Have you ever wondered why you do the things you do? What motivates you and why at times you make seemingly strange decisions?
In my line of work, I come across a lot of people and a lot of seemingly different issues. I truly believe that if we can learn, understand and get some basics right, our lives will be so much easier!
I was having a conversation with a dear family member the other night. We were talking about a failed relationship and although we are geographically far from each other right now, I was really invested in being there for her as much as I could be and to say all the smart and right things.
I was telling her how she really needs to love and respect herself first, to then attract the right partner. (Not to worry there will be a whole post on the topic soon :)
So there I am, saying how important self-love and self-esteem is, to which she abruptly interrupted me and said:
-“Self-love? I don’t even know who I am!!”
That remark really threw me, but in a good way. I had planned to address this topic anyway, but it just really underlined and reminded me that this is truly a serious issue. I thought it was so brave of her to just blurt that out and be so honest and vulnerable.
I went on to reassure her that she’s certainly not alone with this feeling and that most people don’t even realise, so she’s already ahead of the game if you ask me :)
So, the question now on everyone’s mind must be- how do I figure myself out? How do I finally understand why I do certain things the way I do and how have I become the person I am today.
In my humble opinion there are 3 main contributing factors. Evolution, our beliefs and our environment.
It’s probably not something that you would consider when trying to understand who you are. We are absolutely all unique individuals; however, we are all connected by our past and our experiences on this planet.
Before we get tangled in technicalities though, let me ask you this.
Have you ever wondered why so many of us worry about other people’s opinion, are perhaps desperate for approval and validation?
Unless those people are paying your bills, putting the food on your table, what does it really matter what they think?
It matters because we all want to feel accepted and to feel like we belong. Back in the days when we were living in tribes, being rejected, becoming an outcast was the worst thing that could happen to us. Survival was definitely a numbers game. You did not stand much of a chance on your own.
Studies have been done, where human brains examined in MRI’s, clearly show that the same pathways in the brain light up when we get rejected as when we experience physical pain!
Again, this is all to do with our evolutionary past. Being ostracized, excluded from your tribe was a sure death sentence. Trouble is, now that we live in a much bigger society, potential rejection is practically always around the corner.
Despite the hundreds & thousands of years that have passed, unfortunately our brain still hasn’t gotten the memo. It still firmly believes that we must be accepted in order to survive.
As you can see on the below chart, evolution doesn’t happen overnight, so that just really highlights why we sometimes behave in a primitive way, for a lack of better words.
MYA – million years KYA- thousand years
Only time can tell how our present will shape our future, for now though being equipped with this knowledge already gives us a great advantage!
Realizing that our mind is just trying to do its best to help us survive already helps immensely.
I can remember countless times when I was in school, how desperately I wanted a certain style of jeans or that pleather jacket everyone was wearing, just so I would fit in.
When I finally got the jacket, I’ve been longing for so badly, I even wore it around the house and when I didn’t, I hung it up right in the middle of the room, just so I could see it from every angle. Waiting for school to resume after the summer holidays felt like torture haha
It took me a few years to get to the point where I was brave enough to express myself and to wear the things I wanted to wear. I finally felt secure enough in my friendships and myself to make those changes and not have to worry about all my friends turning their backs on me.
It is in all of us. It is absolutely instinctual to want to belong and to be accepted.
You could now argue, that you know a lot of people who are rebels, and they have no intention of conforming or belonging.
Fair point, however in most cases, rebels want to be seen, they are doing the opposite of what everyone else is, to be heard, to stand out, to be seen. Is that not a form of wanting to belong? In my opinion that’s just a way of saying, look at me, as I feel overlooked and not significant enough.
Obviously, there are always exceptions but for the most part it’s just human nature.
Have you ever sat down with a friend after a bad breakup or job loss and spent hours and hours trying to build them up with no positive outcome?
Have you ever gotten frustrated at family thinking, I gave them such solid advice, great compliments, why won’t they just accept it?
As wonderful as your efforts and words may be, if it doesn’t match their beliefs, then they will not take it on board. It’s that simple.
You can tell someone how great and pretty they are until you’re blue in the face. They will not buy it. You can even bring statistics and facts to the table, they still won’t buy it. Emotions always have the upper hand over logical thinking, and if what you are saying doesn’t corelate with their beliefs, you don’t really stand a chance.
This is also the reason why positive affirmations rarely work. You can wear your mind down over time, and eventually it will agree but it’s not an easy task.
This is why hypnotherapy is so great. You have to update the underlying beliefs before you can see yourself in a different light.
When we are born, we depend on our parents, guardians and our environment to teach us, to help us understand, make sense of the world.
If you’ve been told as a child that you are useless at painting or you’ve been teased for your looks, you will take those beliefs with you into your adult life.
Again, facts, statistics and logical explanations will not help or eradicate those thoughts.
You need to update them on a subconscious level.
Understanding what happened to you as a child will absolutely explain your current behaviour!
And last but by no means least, our environment.
Humans are absolutely amazing at adapting to their environment. I find it fascinating how Tibetans have adapted to their surroundings.
The Tibetan high plateau lies about 4500 meters above sea level with only 60% oxygen. Where visitors and explorers struggle with the oxygen levels, natives thrive in this environment and easily sprint up the mountain.
It’s not because they have lived there longer but because changes to just a few genes allow the natives bodies to make the most of the limited oxygen supply. These genetic changes have occurred over the past 3000 years or so and are ongoing.
Before we continue though, allow me to clarify. Adaption is not the same as evolution.
Adaption is a short-term change. Evolution is long-term. Adaptation is a reversible change, whereas evolution is an irreversible change which occurs from generation to the other.
Obviously, this doesn’t just apply to lung capacity but behaviour as well. And you guessed it it’s all about survival and being accepted by society.
Hey, I’m happy to be the first one to raise my hand and say I behave differently around certain friends & family. It’s not that I don’t stay authentic to my true self but when a friend has a harder time finding the right words in English as its not their first language, of course I won’t speak as fast as I normally do with all my slang.
I’m far more prim and proper around my partners parents, you get the idea ;)
Adapting to our environment is certainly helpful but is it the right one for you?
If you are struggling and feel like you can’t be authentic, you’re not accepted, just take a look around. Is your environment truly supportive of who you want to be? Are you hiding your true self? Do you need to pretend on an ongoing basis?
Sometimes it’s not the flowers’ fault that it’s wilting, it just needs to be replanted and it will thrive in the new environment.