Thursday, November 17, 2011

Who do you think you are?

How well do you know yourself? I was faced with this question last week. No one really asked it of me, but circumstances forced me to ask it of myself. I had started walking one path and then found myself faced with choosing between two different directions and I was surprised by the choice I made. Maybe it was the right one, maybe not - only time will tell. I didn't expect myself to choose what I chose. Did I make that choice for me or for someone else? I still don't know - that's the kind of thing I never really know - but I know that my heart was speaking to me that day, and it wasn't entirely at odds with my mental process. Sometimes, the voice of the heart must be heard.

My problem is that I have spent a large portion of my life making the choices others wanted me to make. This continual selling of my identity in order to gain momentary peace has left me indecisive and uninformed about the reasons why I do the things I do. It also leaves me second-guessing every single decision I make and wondering if I made it from my own identity or someone else's. So why is it so hard to assume my own identity and give power to my inner authority? And why is it so easy to give my personal power away?

I have some ideas about that. Being raised in a very authoritarian environment was not conducive to learning how to make healthy choices. I've spoken about that here before and don't need to enumerate the ways in which my ability to choose was co-opted during my childhood. I think I could have recovered from that in time and with the independence of adulthood, but then the sexual assault happened, and that made dissent a fearful thing. With the word "no" came great pain, both physical and emotional. This was reinforced much later on by my abuser, who inflicted emotional damage each time I dared to disagree with him. Though I know intellectually that I can't give away my own power, I still find it difficult to make decisions and hold to them in the face of someone else's desires when they are in conflict with my own.

So now that I have finally awakened and understand that I have sold myself and my identity for the price of short-term peace, what do I do about it? How do I recover? I recognize that with this behavior I am avoiding the pain of the moment but inflicting pain that may last a lifetime. I am forty years old - I can't continue to lie to myself about improving my situation "tomorrow" or "next year" or "when I'm more ready." Regardless of age, the truth is that none of us are guaranteed any amount of time. There may not be a next year, or even a tomorrow. I may never be more ready than I am right now.

I have spoken here about this process before and have never come to any conclusions about how to help myself. At this point, I realize that no one can tell me how to get better. I have to take responsibility for choosing what is right for me and not what others want me to choose. I can do it by not making snap decisions, by thinking things through even when it is hard. I can recognize that momentary peace or gratification do not compensate for hours of regret or pain later on, and act accordingly. I can do these things...but will I? Yes, I promise myself that I will - starting now.

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