop letting a destructive emotion control your actions.  “You just don’t know the sorts of people I’ve had to deal with,” you might want to tell me. Well, The Success Diva has encountered all sorts of people in her life. . .and, let me assure you, at least half of them have not had a positive or healthy influence on me. In fact, I have known people that would very nearly make an angel throw away her halo and buy a pitchfork and a pair of devil’s horns instead. Not that this would do an angel any good, of course—merely buying a costume won’t change a person’s behavior. And this brings me back to what I said about all of us wearing masks in the beginning of this post. Just because we wear a mask of  happiness or joy or love or peace or compassion or strength—well, if we don’t actually feel any of those emotions inside, our behavior will not consistently reflect those feelings. Many people say that you have to love and accept yourself before you can give love to anyone else. And you know what? I think they’re right. This is probably why so many women say that becoming a mother is the most extraordinary and important experience of their lives. In learning to love the child growing within themselves, they begin to have a certain love and respect for themselves as women. Then, when they finally give birth to that child, their hearts are overflowing with a love that may well have been there all the time, but has never had a viable outlet before. I’m not saying that every woman who becomes a mother starts loving herself. What I am saying is that a woman often considers that she has finally accomplished something worthwhile when she brings new life into the world. And this new feeling of self-worth brings with it a certain amount of self-love.  But if you love yourself does this mean that you don’t get angry or that you suddenly don’t experience any negative emotions?? Of course not. What it can mean, however, is that you begin to understand that those destructive emotions that you thought were just hurting other people are really hurting you. “It’s worth hurting myself, though, if I can get back at so-and-so,” you say. Whoa. Wait a minute. What did you just say? You’re telling me that it’s worth depriving yourself of joy, happiness, peace, and love just so that you can prove something to someone else? You’re saying that if you can just pay him/her/ them back for whatever he/she/them said or to you, it’s worth becoming a toxic person for a little while? You see, toxic people are toxic to themselves, first and foremost. They don’t usually realize this fully enough, but when a toxic person loses his/her temper and says or does things that are cruel, hurtful, or abusive, what he/she is really doing is demonstrating how little control they have over themselves and their own behavior. This is something I have come to realize in recent years and especially during the past several months. If I get angry at someone who mistreats me, what I’m really doing is allowing them to control  me. So, not only have they attempted to victimize me with their mistreatment. . .but I am continuing to play the role of ‘the victim’ by letting myself be driven by negative emotions that they evoked. So, I’ve given up my power and I’m basically a chess piece in someone else’s game. Is this what you want to be? I know it can’t possibly be, or you wouldn’t be reading the Success Diva’s blog. I fully believe that you want to be the one steering your own ship—and I also think that you’re willing to buy, borrow or find the necessary equipment to build that ship. Hey, it’s the ship of your dreams, after all. It will take you anywhere you choose to go. It can take you away from the life of your dreams. . .or it can steer you towards it. You are the Captain. I’m just there to encourage and inspire you.

I have been asked before by people who are curious about why their lives are not going the way they want them to, which emotion I feel is the most inhibiting of any that a person can feel. In other words, if I had to name just one thing that is standing between a person and the life he/she desires, what would it be?? The answer is simple yet people are often surprised when they hear it. It’s fear. Fear is what makes a person feel that they have to hold onto the life they’ve got, the job they’ve got, the spouse they’re married to, the boyfriend/girlfriend they’re with, or the career they’ve spent so many years pursuing but never really have liked. Fear is what makes a person not get on an airplane, even when deep within themselves they’d love to travel around the world. Fear is what prevents you from grabbing half the opportunties that come your way. It’s both insidious and deadly, and until you find a way to move beyond it, you will never have any lasting happiness or success in your life.  “But don’t I need to get rid of the fear?,” you ask. “Can just moving beyond it be enough?” Well, the truth is, fear is something you will always feel no matter how badly you want to never experience it again. Why? Because life is full of new experiences, and there are bound to be some experiences that will challenge you and overwhelm you if you are going to create the life of your dreams. If, for example, one of your dreams is to go sky-diving, do you really think you won’t experience any fear if you decide to make this dream a reality?? Of course you’ll experience fear. The situation is, when your passion for something—whether it be a career, a job, or a person whom you are madly in love with—becomes more powerful than your fear, you will automatically move past it and embrace whatever it is you really desire. Now generally, in life, the sort of passion that is able to conquer fear isn’t something that you feel on a regular basis. It’s something that you feel every now and then, when you ask your girlfriend to marry you or when you go on a rollercoaster ride at your local amusement park. It isn’t something you are accustomed to feeling every single day. And this is one reason you aren’t living the life of your dreams. You are living with fear, whether you realize it or not. You’re afraid that you’ll fail. You’re afraid that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, whether it be in your career or in an important personal relationship. You think to yourself, “How could someone like me ever make a go of this?” or “Why would he/she ever seriously be interested in me?” Well, what you have to do is understand that there are some opportunities that will only come your way once. . .and if you don’t snatch them now, they may never show up again. You have to be willing to grab happiness or success or love sometimes. You have to believe that it will ultimately make you feel more worthwhile if you should go for it, even if you don’t get it. “But I’m really not a very worthy person,” you say, “I mean, I don’t really deserve happiness or success or love or all these great things you’re talking about, Success Diva.” Really? Who says? Have you been keeping company with toxic people who think they have the right to tell you what you are or are not capable of? Or have you been saying such things to yourself for so long that you have actually started to believe them? Which is it? I can safely assume that when you were a child of five or six you weren’t under the impression that you weren’t “worthy” or “deserving” enough to be happy or feel loved. You know your Success Diva is right about this. When you were a kid, there were moments when you probably think that nearly anything was possible. At the very least, I’m sure that you would have thought that you deserved a happy, rich, joyful, and successful life.

