Why can’t we just be who we are throughout our entire lifetime? Blame it on sociology.
We are social animals wired for conformity and cooperation. Often, by the time we hit midlife, we no longer have any idea of who we really are.
Face it, as animals go, we are pretty pathetic. We have no fur, no claws, poor eyesight, poor hearing, and are completely dependent on brain power and the pack. Without the protection of the pack we would never have survived as a species and so we are masters at conformity.
You needed a tribe to survive, especially as a child, and your life literally depended upon their acceptance.
First, you carve out a place in the family. Were you the comedian? The peacemaker? The “good” one? The rebel?
Then at school. Were you a jock? A nerd? A stoner?
Were you different with your family than at school?
And then there is your professional persona. Are you cautious? A follower? An innovator? A teamplayer? A malcontent?
Are you the same person at home and at work? Or is there a disconnect?
The disconnect is where we get into trouble. It’s called cognitive dissonance
Psychology Today describes it as “If you’ve ever told a lie and felt uncomfortable because you see yourself as scrupulously honest, then you’ve experienced cognitive dissonance. It occurs when your ideas, beliefs, or behaviors contradict each other:”
This is exactly where I was at in 2000. I had a bad case of cognitive dissonance. I use to joke that I got paid to teach people to lie with statistics. Cynical but true. I know first hand how this can destroy you.
The emotional and physical price of spending 50 hours a week involved in activities that do not reflect who you are is huge. The price of ignoring your true self is depression, anxiety, anger issues, migraines, premature greying, illness… Click To Tweet
When you are young, climbing the ladder and raising a family, you don’t have the time to even stop and think about these things.
Even if you do, financial considerations often mean ignoring the need for change.
But I believe the reward for a lifetime struggling to ensure the comfort and safety of your family is to finally have an opportunity to enjoy “The privilege of a lifetime and become who you truly are”.
The stereotypical “midlife crisis” (as silly as it is portrayed) is a wakeup call to begin preparing for your second chapter. If you are turning 50 today, you will likely live to be almost 90, and work well into your 70’s. Make it count.
CALL TO ACTION:
Are you staying at a job that is not who you are because it pays well? The answer may not be as obvious as you think.
Humans avoid cognitive dissonance at all costs and will make up all kinds of rationalizations to justify their actions.
Try the following exercise just to get you thinking about it.
Take a deep breath and forget the about the money, the bills, and the shoulds. Grab a blank piece of paper and jot down your answers to the following questions
- What do you stand for? In other words, what are the core values that are the very basis of a good life? The things you consider non-negotiable. Truth? Integrity? Openness? Transparency?
- What do your company and co-workers stand for? Is it in line?
- How do you express who you are at work? At the end of the day, how do you feel you contributed?
- Are you a completely different person at home than at work?
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