Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Be Bea"

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin utilizes one commandment of hers in particular very often:

"Be Gretchen"

She talks about how "you can change what you do, but you can't change what you like to do" and "just because it's fun for someone else doesn't mean it will be fun for me"..

Now when I first encountered this commandment in the book, I have to admit that it just flew over my head. Everyone's so used to hearing "be yourself" and it didn't register to me how this could mean something different.

But as I read through the book, understood Gretchen's personality more, I began to understand how she uses this saying in a way that's actually novel.

One day as I was waiting for Jessica to come join me for an interview, I sat down with the book, and got to thinking about my own journey in knowing myself. I put the book down and asked... "What does it mean to be Bea?"

Being myself under the domain of "be yourself" is easier to imagine: it's the absence of pretense, the absence of having to act differently than what is natural. But being myself in the context of "being Bea" I found, quite surprisingly, to call for something else:

It means knowing my particular interests and limitations in a less compromising way. It deals more with decision-making in matters that affect the way I spend my time than simply confidence in carrying myself around people.

What am I naturally interested in? Without calculating it against what's "best" or "smarter" or more "efficient"?

I have a very adaptable nature, and through the years I can really see how much I've grown away from what was natural to me towards what I found to be ideal. And I'm happy about the changes I've been through. I'm happy with the direction I'm going. So there definitely is room for compromise here. A harmony to be made between who you are and who you want to be.

There is also a lot of room for paradigm-changing. When I was younger, I really couldn't care less about current events or anything that involved numbers. I was in my own world, feeling comfortably detached from the rest of society. As I grew older, I began to see the significance and importance of webbing myself into the tactile world around me instead of making my own rules all the time. I found that knowing my place in this made-up world gives me more direction. It roots me with the needs of people, and connects me to what's in them that isn't in me so that I may be able to relate to them more. As soon as I saw news and money as being about people instead of about made-up powers and numbers, it started being more interesting to me. I still have problems with the formal terminology and whatnot, and still find a lot of things about them boring, but I'm more open to the whole thing now than I've ever been, and although on the surface it may look like a step away from my nature, it actually brings me closer to being able to use it in a way that makes a difference.

However I did notice that there are a couple of things that I've drifted away from under the pretense of growing out of them, even though that now that this whole concept has come to my attention, I look at them openly and realize that I'm still interested in them. I'm interested in clothes, for example, in make up, and dancing. I'm interested in people who are strange and outgoing. I love knowing all kinds of people, not just the ones that make big ripples in history, but anyone who has paved their own way, however small. Just because I won't want to be like them doesn't mean I don't like them. I'm a silly person, and I like silly things. I just didn't "see the point" in some of them anymore, but now I see that that doesn't necessarily matter, so long as I like them.

There is still some road to be covered in learning which things I like to do vs. things I only like the idea of doing. But I'm still young. I'm slowly learning and accepting things that aren't as fluid in me as the rest of me. I may be very fluid but everyone, including myself, have certain polestars in their personalities that will relatively stay the same (even though I know some people who vehemently assert that they're completely fluid; which shows a lot of what their polestars are, really.)... So far I've learned that I'm more introverted than extroverted, and that my feelings tend to get the best of me (a part of my nature that is already largely being regulated by what I nurture in myself, thank god) and I'm the kind of person who likes to try stuff on. Clothes, personalities, skills... This may be part of why I find it hard to identify myself. I tend to be the butter and not the bread. But things are changing in how I see things, and when I was sitting there at the coffeeshop waiting for Jessica, I imagined myself as an old lady sitting on one of the seats in a few decades, and for the first time I could imagine myself being content. I could imagine myself already knowing which routes I like taking, how I like my coffee best... I can imagine myself settling into something that's mine. Seeing my life, knowing that this is my husband, these are my kids, this is my home, this is my expertise, and recognizing myself in all of it. Actually settling and being happy about it.

I have to keep doing this thinking exercise if it will ever make a difference, because I do want to change the way I habitually think, and that's something that needs to be tackled on the subconscious level. So I'm summing up some guide questions for myself to make it easier in the future:

To be Bea, Bea must seek what it is to be Bea.

Questions to ask myself...:

  1. in social situations: What feels natural to do if I wasn't afraid? What's the way to react to this situation which will leave me feeling most comfortable, but also less troubled afterwards? Negotiate between the introvert and the opinionated justice-leaguer inside. Calm and assertive. Cesar style.
  2. in choosing an activity: Do I actually find this fun? Ask yourself what Gretchen would. Do I look forward to it? Enjoy doing it, and feel revitalized and not guilty afterwards?
  3. in framing your mind towards knowing what you like and don't like: Without looking at anyone else's feelings about it, do I like it? According to my own judgement and feelings? Does it make my eyes sparkle? Does it make me yearn for more? Is there a way for me to see this thing differently (if it's something "boring" but I find useful/beneficial to my greater good) ?
In the end I'm very lucky that I am able to be sincerely interested in a wide variety of things. At least compared to Gretchen. I can find enjoyment in most things. The problem is that there's so much to choose from and I usually end up staying in the sidelines watching the interesting stuff happen instead of collaborating in the world's beautiful madness. I still have this aversion to doing anything that's actually beneficial afterwards. I'm not sure why. But that's another story!

At the start I didn't pay much attention to this commandment, partly because I can't really take "Be Bea" seriously because of how funny the two words sound together. They sound redundant."Be Gretchen" sounds like something you can trademark, or use as a catchphrase for a TV show. But "Be Bea"? Too silly. But in the end I realized, so am I! Maybe that's the point.

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