I have been contemplating personal authority this week. It seems to me that a major part of becoming more self-aware, includes taking back authority for our own lives. It is not uncommon to discuss the need to feel a sense of responsibility for what we create in our lives. Yet, there is little direct conversation about our authority. Or maybe there is, and I am just not exposed to it.
Here are my thoughts on this. When we are young, we are dependent upon our parents. We are not equipped to make choices for ourselves. We lack the experience to navigate the world around us, and so they instruct, guide, discipline and teach us what we need to know to be safe.
Siblings, babysitters, other parents also play a role. Teachers, religious and spiritual leaders, schools and churches.., even social groups and sport teams begin to shape and inform us.
As we get older and more independent, we seek counsel from doctors, lawyers, accountants, technologists, therapists, and many others in specialized fields. We start to engaged in politics, current and social events. Media plays a huge role in our lives, from advertisements, programs, reality televisions, pop-up promotions, social media and the news.
We rely on ALL of these to help us navigate this thing called life. Some of it feels right. Some makes us uncomfortable. Some, is simply part of the noise. AND, on top of that we are all unique. So no two people have the exact same experiences, influences and circumstances. Even twin siblings who appear to be exposed to exactly the same thing. We may be closely aligned.., yet, each of us has our own unique make-up!
When do we let the ideas, concepts, beliefs, passions, attitudes, values and judgments of others go? When do we question or begin to sort out what is ‘ours’ versus another’s? Including societal, cultural, and even global expectations?
We are taught at a very young age that authority is something that is outside of us. Authority is something that someone else has. Whether it is because of our early dependence upon them or their position, education, or status in our life-experience. Even many of our religious upbringings teach that God is an authority that is outside of us.
But our journey.., our life is an exploration of Self. It is a claiming of our purpose, passion and desire. Our pursuit of self-awareness asks us to strip-away all that does not serve us. Including those old and limiting beliefs that have been handed over to us.., perhaps by some well-intended/meaning family member or friend.
We are the authors of our lives. We write and envision the screenplay. We create the characters and develop the plots. We are responsible for our own success, including how we define that success. Yet, we limit our ability to do this anytime we give our authority away to someone outside of ourselves.
This does not mean we work in a vacuum or without support. As an example, when you go see a doctor and they diagnose an ailment or prescribe a treatment. They have a very specific training, education and experience that influences their approach. We still need to determine if what they are proposing or suggesting is right for us. Do we feel we got enough information to commit to the recommendations?
The same is true with every situation in our lives. The question is; Does this feel “right to/for me?” Am I choosing this because it feels aligned, or do I want someone else to be responsible for the decision/direction/outcome? Trust me, I try to give away my authority EVERYDAY! Sometimes it is as simple as following a marketing approach for my business because “they say you have too”. Or participating in a meal or social event that doesn’t feel right to me, because I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or be seen as unsocial.
Sometimes it is assuming we are on a particular side of an issue, because that is what we’ve always said… or thought we believed. So, rather than listen to another perspective to see if there is anything new that might influences our attitude or belief, we simply lock in and defend the old belief. Then one day, you realize you don’t actually feel that way at all. It was just a belief that was passed on so long ago, that it felt like it was yours!
I believe most of us know when something feels right and aligned for us. I think we also know when something is a clear ‘No’. It is all the gray areas where we are most likely to give away our authority. When initially it seems like it could go either way it is often easier to allow an outside influence (or authority figure) to decide the direction or action that we take!
I am still in the ‘figuring-out mode’ with this personal authority thing! So if you have any thoughts, or something that works for you in these situations… Please feel free to share! I don’t know why, but it feels like an important dialog to open up!
With Light, Love, and Laughter
As always, nice sentiments and thoughtful remarks shared in your newsletter. I always enjoy your ruminations which always seem timely.
I started learning many years ago (taught by illness which required me NOT to any longer overcommit, etc.) to listen to what resonated with me. Often, of course, no matter how mindful and intentional we are about the process, invariably, sometimes we slip back into the clutches of long-standing familial and cultural clutches and fail to “listen” to that intuitive voice of what we know is inherently right for each of us. But the longer we practice conscious awareness and listening to that inner voice, the better we get at following it.
I fully believe that huge blocks of silence daily are the real key for cultivating, and continuing to perpetuate, the process of intuitive knowledge. The famous saint Sivananda said that one should spend at least two hours daily in silence and eat in silence. I began taking a monthly day of silence years ago. Now I spend substantially more than two hours and truly believe it’s the key to staying present and focused. As one spiritual teacher says, “how can you expect to commune with the Divine if there isn’t quiet in your life? It cannot occur with constant noise.” For people who find this difficult, even taking the time in one’s car to have no music, no radio is a big step. I find always my ‘brainstorms’ or good ideas come from times of silence.
Have a wonderful day, and again thanks for sharing,
Thank you Victoria for sharing your insights and for your kind feedback. Even as I was reading what you wrote about the times in silence and stillness, I could feel the part of me that wants to resist it. It is an old voice, but it is the one that it seems our culture, society and the time we live in has shaped the most. The need to be busy… to be doing… to multi-task. I have naturally slowed down, because my life is more oriented this way these days. However, reading what you wrote has made me realize I feel guilty or as if something in wrong (shame?) that I am not in constant motion. I really needed to read this today. Thanks for taking the time. It means a lot!
I love “connecting” with you…and yes, we Americans are so programmed to do, be busy, be productive, that we have that immediate reaction of feeling guilty if we do NOTHING! I enjoy the “reminders” I get when reading your blogs.
So many of these internal messages we tell ourselves without even realizing it; until it is on loudspeaker! I think you’re right about our societal conditioning! Got keep paying attention! Nice to be connected with you too!