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  • Darci Daniels

You're Not Broken

My ego told me not to eat this gelato. She's a bitch. I didn't listen, because when in Rome... (no, seriously, I was in Rome!) :)

I’ve started to write this article 3 times, and each time it turns into writing about my anxiety. But that’s not what I want to write about, I want to write about something entirely different and more positive – I want to write about un-becoming. The process of un-becoming who we are not. The idea that instead of being broken and needing to be fixed, we simply need to shed the layers of stuff we’ve been told about who we are and what we should and shouldn’t do and who we should and shouldn’t be. We don’t need to change or fix anything, we just need to, like my favorite writer Glennon Doyle once said, un-become what we are not. She said most of our lives we work on creating who we are, doing what we’re told, and becoming who our family, teachers, friends, and the world tells us to be… and then often in our 40s (although you can do it whenever), we start shedding all those layers to un-become who we are not, and find who we really are under all of that stuff. Like Russian nesting dolls, she says, getting rid of the hollow outer layers, until we get to the solid core of ourselves.

I don’t know about you but hearing that feels like a breath of fresh air to me. There are a lot of people who inspire and educate me that’ve talked about the importance of un-becoming, including my coach/teacher Martha Beck. She often speaks about how the brain works, and how we can disbelieve our thoughts and create new – and better – brain ruts. Our thinking typically follows the same patterns, the same physical synapses, and the same path in our brains, over and over again… and often it isn’t helpful for living a happy life, unless we’ve deliberately cultivated positive brain ruts. Instead it’s full of ego, fear, anger… it’s full of what everyone else says we should be or do or have. American advertising companies alone have given our brains great material for this! But research has proved we can create new paths in our brains, with some work. New habits of thought, new synapses firing, can get us out of our old, painful brain ruts. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

This is a rich and vast subject, and this is just one small blog. (In a later article we’ll look at some more practical tips for un-becoming.) But, for now, I’m choosing to look at one small slice of it, just the correlation between un-becoming and the resistance that arises. Namely, our ego -- which loves to get in the way and pretend that it’s in charge. During our un-becoming, our ego wages a battle to be seen and heard, and to not go quietly. Why? Because in the process of un-becoming and getting to the core of who we are (which is made up of love and peace and a bunch of other great feeling stuff) the ego becomes superfluous. When we stop believing everything the world has told us about who we must be, when we dare to believe different, it’s like telling the ego it’s wrong, it’s always been wrong, and it needs to die. At least, that’s how the ego sees it, and that’s when the resistance to change arises, since there’s nothing like a threat of “death” to open up a huge amount of fear! All the fear your ego can muster, everything it can throw at you it will. Your ego voice will say things like, “you’ll lose your job, your lover, your friends, your family will hate you!” – and that’s just for starters. When you start to hear the real resistance – “you’re going to die alone, penniless, with no one and nothing left, everything you’ve worked for will be gone and everyone will hate you, but you’ll also be forgotten!” – that’s when you know you’re on to something good. Wait, what?! You’re telling me being scared and panicked that I’m a loser means I’m on the right track?

Oh wait, maybe this is about anxiety.

Here’s how this works: with every should or shouldn’t laid on us by the world, our ego gains strength. It also starts to identify as the One who told us this in the first place, so when someone else outside of us tries to contradict the ego later with positive information about ourselves, our brain is all, nu-uh, I know better! For example, if you’ve gotten the message during any point in your life you’re not good looking enough (which, I’d venture to guess that everyone aside from Brad Pitt and Cindy Crawford have gotten this message at some point or another, since we’re all pretty damn awkward during the early teen years), then when someone you love, like your mom, or your partner, tries to tell you you’re fantastic looking, what do you do? We say pfft, you’re wrong! Or you’re biased, you’re just saying that because you’re my mom! It doesn’t mean it’s not true, but damn if the ego isn’t going to hold on to that story for dear life. It is one of a variety of painful, negative messages you can shed when you’re un-becoming… but you’re going to have to go up against your ego first.

