Watching my toddlers interact with the world is an awe inspiring activity because before they are told how to behave, how to act, where to be quiet, where to tone it down, they are themselves.
But between our soft scoldings and their wide-eyed observations they come to the realisation that the real them won’t cut it in this world. The real them who longs to wear costumes all day, who wants to sing and shout in restaurants, who wants to laugh when they are “supposed” to be serious.
So they start to conform. Little by little they dull their sparkle. They look to others who are getting admiration (maybe an older sibling or someone at school) and they try to be like them. They ask to have their hair cut, wear a uniform, wear matching socks. They ask if “so and so” would do it this way, if so and so would like this and if so and so looks like this.
Because we are hard-wired for connection, we crave it above everything else. We are smart enough, even at 5, to realise that we could manipulate the situation and get more likes and admiration from people if we layer ourselves. If we also pretend to like this toy, this show, want this haircut.
I thought it was a teenage phenomenon, a problem starting with celebrities and magazines, where we think that who we are isn’t good enough, but it starts earlier.
A woman came up to me yesterday as I was putting the kids in the car and said to me, “They were just being kids.” Me, in a slightly bad mood, had just released my circus of monkeys into the shops and had lost control of them. Usually I am cool and they are cool but yesterday for some reason I was already slightly hysterical (it may have been due to their fighting and screaming in the car for the previous half an hour) and we went into the shops without my invisible force-field of control that keeps them at least in my vicinity while we were there.
She continued, “Society is not really set up for them.”
I nod, say “It’s been one of those days”, as a way of explaining that they are not usually like this in shops otherwise I wouldn’t have brought them.
So is pressing down on their personalities and what was actually just a bit of fun the right thing to do? Is yelling and screaming and being stricter in public the way to go about it?
We are continually losing pieces of ourselves and the pressure to conform and “be good” can eradicate who we are entirely. Because “being good” and “being kind or true to yourself” are not necessarily the same thing.
Supressing your voice in situations to “not make waves” is a result of “being good”. Not following your heart and instead getting a “proper job” to fall in with societies expectations is “being good” but not necessarily what you should be doing.
I’ve read articles that say that our education system, where we spend hours at our desk and on mats sitting still is not the right learning environment for boys because their energy and focus is not the same as girls. So maybe they are having to conform more and the change is even greater for them.
We are set up to believe that school, further schooling, then a 9-5 (or 7-midnight) job is what is going to make us a success. Get a car loan and a mortgage and you are living the Australian dream.
But are you being yourself?
My dream of being a published author is still out there in the Universe, waiting to be realised, because it is only now that I believe in myself enough to pursue it. Even though I knew from seven years old that it was what I wanted to do.
I’m 35 years old and being “good” hasn’t served my true purpose. Following societies rules and regulations resulted in large debt, obsession with material goods and a 9-5 job I hated but felt trapped because of previously mentioned debt and obsession with material goods.
We think that being harder on our children will make them better people but are we sure?
My beautiful middle child Leo often says to me something that I said to him, “You love me, even when I am naughty.” He says it like he can’t believe it’s true. Like our discipline techniques are making them misunderstand our unconditional love. It’s important that our children know that we get grumpy, just as they get grumpy, but our love is always there for them.
So are we sure that keeping them in line is what is going to make them the future generation that will heal the world?
A generation of people who are at peace with who they are and understand what their true purpose in life is – and then make that their career. A generation of people who are not bitching and moaning and complaining about the situations they find themselves but are passionately advocating their own choices (without making others feel these were the choices that they should make).
A generation of people that say I am happy, I am at peace, I know that love is something that is found within and given. It is not something that you need to receive to be whole.
A generation that were told, “You can be whatever you want to be.” but the difference with their generation and ours, is that we will mean it.
Our kids will invent jobs that we cannot even dream of right now because the world is changing at such a rapid pace. The movement of expanded consciousness allowing us to see things more differently (or more clearly) than we ever have.
A life is for living, people are different, there is no right and no wrong way to run your life.
Because it’s getting cool to be yourself. Because it is awesome to be “different”.
Our world of social media is letting us tailor what we see and are influenced by. I don’t know about your feed but my feed is filled with the positive, the inspiring, the delicious and people that promote contentment and joy. It’s filled with my interests – yoga, writing, healthy food, amazing fashion.
This new world and it’s tailoring to the individual is giving “permission” to be you like never before. If you needed that permission slip (and a lot of us do), then it is being written.
