I’ve been thinking about this idea of consumption. When I act as a consumer I am accepting an external influence as my guiding source. I am agreeing to take a backseat and allowing something/someone else to drive. For example, when I allow an ad to exploit my worthiness and then feel compelled to buy something. When I make decisions for my life based on what others are doing. When I strive to live up to the expectations of others. When I people-please in an effort to have others appreciate me or to avoid disappointment and/or conflict. When I live by “should’s” and “supposed to’s”.
I have lived most of my life unaware of how much I have been “consuming”. And TBH It feels uncomfortable to get real with myself and observe my own behavior. In the process of facing the music, questions surface like: Do I actually WANT to be doing this? Would I be doing this if it wasn’t for ____? Does this feel exhausting or draining to me? Which thoughts are mine and which thoughts are projections from others?
Sometimes it can feel like a cloudy fog amid all the noisy outside distractions. It’s like trying to untangle a bunch of wires. I’m imagining them all to be different colors. But only the green wire is mine, and I’m wearing color-blocking glasses. It feels damn near impossible to untangle the wires, never mind identify my green one. So like I said, it’s a serious challenge to untangle the mess and figure out what actually belongs to me. To know which voice, feelings, thoughts, and emotions are mine.
For me, I know I’m over-consuming from outside of myself, when I start to feel the need to ask others what I should be doing. When I start comparing myself. And when I feel like I can’t make simple decisions on my own of what I want to do. These are all my red flags.🚩Noticing these red flags feels really awkward to me, because it means admitting that there’s a problem.
It’s in moments like these that I have to remind myself: I always have the option to step out of the story. I can always drop the rope, disengage, pull-back, re-evaluate, and change my course. These options are literally ALWAYS available to me.
I recently had a dream where I was in a situation I didn’t want to be in anymore. There was someone who was supposed to pick me up, but told me they had left. At first I remembered feeling frustrated and upset. But in the dream, this feeling shifted and I thought ‘OK I can always just take an Uber home’ *ding-ding* I found a solution for myself. And just like that I woke myself up out of the dream. And for the record, I’ve had bad dreams wake me up, but this one felt different. It felt like I was the one who decided I didn’t want to be there anymore, so I bounced and chose to wake up. This makes me think that I always have the option to “wake myself up” from any situation that doesn’t feel right to me.
Despite however compelling it feels in the moment I’m realizing that I don’t have to submit to how I’ve been conditioned. For example someone asks me to go to an event. They are asking me to be there. Old conditioning eagerly chimes in with: “I should say yes, even though I don’t really want to go. I want them to know I’m reliable”. Which is now followed with a soft awareness: I can see how situations like this play into my past conditioning. And instead of feeling pressured to commit to something I don’t want to do, I can re-evaluate: “Why do I want people to know I’m reliable?”
The real answer: because I want to be needed. If I am needed then I won’t be abandoned. This truth feels uncomfortably accurate. I feel like I’ve used situations like this one in the past to avoid facing this very truth. Historically I subjected myself to things I didn’t want to do, which inherently perpetuates my fear of abandonment (which is a pretty nasty loop to be caught in). I didn’t realize that I was doing everything I could to avoid feeling it, anything to avoid sitting with the fear itself.
I’ve also realized that when I speak my truth and say what I mean, without intentionally being mean, that I am not responsible for how anyone else receives or perceives what I have to say. This idea goes against every grain of my upbringing. I certainly was not applauded for expressing my needs, thoughts, emotions, or opinions. But just because that was that story I lived by in my past does not mean I need to carry it with me going forward. Because damn that baggage of my past is heavy af.
The flip side is also true: I am the only one who has the power to decide how I receive what others share. I have the option to stay with my truth and not abandon myself. I feel like this is especially important, because historically I’ve had a tendency to adopt other’s opinions as my own. What my parents think I should do, my friends opinion of how I should handle a situation, or how my peers navigate their businesses.
Lately I’ve begun to question my thoughts from a more neutral point of view. “Is this MY idea to feel like this? Or is it someone else’s (maybe from my past or someone in my present)?”
It’s not what I want to hear, but like most things in life, I’m learning that this is an ongoing, ever-evolving work in progress. And I don’t think it’s something I’m intended to master. Instead I’m continually invited to grow. I recently got a healthy dose of wisdom from an episode of Parks & Rec where Anne asks April “How do you get your gut to talk to you?”, and April responds “You don’t get your gut to talk to you, you just listen when it says something”.