People think ego means you think too highly of yourself, believe you are better than others, narcissism, asserting your superiority, etc. The ego is sometimes that, but its best trick is it also does the opposite. The ego is also the one beating you up, telling you you’re not good enough, telling you you’re a loser and will never amount to anything. It gets very good at playing both sides without you realizing what it’s doing. It’s actually the best devil’s advocate there ever was. That’s why, when you’re tearing yourself down, you don’t think it’s your ego. But it is. Just like when you judge other people, or compare yourself to them and come out the “winner”? Also your ego. It’s a trickster, which is why we rarely identify the ego as the problem.

This is why, when you start un-becoming, especially when you consciously decide you’re going to continue your journey to a more authentic you, your ego starts to fight back. With the fire of a thousand suns. That’s the resistance you feel. Its job is to try to convince you to stop, it’s too scary, go back from where you came and forget about this journey. To disbelieve the rules we were always told were fact, to reject the idea that we are less than or more than anyone else, causes our ego to think we’re in danger. Every time we choose love over fear, the ego panics. Every time we choose grace over judgement, it panics. Every time we choose compassion and forgiveness over the need to be right, it panics. Every time we choose kindness over righteousness, the ego panics, and each time it panics it pushes back so forcefully it actually causes us to forget who we really are at our core.


This is also why, I believe, meditation can work to get us back in touch with our genuine, loving, peaceful self. What I like to call your essential self. Meditation quiets your mind, which lulls the ego into a false sense of security that it can’t be hurt. That’s when we can actually hear our essential self, our core self, our soul, speak to us. The ego is loud, the soul is quiet. Several things can be meditative, it’s not just sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed. If you love to mow the lawn, that can be meditation. Going on a walk in nature is something people point to with frequency for getting back in touch with yourself. Sitting by the ocean, knitting, dancing freely… even taking a shower. Have you ever had brilliant thoughts when you’re in the shower that as soon as you step out, seem to disappear? Yeah, that’s why they make a waterproof recorder for the shower to capture those thoughts. (Seriously.) The point is, anything that brings you quiet peace and centers you, that is somewhat repetitive and isn’t too distracting, can pull you away from your ego long enough to feel that resistance fade away and allow your essential self to speak to you.

I recently wrote about a huge ah-ha moment that happened for me while I was driving. Not exactly meditative, but there’s also a school of thought that practicing non-resistance while doing something that requires a lot of concentration, like driving on a freeway in traffic, can also work well for getting in touch with that still, small voice. It often happens to me while I’m driving, and thank God for the voice memo feature on iPhones.

Back to un-becoming… I don’t know what this will look like for you. I know for me it involves A LOT of resistance from my ego, a lot of anxiety, and some panic attacks (well hello anxiety, my old friend). The one thing I always seem to forget, until I finally remember? The resistance, the ego, the horrible things I say to myself ad nauseum, are actually reminders I’m on the right track. It’s like a game of hot and cold… if I wasn’t confronting the thoughts and beliefs that are holding me back (hot), my ego wouldn’t be engaged. If listen to my obnoxious ego and back off (cold), it cools off and quiets down as well (unfortunately it also makes me feel horrible). But when I’m challenging the status quo, un-becoming who I was told to get back to who I truly am, trying to live as my authentic self, the resistance roars up and the ego gets as loud as it possibly can. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me, and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m broken. It actually means I’m getting closer to peace, to ease, to living the authentic, joyful, positive life I want to live. I hope this serves as a reminder to you, as you are on your journey, that while you’re IN IT, your ego will try to keep you in the muck, try to turn you back to “safety”. Don’t listen to it but hear this instead – you are loved. You are worthy. And yes, you can change, but you don’t need to be fixed. You are perfectly imperfect, exactly as you are. And you’re doing something right if your ego is telling you turn around… keep going. Keep un-becoming.


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