Just a few days ago, I posted this quote on my Facebook page. I believe it is from Carl Jung, but I can’t be certain.
This is perhaps the most frightening piece of surrender: the laying down of who we have constructed as ourselves in order to make space for who we truly are.
One of my Facebook friends commented, “Why did it take me six decades?”
And I replied, “Take heart. It takes lots of people longer.”
That happens to be true. I routinely work with people in their sixties (their seventh decade of life) to more fully embrace their core talents and more completely express their potential—in personal relationships, in their creative pursuits and in successfully pursuing financial success. I have working with plenty of people in their 70s, too. Not infrequently they, too, are discovering new parts of themselves—and, not infrequently, some of the most important parts of themselves.
Why is this? Why do human beings not infrequently pose or posture as people other than who they truly are, sometimes for so long?
One reason is that few families are growing places that foster self-expression. Most offer love conditioned on conforming to certain expectations—for example, the pursuit of particular kinds of success, the expression (or parroting) of certain beliefs or the embrace of specific values.
Another reason is that our society rewards some forms of self-expression more quickly or with far greater probability than others. Becoming an artist or an entrepreneur, or a teacher, means accepting the reality that even moderate financial success may be elusive. And saying what you really think about yourself or the world around you—when it doesn’t match up with the prevailing sentiments of one’s community—can expose a person to criticism and even contempt, instead of support and praise.
In short, we give up some or all of ourSELVES out of fear that we will be unloved or alone or come to some sort of harm. But the trade is never worth it and never works. Because nothing is more important than authenticity and nothing other than authenticity can stand the test of time.
Can it take most of a lifetime to recapture one’s authenticity? Yes. Is it always worth the effort? Yes. Is it ever too late? No. Not ever.
Dr. Keith Ablow