“What if I turn into one of those really happy people who I can’t stand?” My mom replied “What’s it matter? You’ll be happy!” I had a hard time with that.
I was thinking about buying a self-improvement program that promised extraordinary happiness. I was 19 or 20. I was angry. I was depressed. I wanted to change. I didn’t know how. I resisted the very change I claimed I wanted. What a mess … I wanted something different for myself. But I wasn’t willing let go of something to become different.
Humans don’t like the unknown. We don’t embrace change. Leaving a part of who we are behind or picking up a new facet of who we will become creates an unknown. It creates change. We hold on a little tighter to who we think we are. Our tight grip keeps us locked on to what we want to change in our life. It locks out what we want to become.
There’s a natural pressure to keep thinking of yourself in the way you believe yourself to be. It’s how you identify with yourself. There’s a part of your brain that reacts to threats to your identity the same way you’d react to a real threat to your life. That’s why we act like such jackasses when our ego is attacked. We respond to the attack on who we think we are as a mortal threat.
Being happy was a threat to my existence. If I were happy, my identity would have to change. I would die. Or rather my identity would. My brain didn’t make the distinction. I held on for dear life to my identity.
For years I held depression and anger in my grip. I wouldn’t let them go. They were me. To let them go was to die. It was like I was holding on to a rope dangling from a 150 foot tower. To release them would be like me letting go of that rope. The survival instinct was in full effect. I would maintain the pain to protect my life.
I finally learned that there is no rope. I choose how I want to shape my identity … who I think I am is up to me. There’s still a part of me that goes back to that pain. But letting it go is much easier. I learned that I had to sacrifice who I thought I was for who I wanted to be.
If we don’t choose to let the unhealthy pieces of who we are die, the healthy pieces of who we want to become cannot take life. It takes courage to stare down death and let go of the rope. It’s worth it. You can do it.
Who do you think you are? What damaging belief do you need to sacrifice to become who you’d rather be?
What has to die within you for you to start living?
- Are Happy People Dumb? (blogs.hbr.org)
- 5 Reasons to Join a Startup After Graduating (businessinsider.com)
- Business Vision and Mindset (inc.com)