Are You Betraying Yourself?

if so, stop it!

It’s 10 pm on Wednesday night and I’m just starting this letter.

It's too late to start writing; my brain feels like pudding from the week of election news, client work, phone calls with friends and family, Portuguese class, and a new COVID-19 curfew that started on Sunday.

It's too late to start writing, but here I am.

I've had so many ideas swirling in my head the past few days. I've started three different versions of this, only to scrap each one and move on to the next. Well, here we are at this one; the third time will be the charm because I'm not starting over. So, no guarantees on how this will turn out. I guess we'll both find out together.

Norms & Roles

I've been thinking a lot about societal roles and why it's so hard for many (most?) people to live outside these internalized norms.

Societal conventions are on my mind because of a few conversations I've had lately. Conversations with people who don't want to do what they are doing, don't want to live the way they are living, yet are too afraid to live honestly, openly, in a way that —despite what society thinks—would be right for them.

People seem to fear disappointing their friends and family, failing, or the great unknown of striking out on a different path. Some people have suggested I'm brave because I dare to live my life on my terms, but living against my internal compass only causes me to feel sick and adrift—and I bet when you live outside your integrity, the same happens for you, too.

But living according to your own rules has its downsides. That is, if external opinions bother you.

I can't say I'm immune to what others think or say, but to be clear: what other people think of us is none of our business. Well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) friends and family will tell you what you should be doing to stay in line with their expectations. They will also weigh in on your character and what your choices say about you as a person. Usually, these assessments are false, ill-informed, and biased through the lens of the judger. It's your choice as to how much of these opinions you want to take on.

I don't have the support of all the people in my life, and that's okay.

I'm sure some people think I'm selfish for moving abroad and carving out a life in alignment with my values and interests. But, when we live our lives according to what others want us to do, we betray ourselves. I didn't make the choices I made to hurt anyone, but I made the choices I did to stop being untrue to myself.

People betray themselves in many ways, and I believe this betrayal contributes to disappointment, isolation, and regret.

Why do we betray ourselves?

  • People betray themselves to keep the peace.

  • People betray themselves to be perceived as good, successful, normal.

  • People betray themselves by conforming to a set of rules designed to control them, to keep them confined to roles they don't want to play, and in lives that are not their own.

Do you do these things, these acts of self-sabotage? Did you stay for the kids? Stay married because leaving was too complicated? Do you keep quiet when you want to speak up? Are you tired of living your life for others? Are you afraid your people won't support you if you did what you really wanted to do?

Society expects us to keep to a predetermined set of rules, especially women. We are not to go far from the homeland, from the town where we were born or where our families settled. We are penalized for wanting something else.

To be slim, small, quiet, acquiescent, maternal, and keepers of the emotional realm are the basic rules for women. For men, it's to be strong, meaning don't show emotions; be capable and focused, and reject bonding with other men (sports and drinking are okay) lest they be seen as gay (unless they are, then there's another set of rules to follow).

Rule-breakers refuse to live inside a socially constructed narrative. These people don't fit the mold; they can't—the traditional roles are an ill-fitting suit. So, tell me, how does your suit fit?

Casting off society's roles, I've learned these things are true:

  • You will never make everyone happy.

  • It's not your job to make others happy.

  • What others say about you is a reflection of how they feel about themselves.

My wish for everyone is that we live true to our unique internal knowing. That we learn to tune out the noise of other people's opinions and trust our intuition, and that whatever we do in life, we do so in the interest of making the world a better place for everyone. We can reject conformity and at the same time be kind to others.

My wish for you is to live—truly, deeply, audaciously.  

—> If you enjoy life: examined you can let me know via buy me a coffee and by sharing this letter with a friend. Thank you for your support—I appreciate you!