Choices follow us everywhere we go; they stalk and haunt us until we take our final breaths. When we’re thrust into the world, we’re given the gift, and the burden, of liberty; the ability and the duty to make of our lives stories which only we can write. Many decisions are made throughout our daily lives; from what we’ll have for breakfast to which train we’re going to take home. Most of our choices are inconsequential and don’t affect our lives in profound ways; but, then there are the others: the choices which shape our characters and define us. These choices are the hard ones; but, these choices, whether or not we acknowledge them, are inevitable. If we’re introspective, we soon learn that not deciding is, in itself, an act of choosing; an inescapable blind.
Rarely are we presented with these type of choices, and it’s rare that a choice can alter the entire trajectory of one’s life, but when these choices arrive, they have the power to change us and strengthen us, if we choose to accept their strength and make it our own. One of my greatest experiences as a therapist has been working with trauma patients, as I was given a front row seat to the great strength and resilience inherent in each of us. I bore witness to unimaginable trials and fortitude, and a front row seat to unimaginable growth; but, I’ve also learned that those who’ve experienced inexplicable pain aren’t the only one’s capable of growth through conflict and suffering; I realized that all of us were.
The great decision can be summed up thus: authenticity, speaking one’s truth, and asserting one’s boundaries or compliance, status quo, and being accepted by others. Sometimes, these factors are intertwined and one doesn’t have to choose between them; but at others, one has before her a seemingly unbearable conflict and a decision which can change nearly everything. To decide to be liked is to sometimes hide away and avoid, which is understandable and human. All of us run when we can’t seem to trust ourselves; but, then, in very rare moments, we’re able to stand up for ourselves or others and say that we aren’t going to tolerate it anymore. During those periods, as much as it pains us, we forgo the use of our facades and become authentic; we become ourselves. In those trying times, we build character. It is through inner conflict and volition that we become ourselves. The great decision can be of moral value or it can be one of assertiveness, if not some combination of the two. It has the power to afford us an incredible opportunity; but it’s our duty to take hold of it.
All of us have an innate need to be liked and admired; we all want to fit in. And it is this strong desire for acceptance that often precludes us from speaking up. We often think that we can’t do it, believing that the isolation would be intolerable; but, then, when we fight it, and when our needs and our values trump our desire for acceptance, we get in touch with ourselves and accept our own elusive worth. To speak my truth, to say that I’m not taking it anymore, is to say that I’m valuable, to say that I matter. Too often, we silence our inner voices, and too often, we downplay mistreatment. We assault ourselves in horrific, and yet commonplace, ways. It wasn’t so bad, he’s not a bad guy, she meant well, I’m too sensitive, I misperceived what happened, and so on and so forth. We convince ourselves that our truths are lies, effectively assaulting our senses and our reason, which comprise our core selves. It is in these assaults that we slowly kill whatever remains of our authentic selves. In the creation of the well-behaved and affable being, we destroy the traits which make us who we are, committing the worst sin of all. And in that destruction, we negate the potential for change, kissing any chance for progress goodbye.
The great decision is one in which we stand at a crossroads, having to choose between compliance and authenticity; between ourselves and our masks. And in that decision, an opportunity comes forth: the opportunity to become the person you were always meant to be: yourself.
“Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change.” – Bobby Kennedy