Monday, January 21, 2013
Most of Us No Longer Fit in, so Now What ?
I was struck by a comment I heard myself make, that one of the problems we are experiencing in South Africa is that no-one seems to fit in anymore. I definitely don’t - I am the wrong race (white), the wrong gender (female), the wrong weight (over), live in the wrong place (northern suburbs), drive the wrong car (cheapest) and either have too much or not enough money depending on the audience. You would be wrong to assume a darker skin would solve this problem – successful Africans no longer fit in because they have betrayed their culture by somehow being successful (the term used is coconuts) – which is totally bewildering because the whole point of the new South Africa was to create success across all race groups and sexes.
It used to be easy to find your place and fit in - there were strong traditions that told you exactly where you fitted, except these days those traditions seem more and more antiquated and restrictive – who wants to be told that they can’t live the life they want because of a label like gender or ethnicity ? Who wants to be just like the 60 and 70 year older leaders who insist things have not changed ? Who wants to be stuck in the past ?
But what is the present ?
If I Can’t look to tradition, then where do I look to find my fit ? The magazines and TV shows that punt Hollywood consumerism ? Well, I don’t fit into that either. So who am I ? Where do I fit ? What happens if I refuse the labels society and tradition are forcing on me ?
I want to be the master of my own destiny but it is more than that, I want to feel confident and capable and able to manage any moment of any day - no matter what that moment might be. The problem is that until I find a strong identity I have no voice. How do I react ? Who do I look to for guidance ? Where are my role models ? All I felt was lost, desperately trying to be who the person in front of me wanted me to be, trying to find out who I should be.
The more I searched the more lost I felt and then it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t need to fit in. What if I could choose for myself who I am ? What if this was not so much a process of finding myself but a process of defining myself?
I tried it out in one of the most disempowering situations I have ever been in - watching my husband-to-be battle to recover in hospital after a bad car accident. I was held hostage by the nursing staff – if I complained they stopped even pretending to care and if I didn’t complain, they would not step up their game and actually give him the care he needed. In desperation I phoned my life coach and she asked me the question that changed my life, “How I wanted to feel ? “
Suddenly I saw a way out of the darkness. If I knew how I wanted to feel, then I would know who I wanted to be which meant I would know how to react, what to say and to who. It wasn’t easy by any means, but it was strangely liberating knowing that every decision I was making wasn’t based on what my vague idea of what I should be doing. I could not control the outcome, but I would know that I had stepped up and done what I needed to do to have no regrets no matter what.
Perhaps you are one of the lucky one’s with a very clear sense of who you are and so how to act and react and manage every moment of your day, but if you are not, then why not start to choose ?
Why not choose how you want to feel ? Why not choose who you want to be? It doesn’t matter who you were or who your parents were, in fact, the past doesn’t matter at all in this process. What matters are the decisions you start making now! What matters is this moment, the present because your present becomes your past.
It is not about who you are now, it is about who you want to be, so get that clear in your head. Find the emotion you want to be feeling and then do whatever it takes to create that. You have nothing to lose, so why not start to find yourself by choosing yourself.