In my very as of yet incomplete communication and conflict resolution guide I include a mantra I have tried to pound into my subconscious when I find myself paralyzed by self-doubt, regrets or shame about my past and my life circumstances:
“circumstances describe, they do not define”
I find this basic insight about identity and self, to use what has become a trite expression, ‘transformational’.
We are not our circumstances, providing we act to change them. We are not our past mistakes, providing we correct them. We are not our upbringing. We are whoever we decide we will be and we are who we have decided we are.
Doubt is limiting. Self doubt however; a doubt based on a fundamental distrust of one’s own capacities, is crushing.
Choosing to objectively recognize one’s own abilities and, further, to rely only on one’s own perceptions and estimations when making choices, is choosing to be our ideal self. We choose to see ourselves as capable – in fact uniquely capable – of dealing with reality as the decider of our fate. This choice to SELFishly live, is transformational in its effects. As philosopher Ayn Rand observed
the most selfish of all things is the independent mind that recognizes no authority higher than its own and no value higher than its judgment of truth.
I have as of late found myself in much need of the reminder that I am not my circumstances. Those who know me personally know well my circumstances, both past and present. They know well also that while my circumstances describe a life both challenging and troubled, they do not define me. While I may have had much in the way of color and intrigue in my life, my associations and my surroundings, those who know me best know I have rarely allowed that intrigue and color to seep into my view of life, my goals, my values or my character.
I know, however, that those who do not know me will, inevitably and quite rightly, judge me by my circumstances. From their perspective – with its ignorance of my view of life, my goals and my values – they will form their beliefs about my character from my circumstances. While I have stumbled of late to remember this, I am not those circumstances. It is up to me to show that to all who would believe otherwise.
Familiarizing myself again with my own mantra, in the wake of my creeping self-doubt, has transformed my approach going forward. To take on the world and live a self-driven existence, I will view life’s challenges (past and present) with humor. It’s time to realize that the circumstances that have chained me with self-doubt are small compared to what I can do and are smaller still when compared to what could have been.
Time to say to my circumstances”o.k, seriously? Is that all you’ve got?”