“Yet, without consideration or reservation, it is simply the presence of light that stirs the birds to sing and lift. They do not understand concepts such as holding back or only investing if the return seems certain.”
- Mark Nepo
Can you live on a feeling? Something that tugs at you from the inside? Would you dare follow what some would call a “calling”?
There are those that would say that following that voice deep inside you is easy, but in my experience, I’ve found that it isn’t.
In high school and in college I was the typical overachiever who was always searching for approval. I would always ask, whether I was aware of it or not, questions like: Am I doing what the teacher wants me to do? Am I making my parents proud? Am I making my community proud? Am I making my country proud? Am I being a role model? Do I look good enough, talk good enough, walk good enough, think good enough for others? Is what I am doing making others feel comfortable about themselves? Am I doing what others say should be done?
This constant striving for approval always landed me in disappointment. I always felt short of what others expected of me, or at least, what I thought others expected me. When I did succeed, it was never enough. My cup was never filled. Worst of all, I would often feel betrayed, and I didn’t know why.
I would blame my parents, or society, or the time that I lived in for the cause of that betrayal. I blamed events that happened to me, or others who wronged me. I blamed my lack of timing, or my lack of skill, or my lack of experience. I blamed my stubbornness, or my age, or my ignorance. I blamed all of this for that terrible feeling of incompleteness, and that promise of fulfillment that always seemed elusive. The lack of fulfillment was a persistent, hollow pang in my stomach that was worse than any pang of fear.
Finally, a year ago, all of this changed for me. I suddenly found myself feeling fulfilled, vibrant, and excited. I was happy.
What had changed? What had I done that was different from before? What was the fundamental paradigm shift?
The shift was actually simpler than you may think: I began to trust myself.
I listened–not to others, but to the knowing voice inside of me.
I realized that others can never truly know me. For instance, I noticed that, at times, others would mistakenly perceive me as unhappy or troubled, when I was overjoyed and excited. Or they would mistake me as overjoyed and excited, when I really was troubled about something. After I realized this, I stopped judging myself against what others perceived was my current state, I only judged myself by what I was actually feeling.
I began to know that what I know is what I know, and sometimes, as much as I try to impart what I know to others, others may not understand.
I began to trust what I knew. I noticed that whenever I went against what I knew, I always felt like I fell short of my aim. I was always disappointed. I always left the situation unfulfilled, and I always felt a little betrayed. But when I went with what I knew was my truth, I always hit the mark. I always left the situation feeling proud of myself and incredibly fulfilled, and I always felt at peace with the world around me.
I came to understand that the feeling of betrayal was not coming from the outside of me. No one was betraying me. I was betraying myself. I was betraying myself by not trusting myself, and the only one to blame for that was me.
But trusting ourselves is not an easy thing to do. For what we know to be true will often rub against what others know to be true, and sometimes they will not accept our truth as their own. This can cause friction. Trusting ourselves also means trusting our own unique path in life, and often we have no standard to measure this by. For instance, we cannot compare what we know to be true with what our parents, our friends, or others in the history of the world knew to be true, because the world has changed, and we are not like anyone else that has ever lived. Lastly, trusting ourselves means we must believe in our ability to measure a phenomenon that cannot be explained away.
Because what exactly are we trusting? What are we trusting if it is not some outside, preconceived standard of living? How can we guess at the features of a bird that has not yet been hatched?
We can never know for sure how we know what we know, but we continue to know.
Now, we can ignore this “innate knowing,” or we can follow it.
When we ignore our knowing, we betray ourselves and we will feel that sting of betrayal, and then we will lash out at everyone and everything around us for causing that betrayal.
But, if we follow what we know to be true, we will honor ourselves, and in so doing we feel a kiss on our heart, and we will hug everyone and everything around us for causing us this bountiful happiness.
But trusting is not easy. Trusting ourselves is even harder. Knowing that we know, without being able to explain to others how we know what we know is no easy feat. Again, we must trust that although we sound cryptic, someone, somewhere out there will hear the truth we speak and understand it.
We fear to share what we know, but again, we must trust that we know we must share, and that something good will come of this sharing.
Most of all, we find it hard to believe that what we know we want is what everyone wants for us, and that all we have to do is simply trust the feeling.
One of the most important, and hardest lessons for any writer is to learn to trust themselves. But what I know–and you’re just going to have to trust me when I say this–is that when you begin to trust yourself, the door you have been trying to knock down with all your might will reveal itself as a waste of time, and you will turn around to find the door whose lock your spirit has always been a perfect fit for.