Culturally, the story indicates we spend our childhoods growing and our adulthood being that person we grew into in a variety of different situations. I think that’s bunk. In my experience, we’re always growing, and to expect us to be fully baked and now with new backdrops isn’t possible or desireable.
I remember well being in 2nd grade and feeling that I knew who I was. I didn’t know how I fit in by any means, but I had a sense of myself. When I spoke of it, people often told me to wait until I got older, that things would change. That “wait until you’re in high school…things will change” “wait until you get your driver’s license, things will change” continued to happen, and while “things” did change, “I” didn’t, even though they all indicated I would. I remember being in high school and teachers telling me that college professors would never put up with x, y, or z (and in my experience, they cared far less than those high school teachers did about x, y or z). My common experience was that people kept telling me that where I was wasn’t enough that the organized world would eventually reveal itself to me and I would need to make the necessary changes to keep up. What a crock.
What if we taught kids that the sense of themselves they have is good and valid, and will continue to grow and evolve as new situations arise. I mean, maybe some people already do that, and maybe even my experience was different than I perceived it. But my kids are 10 and 15 years old and they haven’t changed since they were babies. They are amplified, more complex expressions of the distinct individual identities they came in with. It’s actually kind of weird. And kindof awesome. It’s like a rose that is blooming very slowly and I am walking around it looking at it from different angles and with different lights I’m shining. Our family motto is, “we are changing, growing, evolving beings.” This is because I would pigeonhole my kids based on a past behavior and when they outgrew it, I would still carry that perception around (ie. “doesn’t like potatoes”) long after the truth of the statement had passed. I developed the motto to deter me from holding them to who they used to be, and to encourage them to feel comfortable with their preferences and interests changing, and that being natural and not a threat to their identity.
Because I think that we can identify with a bunch of weird shit, and we get attached to weird concepts of self that would have naturally fallen away if we weren’t running around collecting “isms” that we used to define our sense of who we are. I believe up and through early adulthood we are trying things on, seeing what fits, practicing how we want to show up in the world. And then I believe we’re encouraged to sort of pick a set of attributes and run with it for the rest of our lives.
And thus, the personal development industry is called “self-help” and looked down upon as being for people who are unstable, who have a problem or are full of problems. Because adults are supposed to be stable and functional with all of that practicing we did prior to adulthood. Even though the world has changed. Even though it’s the most natural thing in the world that we continue to change as well.
Ishaya’s Ascencion teaches that the ego would naturally fall away in early adulthood in a culture where we weren’t so desperately trying to distinguish ourselves. And, in my experience, it’s only in adulthood that I had the maturity to sit in the center of my being and allow my expression to be whatever it would be, and have me be ok with that. Like the gentleman at the monastery who told me I keep re-inventing myself. Uhm, not really. I’m just not stuck in a hairstyle and clothing style or level of intro- or extravertion. I change a lot. But I’m still just me.
Most of the books I read are spiritually based, because I find them inspiring and relieving and the highest goal of my life is to realize, embody and express the divine to the best of my ability. And I believe right now, while I’m operating at the best of my current ability, I’m pretty sure with some training I can be on the continual improvement program. Comfortable and happy with where I am in the moment, but reaching to a higher, more refined expression. I don’t want to be a fixed person with different backdrops. I want to experience and express life in ever-expansive ways. I don’t want to defend my personality, my attributes, my strengths or my weaknesses. I want to evolve. I want to be open and willing to meet life in new ways all the time.
So, yeah. I read what a lot of people call self-help (I also read a lot of what people call novels, and fantasy, and cookbooks, and autobiographies). I got a little defensive about it today (because someone said the words to me, and then on a TV show, “young Sheldon” learned that self help books were for adults who couldn’t cope with their lives. And maybe sometimes that’s true. Perhaps even often. But every time I open up a little deeper, release a little more and notice the flow of life in my life, I guess it’s worth the derision.