Finding You, Fighting Projection
“I am not who I think I am. I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am.” - Jay Shetty
Read that as many times over as it takes in order to click. I dare you. Once it does, there may be an audible “WOW” that seeps out of your mouth. But until it does, you should not read on. I cannot communicate that idea with any more clarity or grace than Jay.
So much of life is based on our projections. Turns out that one of the greatest flops of modern science is that physicists have not even been able to completely prove that the material world is real. What we see may, in fact, be some sort of simulation or projection of reality. *Cue end to the scary existential conversation.
But our collective tendency to project matters most in daily, wildly unsexy ways. We spend so much time thinking about what others think. Our parents, kids, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and bosses.
Unless you are fully enlightened, almost everything you do is somehow based on what you think others think about you. How you are supposed to dress, whether you are on time to meetings, etc.
This state of perpetual projection causes us to experience immense stress and anxiety. We are, in essence, trying to live as multiple people. Home self. At-My-Parents self. Work self. Instagram self. At-The-Club self. At-My-Spouse’s-Cousin’s self. By-Myself self. The list goes on…
In each different environment, we meld with what we think is going on. We turn down or turn up in attempts to please whoever we think our “audiences” are.
But, alas, this melding, molding, and bending are all based on projection. WE are the ones changing who we are for others—based on our FAKE THOUGHTS of what they think of us. We are making a choice (conscious or sub) to shift even slightly here and there based on things that ARE NOT REAL. That, my friend, is bonkers.
The antidote is radical self-awareness. To really know who you are and begin to see in what minuscule ways you are limiting your love, joy, and potential.
How do we get there?
Here are some thoughts:
1. Start to pay attention to what’s going on in your body. You’ll know when you feel anxious, frustrated, angry, or depressed by noticing the physical cues. Once you notice, then you can make changes.
2. Journal. Previous posts document why I think this is needed, but to summarize: you need to get what’s out of your psyche on the page.
3. Do more things. Lean into discomfort and learn what you are capable of and how you react to certain things.
4. Spend more time with people that fill your cup.
5. Sit in silence. Sometimes you just have to be alone and feel it out.
6. Ask for feedback from someone you trust. Do they notice changes in you in X or Y context?
7. If there’s someone you talk to or something you need to do on a weekly basis that makes you feel like a less-than version of yourself, something needs to change. Do the thing.
8. Say the hard thing. Maybe you have a story that you need to share. Maybe you’ve been avoiding confronting a person in your life. Breathe. Count down and do it.
9. Any others? Comment below if you’ve got one.
From my perspective, the goal of life is congruency or alignment. It’s not to live in a world based in projection but to live in a world in which you can be yourself here, and over there, too.
Unless you’re the kind of person that laughs out loud in the middle of a funeral. If that’s you, you gotta chill out. ;)