Over the past few years I’ve noticed that I have a very low tolerance for when some aspect of my life feels shitty. It’s like I was born with a “no regrets” gene that refuses to tolerate a life that is anything short of extraordinary.
On the one hand, this is wonderful. I’m constantly challenging myself to do bigger and better things. I refuse to make decisions based on what the status quo dictates. I’m leading an interesting life that affords many opportunities to experience the world, help others, and continue to develop into a better person.
On the other hand, my tendency toward self-and life-improvement can be exhausting. I get an aching feeling in my stomach the moment that any aspect of my existence feels out of sync. I find it unbearable to just “suck it up” and “push through” a situation that is not in alignment with my Truth. I get physically ill when I try to pretend to be someone that I’m not.
Part of me wants to take an easier route. I wish I could spend eight hours a day at I job that I hate but feel ok about it because I’m feeding my family. I wish I could squander my hopes and dreams for the sake of a simple life. I wish I could turn down the volume on a voice inside, the voice of my True Self, a voice that often urges me to make decisions that do not feel safe and familiar. Things like:
- Giving up a fully-funded postdoctoral research position after spending ten years getting my PhD.
- Going off antidepressants when doctors told me I would probably have to take the medication for the rest of my life.
- Quitting my well-paid corporate job to go out on my own as an entrepreneur.
- Selling my house, leaving my family and friends, and moving 600 miles away to start a low-paying contract job with no guarantee of future employment.
I recently asked myself what exactly is fueling these decisions. Am I crazy? Self-destructive? Stubbornly trying to prove an obscure point? Am I applying my skills to a bunch of aimless projects on a road leading nowhere? Or am I following my Truth, a Truth that is non-linear and that doesn’t make sense when compared to our limited societal expectations?
In other words, what is it that I want from my life? Or, put more simply, what do I want to be when I grow up?
The answer that has been coming through most often these days is one word: authentic.
I want to be authentic when I grow up. I want my words, thoughts, beliefs, and actions to be consistent with each other, regardless of whether I’m having a conversation with my boss, my husband, or a client. I don’t want to be one person at work and a different person with my family and friends. I don’t want to censor my blog posts because I’m afraid of what my boss or my in-laws might think.
In other words, when I grow up I want to be ME.
I don’t want to be a pale version of me, wasting away doing things that I hate. I don’t want to be a hollow shell, waiting to be filled with the opinions of others who think they know what’s best for me. I don’t want to pass through this life like a ghost, never fully experiencing the raw beauty and pain that comes from following your dreams to the point of exhaustion.
From what I can tell, the best way to be the authentic ME is to find time for stillness, listen to my Truth, and follow my heart regardless of how scared I feel. No matter how many naysayers want to slow me down or tell me I’m being “romantic” or foolish. No matter how many people tell me I’m not getting paid enough, or that I should take a break from my career to have kids, or that I should look for a cushy corporate job. Because they don’t know. Only my heart knows.
No matter where my journey takes me, whether I’m making a million dollars or scrounging for quarters to do laundry, it doesn’t matter. Why? Because I’m already rich. Rich in the sense of meaning that comes from doing everything in my power to live my life on purpose. Rich in the struggle and tears and blood and love that come from birthing a life that is not only beyond my wildest dreams, but that is also in service to others.
So the next time you find yourself pondering what you want to be when you grow up, consider this simple answer: authentic. And see what comes next. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on how to create a life you love, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.
Image courtesy of Chris Sardegna.