So, what happened?? Well, you see, when you are a kid the world didn’t seem like a cruel, brutal, dark, and cold place to you. You looked at birds and butterflies with your eyes wide open. . .you noticed the sun rising and setting and you loved the feeling of rain against your skin. You weren’t worried that you weren’t carrying around an umbrella! And you didn’t even think about sun-screen (don’t get me wrong—sun-screen is essential to protect against sun damage and skin cancer). Also, when your mother or  grandmother made a batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies you weren’t thinking, “I wonder how many calories each cookie has in it.” No, you were enjoying every morsel of those cookies. But somewhere between then and now you’ve come to see the world in an entirely different light. You generally feel guilty if you eat too many cookies now, and you no longer really think about when the sun sets or when it rises. Around some hour of the morning it gets light outside. . .and around some hour of the evening it gets dark. As for rain? Well, it’s something that creates problems when you’re trying to get somewhere in a rush. It causes more traffic. Plus, your hair might start frizzing. . .and, my goodness, what about that new pair of shoes you’re wearing? See what I mean?  There are lots of things that you actually feel fear about without being aware of it. Yet I would wager that you do drive in the rain and that you do eat too many cookies every now and then. I would also say that some of you have ruined more than one pair of shoes, either by walking in rain, mud, or snow. I know I have. I ruined a pair of shoes by picking persimmons of a tree a few years ago. I didn’t realize that there was so much mud around those trees. . and, well, I had been to a symphony concert earlier that night and I was all dressed up. But do you know what’s interesting? I no longer think much about those shoes I ruined. However, I will always have the memory of picking persimmons off persimmon trees with my mother one late night in October. And life becomes more meaningful when you have moments that are memorable. If you simply exist, never taking any risks and never accepting any opportunity that comes your way unless it seems “safe,” then you are always going to exist. You will never be fulfilled. . .and you will never live the life of your dreams. Never?? That’s right—never.

So, take that fear and use it. To feel fearful all the time takes a whole lot of energy. But you can take that same energy and use it in a different way. You can use it to feel passion and enthusiasm and determination. Instead of being afraid to do something, choose to be adventurous. Even if there’s still some fear deep inside you, choose to see it as a tool rather than as a hindrance. It can actually help you, believe it or not. It can force you to be a stronger person—it can make you more determined. And, when you see that there was really nothing to be afraid about all along, you’ll become less and less fearful. Now as I said previously, you will never completely obliterate all fear from your life.  However, with enough practice and enough advice from your Success Diva, you will not only work around it, but you will also find a way to channel it effectively.

Well, it’s way after midnight here in Atlanta, and even though the Success Diva is a self-proclaimed ‘night owl,’ she’s going to have to wait for another post to say more. But she does encourage you to start implementing the suggestions she’s giving you in this post—namely, to start using your fear in a positive way and to start responding in a mature, effective, and productive way to those toxic people, rather than reacting with emotions that are destructive to you, such as hate, anger, contempt, and resentment.

Until later. . .live each moment of your life with passion and enthusiasm!

Your Success Diva

successdiva7@yahoo.com

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