I think I’m a good guy. A few will disagree, but not many. All my life I’ve worked hard to apply the virtue curriculum. I’ve studied ethics and religion, and lived accordingly. Again, I think the general consensus . . . good guy.
But growing up, nobody told me that working hard to get here — to be a good guy . . . is a recipe for toxic self-destruction. But I know now!

Here’s how it happened to me.
Pretty early on I assessed both this dangerous world we live in, and the personality tools I had to work with.  I decided that if I cobbled together an identity as “good guy,” or “ethical guy,” or “save-the-world guy,” I stood a pretty good chance of things going well for me.
I didn’t think those thoughts consciously at the time. Mostly, I just fell into them.
But even now, looking back, they sound pretty reasonable.

However, once I made that simple decision,
…the trap had been sprung.
…I was doomed.

false selfWhen we create an identity for ourselves to help us make it in the world, we invite in a double-edged sword. On the one hand, our homespun “self” really does help us survive and thrive. But on the other hand, when we think of it as our “self,” it is very difficult to know when to turn it off.
When I was “good guy,” I never knew how to shut down all that “good” work. I drove myself into a decade of exhausted, burned-out, suicidal, depression.

We create an identity to keep us safe in the world.
But when are we ever truly safe? We never are.
Inevitably, our homemade self has to drive us harder and harder.
It drives us many of us to feeling overwhelmed.

When can a “beautiful-person-self” ever take a break from being beautiful?
They need that identity to make it in the world.
When can “smart-person-self” not have to show the room she’s smart?
Or “compassionate-person-self” spend some energy taking care of himself?

Again, we create an identity to keep us safe in the world.
But when are we ever truly safe? We never are.
So inevitably, our homemade identity has to drives us harder and harder.
It drives us to the place we are easily overwhelmed.

Recently, I did a post on how debilitating it is to feel overwhelmed. It is so draining that we have to create coping strategies to keep it bay. One of our more common strategies is to shut down, turn away, and not offer even the small gifts we have to give.
overwhelmedWhen a whole community is feeling overwhelmed, a critical mass of us go into this shut-down mode. None of us offer the small bit we have to offer. Consequently, some really big problems go untouched.
One of the more toxic forces that creates these overwhelmed feelings – the unremitting demands of our homemade selves.

When can you stop being an achiever, if you are achieving so you can be safe?
When can stop pleasing people, if you are doing so to make it in the world?
When can you stop being super-successful-guy, when you are doing it to make yourself safe?

When are we ever safe enough?
When have we ever truly made it?
When are we ever secure enough?
We aren’t.
Fortunately, the spiritual tradition has left us a great truth.
We are not our homemade selves.
We are not the identities we craft for ourselves.
We are something deeper, something truer, something more real.
We are Divine Life. We are Divine Breath.
There is a place of true self within us – that exists at peace.
Access it, and we don’t have to be overwhelmed.

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