Are you a character in your life? Or the author?

A pen-pal recently wrote me that she spent five years of her life “living as a character, not as an author,” which side-tracked her life dream of becoming a writer.

Ouch. That hits right in the solar plexus! I do that constantly.

We’re all guilty of it, but do we realize we’re giving our power away? More importantly, how much do we model our identities on idealized pictures of who we want to be?

In my book I suggested that in order to be centered and whole you need to honor your true self. I’m learning that my true self is hidden behind layers and layers of who I think I should be, influenced by family, friends, media, and yes, definitely fiction.

I love living in a fictional world; my favorite characters and authors are my idols, they’re how I make sense of what goes on around me. And that’s perfectly healthy, in my opinion.

What’s not so healthy, perhaps, is basing my entire self-concept around my ability to match some fictionalized ideal stored up in my head somewhere.

Image from Forbes

You will never, ever, ever be whole until you know and love your true self. At least, the more I’ve focused on honoring myself, the happier (and healthier) I’ve become.

I’m not talking about self-care, self-worth, or even self-esteem. Those things are all well and good, but if you’re doing them for the wrong reasons, you’re still not quite there.

Japanese has a concept called ikigai, which is your soul’s purpose, your reason to jump out of bed in the morning.

Be the author of your own life

About the same time I got that email from the pen-pal, a friend asked me if I’d heard Taylor Swift’s latest album. I hadn’t, so I hopped over to YouTube.

I’ve never been a huge Swiftie, but I’ve followed her off and on since she started out. It turns out I’d missed two albums, not one, and I was amazed at the change — I instantly knew Taylor was finally living her truth.

Of course, she’s made wildly successful music over the course of a stunning career, but I’m not talking about monetary gain here. For the first time, it felt like I was hearing the real Taylor, the Taylor not bogged down by expectations, doubts, fears, or any other baggage so common to the creative process. Her newer music shows circumspection, ingenuity, and maturity. The energy is sparkling, and clearly the result of a creative burst.

All of us are subject to doubts, expectations, baggage, and other obstacles to living our true self, of finding our ikigai. When someone shakes off the blocks and steps into the light, it’s apparent to everyone around them. They wield an internal power too compelling to deny: when we’re the author of our own life, success is inevitable.

My own healing work has brought me closer and closer to my own ikigai, but I’ve still got a long way to go. Patterning my life on my favorite fictional characters is fine until it takes over my own identity; following the dreams of my parents, peers, mentors, or anyone else will never make me happy.

So, thanks to my pen-pal friend, I’m going to stop living as a character in my life and start living as the author.

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