Updated: Jan 25
It can be a surprise when you realise at some point that you live a life that is not really YOURS.
What did I just say?
What do I mean by this?
Well, in a nutshell, it is pretty simple. It is a realisation that the things you have are not really things that YOU WANT to have, but you THINK YOU SHOULD WANT to have. With that there may be a weird feeling of you being a "stranger" in your own life, maybe even having experiences of watching yourself or your life as if through the glass, feeling separated from it, as if you are in it, but not really connected to it.
If you are reading this and thinking "Oh my God, that's me!" I want to tell you that there many of us who have felt or feeling like that. Also, I want to tell you that it is not your fault. Instead, I want to explain how this has happened and what to do about it.
Are you with me?
OK, let's go.
How Did It Start
The story probably started some time ago in the family or with the caregivers that we have been blessed with or not so blessed with. It could be a lack of them too.
So what is important in our lives, for most of us, was not decided by us. Our early environment decided it. Not us.
Let's take a look at three scenarios.
1. If we were told that family is important, we took it on and lived as if the family is important.
2. If we were told that the money is important, we have lived as if how much money we have (or not have) is important.
3. Suppose we were told that education is important. In that case, we have been living either trying to get as much education as possible or by noticing the lack of education we had and seeing it as a reason why something is not going well in our lives.
So what's wrong with those values?
Looking from the outside – nothing. The problem starts when we take this value and live according to it without ever really analysing, understanding what that value means for us and how healthy aligned scenario of living by that value looks like.
When the value is automatically taken from the family and/or our environment, we can build our lives on the wrong foundations without knowing that we are doing it. Most of us have not ever stopped to think about it and without even questioning if those foundations are really ours, coming from our hearts.
If we haven't gone through the process or really looking and scanning what are we living by and how many of those things are OURs and how many of those things belong to SOMEONE ELSE, we cannot say we are truly living our own lives and that we have firm foundations. If foundations that we have built our lives on don't really belong to us, it can crack and be taken away from us quite quickly.
Let's look at how it may happen.
Consequences Of Building On Foundations That Are Not Ours
So in scenario one if the value of FAMILY that we have taken on is not really our value, it could be that we now feel that we are being burdened by having to be a part of our family. We may actually have bad relationships with a member of our family, but we might not feel like we have a right to stand up and say "stop it, I cannot accept this behaviour". Instead, we feel like we HAVE TO put up with it because it is family. And family is something we cannot leave.
So in this scenario, we would keep participating in unhealthy dynamics without knowing that we have a CHOICE. And before we have a choice, we don't have power in that situation.
Once we have recognised that we have a choice, we start to have options.
How do we get to have a choice in this situation?
We look at how the value of family fits with our most inner intimate selves. Is it true that (birth) family is important to us? Maybe yes, maybe no. It might be that we find that yes, family IS important to us. However, in belonging to the family, there are some adjustments that we want to make. For example, we might decide that even though we agree to remain to be a part of our birth family, we have a right to be treated with respect and have our freedoms.
OR we might decide that actually, we don't really see family as value. Maybe we value our individuality much more. Perhaps we value good friendship much more than our birth family. Or perhaps we don't even agree that a family is a group of blood-related people, perhaps we want to change the family definition.
So after we have proactively decided and reviewed our values, we can then be sure that we are building on our own foundation.
Let's look at the second example. Let's say we have been told that A) the money is the most important thing and if you don't have money, you will have problems.
Or the opposite. Perhaps we have been told that B) money rules anything and people who have loads of money are bad people. Either way, because money has been highlighted as something of great importance in the life perhaps now we will be feeling obsessed with making sure we have enough money and extra money and feel very bad if we don't succeed in that. Maybe we would even resent the fact that we have to work in a corporation doing a job that we don't like to have money. But in our hearts, perhaps we are an artist. Or philanthropist. Or maybe someone who loves helping people.
So because we would be following the value that is not ours, and we would have built our life so that it is not really in resonance with our core self we would feel unhappy and unfulfilled.
On the other hand, (B) at the other side of not aligned belief and foundation around money we would actually want to earn more and create wealth for our family and us. Maybe we even have an excellent business entrepreneurial brain, but we don't feel like we have a right or can earn a lot of money because that would make us bad people. So subconsciously we sabotage* it or hold ourselves back.
However, in reality, perhaps none of that is true. Maybe we don't really think that money is that important, maybe personal connections and self-expression are more important. OR maybe money is important to us and having loads of money makes us genuinely feel fulfilled and safe, and perhaps we even want to do something grand with it for society.
