by Deborah McInnes, Goonellabah, Australia
I have noticed that almost nothing in life supports us to be who we are and to say it how it is.
From the beginning, we seem to be performing for others, with much attention, focus and anticipation given to our every movement… whether we will be a boy or a girl, what we look like, whether we are cute or not, or healthy or not… the list goes on.
The pressure to be what is generally accepted in society as ‘normal’ is astounding and relentless from the beginning. Whether it is better to be bottle-fed or breastfed, whether it is more acceptable to be a boy or a girl, let alone if we are healthy and without impediments and illness… What if a woman doesn’t produce the ‘perfect baby’ for everyone else? What does this then say about her?
We go to school to learn – but when we get there, we discover we aren’t learning about life and how to be in life, let alone how to create the life we want for ourselves… We are learning how to become like everyone else; if not, how to be ‘better’ than another, or smarter, prettier or tougher, and more able to conform to the expectations of others… How to fit in and play it safe, and how to be what everyone else wants us to be – all the while learning to not listen to our own knowing and body, and our own heart.
Our expression is ‘moulded’ on a daily basis – how to construct sentences ‘correctly’, articulate, pronounce, use the correct amount of adjectives, nouns, adverbs when we speak and write, with correct grammar and spelling – and all before the bell rings or the teacher says “pens down”. Even the words we use have their own set of rules for spelling and pronouncing them… This is highlighted to me on a daily basis when my daughter, who is learning to write now, writes her words exactly as they sound. So many of our words aren’t written in this way and appear far more complicated than they need to be. I can read her words and pronounce them perfectly with their raw spelling yet the same words going to school would be marked up with ‘red pen’… Remember the red pen?
(Recently I was attending a service office of some description. The lady at the counter shared with me that the number of people who come in who have issues with ‘red pens’, and prefer to never use them, is incredible. Could it be a reminder of their days at school and the many ‘corrections’ that take place to our true expression?)
There are many conflicting messages around us telling us how to be, and how not to be; what is acceptable to say, and what is not.
Something that is very noticeable during pregnancy and raising children is how much literature there is about what you ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ do – what is considered ‘normal’ behaviour in a baby and what is not. Many articles contradict each other and offer opposite presentations of what ‘normal’ is. It can be very confusing as a first-time mother, with little or no experience, to be reading everywhere what is ‘normal’ and how to be – which often goes against everything that we feel and know to be true in our own heart.
When a baby is born, even more pictures are presented to us about what parenting should look like. How your baby should behave and how you should respond – nowhere is there anyone telling you to listen to your own heart, and that you already know what to do, and to trust this. The information is rapidly coming in from every direction to discount this innate knowing, and to doubt it.
I grew up in a family where feelings were discounted as indulgent and dramatic and ‘children were to be seen but not heard’. This was a sentiment I also noticed elsewhere, as if children were not equal to adults, and their expression was not valid due to their size. What I still observe around me is the way in which a contribution from a child is treated as cute and not taken seriously, or is dismissed outright as if they could not possibly know much (if anything) valid at their age, let alone be listened to, heard and respected as an equal. It appears to be generally accepted that an adult knows better. Something I have learnt from life is that age does not always equate to wisdom, for I have met many wise children and many unwise adults.
As we grow up, there appears to be a strong pressure to conform, to fit in, to have thoughts, beliefs and a ‘voice’ in line with the masses – and if you don’t, you are treated as an ‘outcast’, a ‘misfit’, as ‘rebellious’ or a ‘black sheep’. There appears to be a common belief in society that if you go against the grain, you are causing trouble and that your expression is ‘wrong’… The odds are stacked against you – how can you possibly be on track if everyone else is on another path altogether?
Another interesting observation growing up is the way in which loving, cherishing or celebrating yourself is often frowned upon by others, and seen as a negative quality and way of expression. I have always been fascinated with the way in which people would say, “You’re in love with yourself”, as if love meant the same thing as ‘arrogance’ and to ‘love yourself’ was a curse. In the past I worked very hard to prove I didn’t love myself just so that others wouldn’t feel I was judging them or feeling that I was better than them (because this was not the case), and it became easier to not express the joy I felt every day than to feel how my joy disturbed others. My true voice became quieter and quieter and the ‘voice-over’ became louder and louder. Today I would respond to the same statement “You’re in love with yourself” with a matter of fact, ‘Yes, I am, and it’s amazing… it’s definitely worth it”.
We become so good at fitting in and not disturbing others in the belief that this is being a good friend to them. Why is it that we stop short of challenging behaviours we know are not right from our family and friends, and why are we not enquiring about what is really going on for people? There appears to be so much falsity in society – the polite “How are you?” when really we don’t want to know. The other person feels this and gives the same polite response back: “Very well” or “Good”, when often this is far from their reality. Have you ever had the experience of hearing someone say they are “Great” when you can see they aren’t doing well and are barely coping?
Have you ever had the experience of taking some of the shine off what you are saying in case the other person feels worse? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. We seem to have become good at giving the responses we believe others want to hear rather than saying it as it truly is.
Why it is that we don’t ask the important questions? Or openly discuss the truth of our lives? Or wondered how there can be so much going on beneath the surface for us all, yet we don’t go there? Is it that people don’t really want to know; a “Please don’t tell me anything bad I may not be able to deal with”? Could it be that we have spent so long saying things how we think we ‘need’ to, that we have moved away from our natural voice and true expression?
What then is the quality of our discussions and our connections with each other when we are playing the charade of measured question and measured response, rather than saying what we are really feeling to share with others? How can we be truly loving, supportive and understanding of each other when we aren’t giving a voice to our true feelings and allowing our hearts to speak?
Thanks to Universal Medicine, I am re-discovering the enormous freedom in saying things as they truly are from my heart, without reservation. There is also great responsibility in this, which I will never step away from again: to be open, loving and understanding of others, to not hold back the truth and what is needed in any moment (which is an on-going learning), to not lessen myself and alter my voice to ‘keep the peace’ or not ‘rock the boat’.
Re-discovering our natural voice is nothing short of amazing and inspires others to find their true voice too… and thus begins to de-program the old operating system that has been in place for most of our lives.