Have you ever seen the little children in undeveloped, impoverished countries on the news? Notice how happy they seem, unless they are starving or sick (which many of them are). Have you ever wondered how that can be? How can children with so little – and with so little future – seem so happy, carefree and full of joy?
Do you remember what you were like as a small child … say from the age of 3 to about 10 or 12? Do you remember what you daydreamed about? What you loved doing, playing, or learning? Do you remember anything about what you dreamed you would do when you grew up? Do you remember what was important to you? Was it Play … Winning … Friendship … Family … Nature … Adventure … Cooking … Creating … Caretaking?
The most authentic and, dare I say, personally evolved people on the planet are children.
When we were children, anything was not only possible, but expected. Anything we wanted, we believed we could have – and have right now. Anything we wanted to do, we believed we could do right now, without any interference or negotiating. The world was our oyster. It could be no other way. Not because we were insecure, selfish clods, but because our very existence made the world our candy store, in which we had unlimited credit.
From that perfect cocoon, we developed a natural and permanent set of preferences about how we want to experience life. Some of us want adventure, others safety; some creativity, others caretaking. These are preferences often referred to in today’s psychology as our core values – those values that define our happiness, our peace, and our power. As long as we get to do these things and embrace these preferences, we are in our groove and life is good – whether we are 7 or 67.
But just as we began to get into our groove – not long after we learn to communicate, discover our options, and gain some life experience – a powerful force (times two, in most cases) started to take shape in our lives. These two very powerful, very large forces were the key to our very existence. They provided the home in which we got our most basic needs met: shelter and food. These two “giants” – who that permeated every second of our existence – were, of course, our PARENTS.
Parents almost always have good intentions, and almost always are a great contribution in our lives, beyond just keeping us alive. But for all of the good they are, parents are often the biggest challenge to our growing up to live out our dreams with that very early, very core set of very personal preferences … our core values.
You see, most parents missed Parenting 101, Childhood Psychology 102 and Authenticity 103 in school. They missed them because they do not exist. Parenting in our society usually follows the model of nature. It is expected to just be instinctive.
One instinct, which is certainly admirable, is wanting our children to be the best they can be … to be smart, strong, and successful. More insidious, is our desire for our children to be “right.” And what better way for them to be “right”, than for them to be just like us. So early on, parents set out to make sure their children become just like them – with the right beliefs, the right habits, the right ethics, the right skills, hobbies, careers, religions; and even the right sports teams.
You may remember the relentless insistence that, as a child, you were expected by your parents to do things this way or that, see things this way or that, say things this way or that. Some of those lessons are so deeply ingrained they sing to us even today, like some old nursery rhymes. These are called imposed values.
Parents, with their inherent power and the barter of food and shelter, are no match for young children with nothing but naturally developed preferences. This creates an unavoidable conflict between imposed versus core values.
And so the process of becoming inauthentic begins. It began with the very first “should.” You should do this (in other words, you better do this, or else!). We learned to push our core values deeper inside of us … hiding them away for a safer day to play. We kept putting on the clothes laid out for us every morning and every night … the clothes we should wear. The clothes we must wear, or else. Layer after layer of who we should be—to be right, and to be acceptable, and to be loved. Each layer stole more and more of our spiritual self, our natural free-flowing essence … our power.
Sadly, even after our parents have passed, many of us live in fear of disappointing them. Can you see how insidious and powerful that internal programming is?
So how do you start to take off the layers of your parents’ hand-me-down clothes? The path of personal development is a path of authenticity. Authenticity is simply rediscovering and liberating our core values. Sometimes they are the same as some of our parents’. And always, there are suppressed core values dying to be freed.
The more you and I live our lives to the tune of our own drummer, the more authentic, peaceful, and powerful we are.
To support you in rediscovering your core values, I ask that you honestly answer the following questions:
- Who would you choose to be and what would you love to do if there was no one (not any one … not your parents, grandparents, respected teachers, colleagues, friends, etc.) to stand in judgment?
- What would you wear? What hobbies would you embrace? How would you spend your time and money?
In other words, who would you be if you had the full permission of everyone who loved you? Almost always, we would be someone different than who we are. Now, quietly and alone, begin to sculpt your authentic self – not from who you are now, but from who you are at the core. Peel off the layers. Let the Magnificent You shine through. Describe the Magnificent You in detail; write it down.
- How do you look?
- How do you feel?
- What do you love to do and how do you do it?
- What is truly important to you?
- What sets you free?
- What makes you feel your very best?
- What allows you to love freely?
- What inspires and sets you on your path to greatness?
- Write it all in the present tense, creating positive images with your words. Affirm it. Read it daily. Gather pictures, and music, and quotes to support it. Study it like you did your nursery rhymes as a kid … the songs and poems you learned by heart.
Think about what “by heart” means. It becomes part of who we are, existing in every cell of our body, laced throughout our spirit.
This process works to peel off the layers of “others’ visions for you” and expose the true essence of you. It works because the process of visualizing the new you—regardless of your mindless internal chatter about it—over time trains your emotional, spiritual and unconscious self to believe and accept it.
It works because it is merely training the powerful part of you to shine again. It is already in there, always has been, covered up by a thousand wet blankets.
My greatest mentor told me in the late 70s that all personal power comes from self-honesty. I see authenticity as the same thing. Allowing ourselves to be the “real deal” lets our personal power run wild. It is an extraordinary process of rebirthing, if you will. This is one you can try at home.