So in either case, once we have examined and checked with ourselves how that value or belief about money fits us, we can then modify and make it our own. And that's how we change the quality of our building foundation and therefore our life.
Now let's look at the final example. Suppose our parents or caregivers gone through hardships because they didn't have a good education. They have seen how other people who had high degrees of education succeeded in their lives, having more security and fulfilment. In that case, they may have decided that education was the key to success. They kept emphasising that gaining education and qualifications will make us successful and that this is how we will have a successful life, especially if we get "right" education and get into a "good" profession. Because we have believed that, we decided to get a "good profession" (i.e. doctor, lawyer) is the right thing to do we spent years in education and getting qualified and now…we are totally miserable.
In the example above, I think it is especially obvious how building the life on a foundation that is not yours may look like: years of investment in something that is supposed to make you happy and fulfilled and then… nothing.
I believe that we often feel somehow disappointed with life because we imagined that things will be different by now.
That means that we believed some theory, some formula. It means that we have followed some theory, some formula not because we LIKED or LOVED the process, but because we believed that we HAD TO go through it IN ORDER to be happy. Happiness was supposed to be the thing that was waiting for us at the end of the suffering. And when we arrived at that place and the happiness wasn't there we felt disappointed. We have felt disappointed with life or perhaps with ourselves. Perhaps we have even felt that we have somehow FAILED to execute that magic formula and that's why now we don't have what we wanted to have. Even if we have somehow achieved our goal, the feeling we thought we will have after achieving it is not there. We are not satisfied.
But what was actually happened to many of us, we have lost the JOY of life because we have been investing our energy and effort into something that is not really ours. By "not really ours" I mean that the foundational values that we were invested in were passed onto us rather than chosen by us. It was not our foundation.
How to know the difference?
When we build on our foundation, we are investing our time and organising our lives on core values that we sincerely wholeheartedly believe in. We see the process of living by that valuable. In this case, the difference is that our "fuel" is our satisfaction and sense of fulfilment that we get in the process, not at the end of it.
How living by the aligned values would look like?
So using the examples above, if we were to spend the time with our birth family and relatives, we would feel like we are part of a community, part of a bigger unit. We would get satisfaction from the sense of belonging, have a reliable support system, and enjoy our interactions, exchanges and contributions towards the family.
If we were really sincerely onboard that money is one of the foundational things in our life, we would enjoy creating security, learning about finances and having a sense of achievement by creating wealth.
If education were our genuine value, it would give us joy and satisfaction gaining new knowledge, participating in discussions, learning new things and having a curious and open attitude.
So there's a great difference in the quality of emotions that we experience by investing our time in those areas. By investing our time and effort into the areas of life that are genuinely aligned with our personal values we feel fulfilled in the process, we don't wait for the process to end.
How To Find Out Which Foundations Are Genuinely Yours
Few easy steps can help you to identify if your life is built on your own foundations. Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I feel safe in my life?
2. Do I feel satisfied in my life?
3. What areas of my life do I hate?
4. What areas of my life do I love?
5. If I were to die tomorrow, what would be my biggest regrets?
NOTE: some of the questions above might sound a little drastic, but bear with me – we are answering them to get to know your genuine emotions and recognise what areas are causing you to feel the most intense feelings. Both negative and positive feelings are good as they indicate the strength of harmony or discord. They are our compass.
If you want to write down your own answers, you can download the worksheet that I made for you below:
What To Do With All Of This?
Now – experiment! Listen to yourself, listen to your emotions. Do not invalidate yourself – if you feel something, even though it doesn't make sense or is not "supposed" to be there – listen to it: that feeling that emotion has something important to tell you.
Especially if you are doing something and suddenly you find yourself feeling that "this is meaningless". That means that you are really onto something: you have found an element that doesn't really fit with the innermost core truth of who you are and how you want to live. Once you heard, felt or seen that – you have an opportunity to revise, refine, to keep or discard to make it yours. And once you are in this process of seeing and recognising what fits you what doesn't, you will have an opportunity to replace the parts of foundation in your life with something really strong and solid, something that will make you feel proud and fulfilled.
With all the love and support for you and your journey ❤
Please download and write down your own answers below.
* Sabotage, and especially self-sabotage is a bit of tricky term. In reality, we always choose what we think is the best, or one part of us would decide that for us as the safest option. So what looks like self-sabotage is actually one part of us taking over and protecting us from some consequence even though that might mean detriment of other parts. But about that - perhaps in another blog.