Article first published on on 21/10/2016

‘Do you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?’ (Danielle LaPorte)

We’re all socially conditioned from the time we’re born.

We’re told the ‘right’ and ‘appropriate’ social patterns with regards to who we are, what we can enjoy doing, who we’re allowed to spend time with, what religion we are, the rule of our family, what we can wear, what we’re allowed to eat, to whom we are allowed to speak, what we are allowed to say, what it is appropriate to buy … and the list goes on.

We are pushed and shoved and squashed until we resemble a format that is acceptable to those around us, and then we spend our lives trying to live up to the expectations that the format has placed on us.

I spent decades of my life in a state of hidden chaos whilst trying to live the life I thought matched the conditioning I had received. I was driven by perfectionism – spending every moment engaged in presenting a front to everyone around me that oozed strength, control and success.

One of the biggest turning points in my life came when I heard someone ask the question ‘What if they’re wrong?’

This simple question opened the flood gates for me and allowed me to take a step back and get a different perspective on the struggle that my life had become. Hearing these four words in such a simple statement made me realise that I had spent my life feeling that I was ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ because the things I had been socially conditioned to believe didn’t fit with who I really was.

Inadvertently, by trying to be the person I was ‘supposed’ to be instead of just being who I am, I had added multiple layers of complexity to my life. By trying to squash my beliefs into a format I had received whilst growing up, I added layers of stress to an already stressful existence.

‘What if they’re wrong?’ now plays a prominent role in my everyday life. Adding this simple question into my thought and decision making process allows me to consciously question how I go about every day. This question has opened up doors for me and I have moved from being a stress bunny in the corporate world to running my own business in an industry and an environment that I love.

Every day is set up to include the activities that support me in my life. I know the things I need to have in every day to make sure I remain healthy and energised. I know the foods that support my lifestyle, and those that my body doesn’t process so well. I am tuned in to the things that drain my energy and those that provide me with instant energy boosts.

Throughout the course of my career in the corporate world, I was constantly asked what my 5-year plan was. I used to squirm when this question came around. I knew what I was supposed to say, but I could never find the words that sounded convincing. It’s like I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be doing what I was doing – but didn’t know how to say it.

We know when our world isn’t right – our bodies tell us with our energy, stress and health levels. I was exhausted and had nothing left to give – so I gave some more. I was a master at pushing through when the ‘right’ thing for me was to stop and regroup.

Like almost everyone around me – sitting still was an enemy, because sitting still came with time for the voice of disquiet to come in. The voice that tells you things you don’t want to hear. The voice that says ‘you were made for more – there is a different path for you.’

I know what it’s like to feel like you’re so far down a pathway that it’s too late to turn around. I also know that ‘turning around’ isn’t your only option.

Taking a step in a different direction is no more difficult than learning to ask the question ‘What if they’re wrong?’ and in the words of T.S. Eliot …‘Only those that risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go’.