Living Life on the Coattails of Others

In our development, as we grow through our lives, the structure of our beliefs becomes very complicated, and we make it even  more complicated because we make the assumption that what we believe is the absolute truth.

– Don Miguel Ruiz

I was walking with my two boys the other day, and we were conversing about this and that.

The specifics of our chat allude me now, though one thing stands out and was brought to the surface when I read the above quote from Ruiz this morning: Question everything you’ve ever been told, find your own beliefs, and then, once you’ve found them, question them again.

The challenge in doing this, for me, is to be honest—brutally honest. Why do I have these beliefs? Where did they come from? Do I even believe this? Do I have any other beliefs that contradict this belief?

The last question is an interesting one, because sometimes I do find that with one circumstance I will believe this way and in another circumstance I will believe that way. If both ways were believed at the same time, they would contradict one another.

“Question everything I tell you,” I say to my boys.

Maybe not everything right now, while they’re still living under my roof; at least, not certain home-boundaries, like when to come home and courtesy and respect, but definitely all the other random things they pick up from me and their dad and the world around them.

Even simple things. For example, when I was sitting down to pick out paint colors for my house. I started with some base colors, but then I sat and questioned myself on why I liked those colors and so on.

What was interesting in my quest of trying to get real with myself, was that I found I was picking colors that other people liked. I wasn’t picking colors that truly connected with me at all; no wonder those other colors never felt quite right.

I found paint colors that spoke to me, that created connection and comfort. Now each room in our house is a different color, and I love it! Choosing my own colors took a deep honesty I had to dig for, and it also required me to set aside what I thought others might say or the possible unsolicited comments that might come when people visited.

What I’ve found most useful from reading Ruiz and studying his work, is that my belief system for a number of years was made up of other people’s beliefs and ideas. I rarely if ever had my own true thoughts and beliefs. I was living my life on the coattails of others.

An important question for me is, “What do I believe about this?” It’s important for me to ponder and search my heart, whether I’m dealing with politics or which direction to put the roll of toilet paper on the holder.

Asking myself questions about my beliefs doesn’t mean I can’t learn from others or choose to believe the same as they do. I just need to be mindful that I’m consciously choosing what I’m going along with.

Basically, to make a conscious choice is to layer my decision with gathered information, not just a random, “Oh, you must be right, because I really like you, or I want to please you, or I want you to like me, or I want you to do something for me, or I was raised that way,” and so on.

As I move through my life, I change, as do others and the world, and with that change my ideas and thoughts are flooded with new information and new possibilities.

Just as a clerk adds new files to filing cabinets, I must do the same: assess what’s needed and relevant and archive that which has passed its prime.

 

 

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