In my recent talks with friends and mutual friends alike, there’s been a common theme that appears to surface — a theme I’ll affectionately title the “What I’m Not” theme.
You’re on a walk, on the phone, or at lunch with a friend and the conversation gets “real”. You go deeper. The topic usually centers around what they want and why they don’t have “it”. The whole of the conversation is built around trying to flesh out and understand this disparity between these two points. I want “X”, but don’t have “X”. And this is fine. It’s nothing but a universal dilemma most humans experience day in and day out. Since most of us are a practical sort, we can typically map out a plan to achieve whatever we set out to do. But what of those who simply feel like they can’t (and perhaps feel this way every time they encounter this want)?
I suggest that there’s a debilitating narrative at work and most of us aren’t aware of it.
In my experience, the conversation begins with sharing seeds of frustrations (personally, I don’t take these lightly when listening to a friend, for I feel that at the root of every frustration is some kind of fear). The frustrations then bloom, showing at length how deep these conflicts go. I then notice a set of patterns in their speech. I sum up these patterns of speech (regardless of what was specifically said) into a “What I’m Not” speech.
I wrote a previous post about demons; they are the voices that seek to undermine your joy, peace, etc. By way of illustration, I’ll call this the “What I’m Not” demon. Its intention is to place emphasis, to turn your attention, on everything you’re NOT versus everything that you ARE.
When what you think, say, or do about is based on what you don’t have, you lose yourself to the wrong tense – the future tense (because you don’t desire what you already have). And the problem is that you exist in the present tense. “Are” is a present-tense verb. I’m not saying you can’t make plans for next week; just make plans for next week while consciously staying in the present. Anxiety lives in the future, depression lives in the past. If you need a little more resolve about how to stay in the present, just know that the shape of things now are likely the shape of your future. So if your not happy with things now, then don’t be too upset if you haven’t made any changes a year from now.
Consider what now has become a common expression in popular psychology: “You are enough”. I hope this becomes a cultural maxim and not a cliche, because it’s true. Start to believe it. Take solace and comfort and perhaps be willing to alter your narrative from “What I’m Not” to “What I Am”. As to “What you are”, I don’t know, but I know this much: You want to be loved and understood — therein lies your answer. What? Strangely enough, you may find love and understanding when you decide to actively love and understand others.
This whole foray into the “What I am” narrative might be awkward. It was for me. When you start taking stock in what you are, confidence surfaces like that flower in the cracks of the concrete; it breaks through and crumbles your fears and insecurities.