Freedom is being you without anyone’s permission. – Buddha
Do you really know yourself? Do you know what you believe in, stand for, and won’t settle for? Are your beliefs those of your parents? Have you ever stopped to question your beliefs? I have. I have questioned EVERYTHING! When I entered my 30s, I realized that my belief system was based on old messages from my youth. Those messages were formed by my parents, my extended family, my church, my school, the media, my friends, etc. Each day I was living a life based on a belief system formed by those messages from my youth. I realized the biggest influence on me was the faith I was raised in. After that realization, I chose to question everything about my faith; why I continued to practice the religious denomination I grew up in; whether I still believed in the tenets taught by the church; what it truly meant to me to be a good person; etc. I searched for meaning to the question of what was my purpose. I read books, questioned people far wiser than me, and tried new things to get to the crux of what was authentic to me. I worked diligently to define what an authentic life looked like to me.
This quest for authenticity did not end with me doing everything contrary to how I was raised or feeling as though my life to that point was all a lie. (I really hope you reread that sentence with the dramatic inflections it requires!) Rather I accepted some things from my past as part of my belief system and others I put aside because they did not resonate with me. A somewhat minor example of this is that I was raised believing that horoscopes and zodiac signs were evil and akin to the occult. As an obedient youngster, I would quickly flip by the horoscopes in the newspaper or a magazine because God forbid, just mistakenly reading that stuff would corrupt my soul. Again with the dramatics. However, that isn’t far from what my reaction was to it. Now I am not a firm believer in zodiac signs but I do enjoy reading about Virgos. I have a whole board dedicated to the Virgo zodiac sign on Pinterest. I think it is interesting to see some of my character traits reflected in the literature. I say some because I see some of my character traits in the literature of every sign. I have determined that in my life reading horoscopes and learning about zodiac signs is authentic to me and that does not make me a bad person or a disappointment, it is simply another thing that makes me, me.
As with everything else I have been writing about, being authentic requires you to ascertain what is real for you and no one else. I really mean no one else. My son is a teenager and as much as he has to subscribe to my belief system and value system right now, I often challenge him to discuss his feelings with me, if something I say doesn’t seem to resonate with him. No, I am not one of those new age parents where my son and I smoke weed together and discuss why he should or should not do what I said. Rather when he was in elementary school, his principal helped me understand that my job as a parent is to allow my son to fail and question.
things while it is still safe to do so. What that means is if he had questions about a rule, I should be open-minded enough to discuss the reasoning behind the rule with him. If he makes a bad decision, I should allow him to fail while it was still safe to do so and then talk through better decisions in the future. Again this does not mean allow him to make the bad decision to try the crack and then we talk about how to choose drug-free living moving forward. It’s more like when he wanted to take the money he had saved to go to Puerto Rico and go to this summer camp he heard about instead. I didn’t think it was a good idea, but I gave him the information and allowed him to make an informed decision. Well cut to three years later, he still talks about how horrible that camp was and how he wished he had gone to Puerto Rico instead. When he brings the camp up or is working through some similar decision making, we use what he learned from that experience to help inform the current decision. We also talk about how he grew from that experience so there was no reason to regret the decision.
The more I write this, the more it does sound loosey-goosey, as my mother would say. But here is the bottom line. I am giving my son the freedom and safe space to question things and develop his belief system in the process. I understand that his belief system will have many iterations in the future, but I think the most important lesson he will learn above all else is that he must take the time to question things as he develops what it means to be authentic to self.
The final word… being authentic means taking the time to understand and develop my belief system, erasing old messages, and living the one life I have on my terms.