In a great 90’s movie, “City Slickers”, the weathered and wise “Curley” torments Billy Crystal’s character by promising the answer to one of life’s greatest questions…”What’s the meaning of life?” Even my ears perked up at the thought of this answer somehow being delivered by the end of the movie. Eventually Billy Crystal’s character does come to his own understanding of the answer to which Curley alludes – “one thing” he says. But I personally remember walking out of that movie mildly frustrated that I did not have a concrete idea of my own “one thing.”
Years later I’m still intrigued by the question. My answer is still in development, as yours is perhaps.
When we feel too fuzzy about what makes us “us”… when we haven’t clarified and in some cases chosen between the contradictions that often exist within us….life can feel frustrating. You might struggle to feel satisfied in your career or relationships. But the most important thing to remember is that satisfaction…your meaning of life….is not “out there” to be found.
Life is full of tradeoffs. As our western culture has evolved, a strong sense of personal identity that provides a guide to life’s decisions is becoming more of a premium than a standard. Commercialized childhoods (and adulthoods for that matter) encourage us to idolize fictional characters or idealized lifestyles rather than create and develop our own unique identity and mature belief-system. With so much encouragement to focus outside ourselves for direction, no wonder many people end up feeling ill-equipped to handle the real world in clear way. We often evolve into a habit of ignoring the inner cues that could direct us to choices that are authentic.
Turning attention around to ourselves and our full experience is the first step. We must intentionally build our self-awareness and boundaries so that we can see our ourselves in a defined and purposeful way. When we have boundaries to our attention that include ourselves with self-compassion, we can begin to feel our authentic identity.