Your Brushstrokes of Life
Young people are under a tremendous amount of pressure to figure out what they want to “be” and “do” in their lives. This pressure is greater than ever before.
The questions, “who am I?” and “what do I do?” are questions of identity, your internal belief structure about who you are and how you fit into this world.
Identity is a function of your mind.
The mind wants to have something to grasp onto.
The mind doesn’t like uncertainty.
It doesn’t like the unknown.
The mind is fearful.
It wants anchor points; the stronger the better.
Your mind wants labels; it wants to be defined. I’m a carpenter, an entrepreneur, a political activist, a teacher, a liberal, conservative, or Christian, an American, young, hip, attractive, ugly, male, female, strong, funny, a good writer, a nerd, a jock, gay, an athlete, etc.
Here’s an important point to understand…
To the mind, being undefined is painful. Your mind would rather have physical or emotional pain than be undefined, so if it doesn’t have labels, it will latch onto whatever it can, even negative labels. I’m a thief, a smoker, a gambler, a drunk, a drug addict, a loser, poor, or handicapped.
To the mind, a negative label is better than no label. Without labels, you can feel like you don’t know who you are or how you fit into society. You can feel lost, weak and lacking in confidence.
Your identity helps define you. It gives you perspective and it gives you purpose. It is core to who you are, and it determines whether you will be happy or sad, content or unfulfilled, successful at relationships, career and spiritual matters, or not.
Most people don’t understand how their mind works, so identification just happens to them. They unconsciously become a result of their environment and programing, which means that they allow other people to define them.
Political power brokers and activists want to label you. They want you to identify as a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, gay, non-binary, an environmentalist, or a MAGA man. As soon as you assume a label and identify yourself with a particular group, they can control you!
How does this control work? As soon as you accept a label, you are agreeing to think in a certain way, a way that is defined by that label. So, once you agree to a label, the power brokers simply have to define (or redefine) what that label stands for, and your belief structure will change accordingly. This control process happens without people’s knowledge, and if you point this out, they will fiercely deny it.
This is why political activists want you to get angry; they don’t want you to think, but rather they want you to passionately identify with a label!
This is actually a form of mind control.
Teens and young adults are very vulnerable to this type of attack because they haven’t yet had enough life experience to determine what is the right way to define their life. Again, having no label is painful for the mind, so those who are adrift are eager to accept whatever labels are required for acceptance.
Now here’s an important point…
Why are activists so eager to eliminate traditional labels, especially when it comes to gender?
It’s because people NEED labels, and if common sense labels are denied to them, they are even more eager to latch onto other labels that the power brokers and activists want you to embrace, so they can control you. It’s all about control.
It’s important to understand that you can consciously define and redefine your own identity, so you can become the person you want to be. There are ways to be strong and protect yourself against this type of attack, which is becoming increasingly powerful in our society.
The most common, but less effective way that people try to protect themselves is by “preemptive definition” and “projection”. This means that you quickly embrace a label, and then project your self-identity to others before they have a chance to label you. It’s a way of saying, “I’ve already defined myself, so this is what I want you to believe about me.” This projection is done in countless ways, from bumper stickers on cars that define your political beliefs, t-shirts with sayings on them, tattoos, hair style, jewelry, the clothes you wear, the vehicle you drive and more.
This is effective to some degree, but by embracing labels, you create self-imposed limitations on yourself. Labels, by definition, are limitations on how you see yourself, how you perceive the world, how you perceive your place in the world and how the world sees you. Labels keep you down. They prevent you from growing.
There are better ways to control your identity so you can get the most out of life. When you are of strong character, you are not influenced by machinations of power brokers.
To start with, I want to propose a different way of looking at who you are.
There is a weakness in our language when it comes to self-identification. The question is, “what am I?” or “who am I?” Also, “why am I here?”
Are you this physical body? Are you your emotions? Are you your thoughts? Are you a culmination of all of your experiences?
You are not your physical body, because it is temporary. The same can be said of your emotions and thoughts. Your experiences are also fleeting, except that they can change you. They are opportunities for growth, but what about you is growing?
The permanent part. That which is immortal and divine; the true you.
I believe that our language is wrong when we say that we “have” a Soul. Rather, we ARE Soul, and as Soul we are created in God’s image. And we are temporarily here in this clay temple to learn certain lessons. We are here to learn to live in love and to help shine God’s Light of Divine Love.
I will leave you to contemplate on this further, but for now I want to go back to the question of identification. Who are you and what do you do?
As I said, identification is a function of your mind, but you are not your mind.
The real answer to “who am I?” is that you are Soul, a Divine immortal being. Period. That’s it.
