‘Within each of us is another whom we do not know, and (s)he speaks to us in our dreams.’ Carl Jung
This quote nails it. He spoke to me in my dreams. My whole life from the time I can remember I dreamed of writing, I would write poetry from my heart but was graded poorly, I would write plays and ideas for television that were reality versus soap operas (which were popular at the time) to feedback that my reality was too heavy, to dreams of travelling the world learning about other cultures and making what difference I could, to thoughts that I was a poor boy from the ghetto who wasn’t worthy. However, beyond the conditioning of my unworthiness and the resistance that bullied me, sometimes into submission, was innate curiosity, a powerful desire to achieve it all, and the gift of resilience.
And one day I woke up from that dream to realize I could make it a reality, but what awoke with that dream was a monster that I call unworthiness. I was wearing a suit that I had purchased at a swanky downtown store, looking out of my office window and realized ‘this is not my life’. I had the car, the money, the loft, but somehow I felt an emptiness inside of me. A depression set in, a not-so-distant stranger. I’ve experienced this before, except last time it looked like a prison, was full of students and almost led to my death. But this time it wasn’t being inflicted on me by others. It was my own choices that led me here.
My choices were choices that were led by a desire to prove my worth. I chose to acquire everything that was perceived as success so that I could walk into my high school reunion (something like Romy and Michele) and say, ‘Look, I am worthy,’ ‘I’m the king of the world,’ ‘I’ve got the job, the money and everything that I need to look and feel powerful and you can’t take my worth from me anymore.’
My worth was from the outside (things), and in the process I had completely been disconnected from what was inside. Because success (worth) defined by the collective looked like money and things but what was knocking at my window as I looked out of my office that day was the truth.
My dreams, my true desires, my destiny was calling to me that day and because I was too afraid to listen, for fear of stepping outside of what I believed held my worth, I didn’t listen. I kept it up. I kept getting in the car, that led to the job, that brought me the money, that dictated my worth. And every day that knock would get louder and louder and my depression deeper and deeper.
I would spend evenings trying to suppress the voice with drugs and alcohol and long drives into the city wiping my tears. Until one day, the pain of remaining in a life that wasn’t my truth was more than the fear of being perceived as unworthy. And on that very day I sat in my office with my head down, and anxiety so bad I felt like I was going to pass out.
Thoughts were running through my head, ‘What would I do?’, ‘I won’t have any money’, ‘What will people think?’ and then I would go deeper, inquire to the depths of my soul. ‘Whose voice was this?’ And I remembered the book I had been reading that was the catalyst to a deeper self-awareness: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: ‘Be impeccable with your word,’ ‘Use the power of your word in the direction of truth’; ‘Don’t take anything personally,’ ‘What others say and do is a projection of their own reality’; ‘Don’t make assumptions,’ ‘Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings,’ and ‘Always do your best.’ ‘Under any circumstance, simply do your best.’
I closed my laptop, packed up my bag, went home and wrote my resignation letter. I spoke my truth with conviction, without the fear of how it would be received, and with no mind chatter about what would happen, how they would see me, or how I would be seen by others. In that moment I felt so alive, so deeply in connection with myself and with a sense of ease that from that day forth doing my best was good enough, and if that meant jumping from a corporate career that I felt defined my worth, and falling through mental purgatory until I found solid ground again, so be it. Because at that time what was most important to me was being impeccable with my word, and standing in the power of my own truth. Whatever that looked like. But what I knew for sure was that it wasn’t in that office.
Days passed by as my employer questioned my decision, and even questioned my sanity. But I was determined to follow my truth and embark upon the journey to defining my worth from the inside out.
Not without a lot of struggle. There were so many moments when deep panic took hold of me, leaving me feeling suffocated at times, not able to catch the breath I needed to survive. Day by day the reality set in as my bank account began to drain, as I watched the bills pile in from the life they used to sustain.
The pressure to cave in and go back became so strong, to surrender to the collective idea or worth versus having the courage to uncover my own. I watched everything fade away — the money, the car … and then finally the trip to the bank to bankrupt the life I’d left behind and embark upon a deeply spiritual path to discovering my own self-worth.
It was a journey not for the faint of heart and, had resilience not been my superpower, I’m not sure I’d be writing this today. However, whenever I have listened to the whispers (or screams … I was a little stubborn) they have always led me in the direction of my highest good.
Sometimes — ok, a lot of the time — I was kicking and screaming, and resisting … choosing ‘the school of hard knocks’. But looking back from the awareness I have now, and the fullness of my self-worth, which I’m still working on, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Even though my worth is challenged daily, I’ve gained the awareness to put my monkey mind into perspective, put down the poison and drink from my own cup of worth.