It is more important than ever to examine our belief systems and their origins. In an age where depression, anxiety, and prescriptions for mood altering drugs are at an all time high, it is time to take inventory. The ideas that we perpetuate in our culture have succeeded in convincing us peer to peer that self worth is an extrinsic object to be earned, gained or bestowed, and we are paying dearly for it.
I encourage you to explore the belief systems that operate your life. In particular, what are you ideas about success? Many of our beliefs have been adopted from external sources and play into how we define our self worth and how we choose to contribute to society. Bringing them into conscious awareness will help to identify how we have been giving up our power and how to reclaim it.
Freedom comes from total self acceptance – integration. When we choose to let go of the idea that we need permission in order to be deserving, we will experience freedom. When we let go of the idea that we need to be something particular and to standard, we will experience happiness.
Very successful companies have used Freud’s concepts and other powerful marketing techniques for decades to convince us about the meaning of their products. In the early 1950s, Betty Crocker’s instant cake mix was failing to sell until the company added the instruction to beat an egg into the ready made mix. Since a woman of this era traditionally learned to define her self-worth by how skillfully she kept a house and her kitchen, she resisted the “easy way out” cake. Adding the egg created an effort that helped her to overcome the guilt of using an instant mix, and sales soared.
Beyond using social lore to sell products, companies build it. Sometimes the message is so subtle that detecting it is difficult until we learn how to identify and master our own belief structures. When the stance we have adopted is ‘survival’ it can feel uncomfortable to explore the beliefs that seem to preserve it.
Looking at the combined message of many advertisements can tell a fuller story of illness. One poster boasts university and colleges that promise shiny and successful futures, the next advertisement shares depression and suicide hotlines, the next one advertises convenient banking, faster internet, better online dating, and quick turn around funeral services. From where do we ever get the message to turn inward.
This is not to say that business and advertising in and of themselves are relegated to the ranks of evil, or that using the products and services of big companies is a bad thing to do. (I support you in going for what makes you feel good and encourage you to do your research about the products and services that you use beforehand). This is simply to illustrate how important it is to pay attention to where our ideas come from. After all, they work because we believe in them, and we can choose to believe whatever we like – so why not choose instead to believe something that serves our well being.
The punishment and reward system of parenting that is common place, sets up a mind state that seeks approval from others. This attitude quickly extinguishes the true self as we learn how to survive by shape shifting into the form that will relinquish us from punishment, and/or “convince” someone into giving us a reward. It may seem that this approach puts a person in control, but very clearly is puts us at the mercy of those from whom we are attempting to get the reward or avoid the punishment. More importantly, it dislocates us from the ability to experience empathy for others, compassion for ourselves.
Competition, in the dog eat dog sense of the word perpetuates the idea of survival and lack. Accepting community and cooperation into your life makes dog eat dog survival moot. If you buy into survival, it means that you buy into competition and therefore resist community and cooperation. It would make sense therefore that you experience a lack of community support, and further reinforce the idea that independent survival is a pillar of life. I assure you that it is not. Untangling this distorted idea and others like it, is the first step in reclaiming yourself. And this is one of the places to do it.
Think about what motivates you. What is important to you? And why do you have this idea or that one? Does it serve your well being and your satisfaction with life? Does it feel good and healthy to pursue the thing that you are after? Think about how you define ‘success’ and feel if this lines up with your happiness. If it does, great! If it doesn’t, change your definitions. There is no template for a perfect life.