Self-actualization and lessons on becoming a Person

Many people tell me I’m calm, a good listener and quite well balanced (yeah, that helps with coaching). Sometimes I laugh and say “You have no idea.”

I’ve been doing therapy for one and a half year now. No, I’m not mentally disturbed and I don’t have major issues (well, not more than most people out there). Personally, I believe pretty much anyone needs therapy, not because we’re all damaged, but because it helps in the way that a good healthy diet in your lifestyle changes you, after years of fast food.

It’s been a long journey and at first I expected instant results. I hoped that after a few sessions I’d be more in touch with myself. I imagined that one day I’d wake up and feel whole, that there would be an end of the road, a moment where I would be simply happy. Of course, it’s not like that. Not really.

However, there are a few things I’ve learned, and through the past weeks they’ve crystallized.
Here goes.

1. Feeling “whole” comes from the inside.

It’s not based on something people will say, or some sort of recognition. It’s not “when I will weigh xyz kilos”. It’s not “when I will get that position/marry that man/have kids” or whatever. It just happens, and it’s not  a “click”, it’s more of a feeling that’s developed over the course of days, weeks, or even years.

2. Feeling “whole” is kind of the same with being happy.

People say there are several levels of happiness. The fleeting, bursting enthusiasm, the anticipation, the infatuation. And then there’s the sweet calm that goes throughout several days, sometimes with no reason. There’s a certain sense of freedom in this “slow” type of happiness, one you don’t get from the “acute happiness” (actually, after the peak of joy passes, you feel sad, like after a wonderful holiday when you have to get back to work, no?).

3. Happiness passes away, sometimes. And that’s okay.

Perhaps the most important thing I’m still learning is to be okay when I’m not okay. We all have bad days, we all feel angry, sad, or anxious sometimes. The trick is whether we have an inner strength that tells us “This too shall pass. I am fine, beyond this state.” Most times, unfortunately, it’s like a wave that crashes and leaves you feeling like you will never, ever recover.

But, you know, it’s true what they say. It’s a journey, not a destination. Happiness is not a destination. I understand that I am an ever-changing person, and that if I have a bad day, a bad month or a bad year, it doesn’t mean I failed.

4. Being “okay” with yourself enables you to be “okay” with other people.

It’s not the other way around. Taking care of yourself, saying what you want, how you feel, even if it’s confusing. Sometimes others don’t get it, if you say “I’m having a bad day, stay away.” Don’t feel bad if they misunderstand or take it the wrong way. Just say it/do it. They will get over it.

Apparently (and yes, there are studies to prove that) people who are okay with themselves, who stay true to themselves, enable the same trait in the ones around them.
That’s why, a mother who “sacrifices” herself for her children won’t really make them happy, whole human beings. At worst, they might have a guilt complex for the rest of their lives.

5. I’ve learned to trust my intuition and to “go with the flow”.

Talking with people about their careers, their management issues, how to motivate others, brings out a little voice in me that says “this person is afraid”, “this person is trying too hard”. Sometimes we worry so much about our next job, how to plan career moves, how to look better and to influence others. But really, we try too hard. We worry too much. I worry too much.

(by the way, what I’ve learned about worrying is that it doesn’t stop when I say “I need to worry less.” It stops when I really feel that things will be okay, and that I am okay no matter what. Yeah, I know. It’s hard.)

6. There are too many quotes and lists on the Internet!!!

Pun intended. Yes, this post is also about lists. We don’t learn from lists. We don’t change using “5 step” recipes. We change when we deeply understand, most times from our own experience. I may have an “aha!” moment reading someone’s blog and empathizing. But it’s the inner dialogue, the inner understanding that makes the shift.

It’s like we’re all on different paths, that intersect. But no two paths are the same.

7. We live in different realities.

In a way, it seems that we live and learn on three levels:

The actual-physical-level in which we observe and do things. Personal stories and examples fit here. I sometimes believe that’s why it’s easier to connect through stories. You look at the same happening, and yet you take your own interpretation.

The “this is what I’ve learned” level. If we connect it to the story, people will follow the path and think “ah, yes, I understand why this makes sense, because…”. However, it’s like reading a book. You get the logic, but sometimes you don’t grasp the meaning.

The “deep shit, man” level.  It’s like when someone says “love hurts” and you think about the 1st grade when your desk colleague broke your heart, and he thinks about his broken marriage.  Sometimes we connect through that, because of symbolic meanings. But the same thing has so many different meanings for different people.

In a way, my journey is somewhere between the second and third level.
I sometimes have huge insights that make me laugh and cry, and when I share with others – “That’s it!! It’s a journey, not a destination!!” they look at me like I had just said “Oh my God! The sky is blue!!” and nod, compassionately, and say “Yes, dear. There, there. You’ve figured it out.”, while to me, it’s mind-blowing.

So I guess, we each have our insights, and I can only hope your journey is as interesting as mine, and that you will enjoy the road instead of expecting a destination.


PS. Many of the insights above were sparked by reading Carl Roger‘s “How to become a Person”.
More about Carl Roger’s brilliant ideas here and here.

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