All other forms of identification are false and temporary. You are not your age, you’re not male or female, you’re not a particular race, and you aren’t your political beliefs.
And you are here for a purpose. You are here to learn to be strong, so you can love and be free.
To become strong, you need to face challenges. All of your inner and outer struggles are created by your mind, and identification is the biggest struggle of all. But the mind is not bad; the struggles aren’t evil.
It is up to you to choose who is in charge, the real you (Soul) or your mind. When mind is in control, you live in a locked state of consciousness. You live in fear and attachment. It takes discipline for you (Soul) to take control of your mind. But, when Soul is in control of a disciplined but subservient mind, Soul is free and happy and full of love.
Think of your mind like a pet dog. A well-trained dog can go with you in public. It can give you love, protect you, and help you meet others. It can be pure joy! On the other hand, an out of control dog is a terrible burden. It tugs and pulls, embarrasses you, gets into fights and exhausts you.
So this is your core identity: You are Soul. God Loves You! And you are here to learn.
With this knowledge, be strong. Be strong in yourself and be strong in God.
You can choose whatever other identity you want to layer upon your core identity, but do so consciously and allow yourself room to grow and change.
My recommendation is to be very choosy about what you identify with. Every identity you layer upon your core identity may provide a (false) sense of security, but it comes at a loss of freedom.
Here are some specific suggestions…
FIRST, become conscious of the identification process. Without judgement, try to see how you are identifying yourself, how you’ve labeled yourself, how other people label you and the image you try to project to the world. Try to figure out who has control over you through the identification process. Hint: look at what makes you mad. Who do you listen to that gets you riled up?
SECOND, determine which labels you want to keep, and which you want to eliminate. Consciously detach yourself from the labels that are holding you back. You may want to start by not identifying yourself with a political party. At the very least, think for yourself for each individual issue instead of just turning on autopilot.
THIRD, don’t let others label you. Be tactfully fierce about this.
FOURTH, don’t let others control you by getting your emotions stirred up. Don’t fall into the trap of fear and anger with politics, social issues or environmentalism. Environmentalists, for example, try to get you scared for the future of the world, and then they make you feel guilty. They don’t want you to think, they want you to identify with them so they can control you. Don’t get caught up in it. Remember, you can live a good life and be responsible for the environment without getting sucked into the fear, guilt and anger.
FIFTH, let others be. If you want the freedom to live as you choose, you need to grant others the same freedom. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t be overly opinionated. Be flexible and open minded.
SIXTH, be radically independent. The world tries to fit you into a box and control how you live your life. But become very strong at knowing what you want, and don’t worry about what anyone tells you.
SEVENTH, you are not your profession. You are not a watchmaker, or an animator or an artist. Detach from what you do. Stop looking at your future as an endpoint. Life goes on. You live, experience, learn, experiment, succeed, fail and grow. The skill that you learn now is one brushstroke in a beautiful painting, which is added to the other brushstrokes that have made up your life until now. You can’t see how beautiful your painting is until you step back and look at all of the brushstrokes from a distance. But people around you see it before you do, and it’s your gift to them.
EIGHTH, you are not your successes or your failures. If you identify with successes or failures, you will fear failure because your self-worth will plummet every time you fail. Failure is part of life. Yes, successes can give you a short-term high, but either way, if you tie your identity with your actions, you are sentencing yourself to a life of ups and downs based on something external from yourself. It’s healthy to feel good when you succeed and feel upset when you fail, but it shouldn’t be a bone-jarring, life-questioning moment.
NINTH, don’t identify with your bad habits. Why is it so hard to quit smoking? Most people will say that it’s because nicotine is addictive. I would argue, however, that it’s because the person has identified themselves as a smoker. This means that all efforts that the person takes to quit smoking goes against what they actually believe about themselves deep down. So what is the solution? Even before you quit the physical process of smoking, change your personal identity to the opposite of a smoker. See yourself as a healthy, vibrant person (a non-smoker) and as soon as you actually believe it, your act of smoking will fall away.
TENTH, don’t judge yourself. Be as gentle with yourself as you would be to someone you love. If your spouse made a mistake, you would be gentle with her; you would give her love and support. Do the same for yourself.
To summarize, your mind has a strong desire to be labeled, otherwise it’s in pain. If left to its own devices, the mind will assume even negative labels. But you have a choice in the matter. You can choose how to identify yourself, and in gaining control of this process you can become strong in character.
Know who you are. Choose how you want to live. Be strong.
I want to end with one final point, people who are truly strong in character tend to be lighthearted. They can take a joke. They can bend with the difficulties of life.
(Please add to my thoughts in the comments below.)