Boy did I stress out about turning 40 this month! Not because of getting older, but because I couldn’t decide what to do for my birthday! Because it was “the big 4-0”, I felt a lot of pressure to do something big. I had all these voices in my head saying “You should have a big party to celebrate with all your friends” or “You should do something big, different, exciting, etc.”. These messages were coming from my ‘social self’. The social self is the part of me that is defined by my parents, my culture, my language, peers, media, etc. Developing ones social self is very important and a large part of our work as parents, is teaching these cultural norms to our kids. “We don’t hit when we are angry”, “we don’t throw food on the floor”, etc. A crucial part of our child’s emotional well being is to feel accepted and respected by his or her culture.
An equally important part of our well being is to listen to and respect our ‘essential self’. This is the part of us that would have been us no matter who our parents were, what language we spoke or what country we were born into. This is the part of you, that is essentially YOU. The essential self is easy to spot in children and how different one can be from one another. Some kids prefer dancing, art, building, running, some love attention while others shy away. When we enter the “tween” years, the social self grows stronger. Do remember wearing matching clothes? Only wanting to eat the same foods as everyone else? Camoflauing is the word we use to describe the way many kids want to avoid their essential self and identify more with their social self.
I had a strong social self until my mid-twenties when I gave myself permission to reconnect with my essential self. Many of my decisions, these days, are based on what I feel is most aligned with my essential self. Which is why it surprised me so much when this 40th birthday rolled around and suddenly I felt really torn about how to celebrate. Once I realized that I was in a battle between my social and essential self, it became clear what to do. Many of my life coaching clients struggle because they have listened too much to their social selves and feel disconnected from their life’s purpose. Your essential self always has your best interest at heart and learning how to listen to it, is a wonderful journey that reconnects you to your ‘right life’.
So, I ended up having a fabulous 40th birthday. I spent the day, all by myself, at a wonderful spa. Then the next day, I met a group of friends out for some good food, drink, and wonderful conversations. No big party, no big adventures, no cake (my essential self will take fish tacos over cake any day!). But my essential self felt very loved from family and friends, but more importantly, from myself.
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