Maybe it’s motherhood, or maybe it is this new generation of consciousness allowed by technological advances, but my girlfriends are being more themselves than ever before. No longer do we like the same things, do the same hobbies or have to be with each other all the time. I adore seeing the creative ways they are expressing who they are and they are celebrating who I am.
Our differences are not tearing us apart like we feared they would when we were younger, so much so that we would hide who we are. Our differences are our common thread. We are the same because we are different. Our uniqueness is interesting, special.
So what do we do? Let our children run wild and hope for the best, experimenting with their well-being? Let our two year old dictate with their wants and desires?
Of course not.
It begins with breaking our cultural habit of no. When we notice the good and not the bad it reinforces the good behaviour, on their own terms. If they were kind without you asking, praise their good qualities, if they tidied up or cleaned up after themselves notice.
Don’t you hate it yourself in life where you can do so much good but it’s not until you do something wrong that their is a discussion?
We can be like that with our children.
We can also be like that with our partners. Have you ever told them how to behave? Implied that they, as they are, are not good enough and to change? How many times in that situation had you told them the positive of what they had been doing? Sometimes that behaviour comes out of a lack of love and kindness, not out of “badness”.
In Return To Love, by Marianne Williamson, she says, “There is an old cliché, “You can see the glass half empty, or you can see it half full.” You can focus on what’s wrong in your life, or you can focus on what’s right. But whatever you focus on, you’re going to get more of. Creation is an extension of thought. Think lack, and you get lack. Think abundance, and you get more.”
So let’s focus on the good. My children are beautiful. They play for hours by themselves, they are loving, kind, creative and totally amazing. I can take them to restaurants and I can take them to shops and most people adore the fact there is three of them and they are just so happy. There are not there meekly waiting till I make my decisions and leave they are offering input and commentary and taking the natural joy they have of life.
I don’t want to change that, I don’t want to see their laugh till they cry attitudes being turned around so that they follow me, not daring to misstep. So I need to start learning how to praise them better.
Everyday, for myself and for my children, I want to be better, do better.
So how do you become more you?
The Dalai Lama has said, If every 8 year old in the world was taught meditation, we would eliminate violence in one generation.”
But to teach our children we need to model this for them. Peace begins with you. If the only change you made in your whole life was to sit for fifteen minutes and be with yourself, in turn teaching your children, it would change the world.
Meditation is also the singular most effective tool to calm your mind and slow your thoughts. I sometimes refer to it as thought download. Its a space in my day where I hit the send/receive button. I’m refreshing and at the same time receiving inspiration from the gap in the thoughts.
Do what you love: Let them see you crafting, baking, cooking, going to exercise class, writing in your journal, playing board games, taking walks in nature, swimming in the ocean, skiing, reading. Don’t shut them out, let them be a part of it. Every morning when I am meditating the kids wake-up and come in, usually one by one. They come over to me without a word and sit on my lap. I give them a cuddle, whisper good morning and sometimes they stay and sometimes they don’t but they see me commit to what I love and I think that is a beautiful thing. They also see me sitting at the computer furiously typing, they see me heading out of the house with my yoga mat, chatting to people in the organic store about healthy food and fresh produce. I bring them in and make them a part of what I love so that they know it’s ok to do what you love.
Be positive: It’s great to be empathetic. We commiserate with each other a lot and it can make us feel less alone but if on the whole we are more negative than positive then that is what we are going to attract into our life. We keep asking for it. I know I often say I’m tired. I don’t think that is a great mantra to have. I don’t actually want to be tired. So I’m waking up now saying to myself, “I have so much energy!” . When people ask how I am I say that I am great. It’s easy to relate our negative experiences to each other, it’s become custom in our society but lets change that.
Praise everyone: Who doesn’t like compliments and positive word? Let’s practice it with not only our children and our partners but everyone we meet. Find a genuine compliment and make someone’s day. For selfish reasons of course, because this is going to make you feel good.
Love: Love yourself, love your body, love your laugh lines, the bags under your eyes, your position in life, your bank account, the person that cut you off on the road. Just send out love. The more love we have the more love enters our life. Fill your heart up, open it up again and send that love out into the world.
I think it is amazing that by working on ourselves we can change others. That by being the light we can light the flames of other people.
I know I need to burn brighter and so do you.
Let’s set the world on fire.