I spent many of my developing years perfecting the art of showing up the way others expected me to be. It never occurred to me to just be me. Honestly, I wouldn’t have understood what that even meant. I was too busy trying to earn approval from my parents, teachers, friends, and colleagues who told me how to act, speak, dress, smile, you name it. Like a chameleon, I found it easy to transform from one expectation to another.
I thought I was happy -- until one day in my early 30’s when my then-husband and I were in therapy to fix an unsatisfying 10-year marriage. When responding to a question posed by the therapist I shocked myself when I blurted out, “I feel like a fake! My whole life feels like a fake!”
In that moment, the expectation-perfection shell cracked. As Leonard Cohen wrote in his song Anthem:
"Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in"
I no longer wanted to live an inauthentic life of “perfect offerings.” I began to notice what drove my choices. Was I acting out of my ego need for acceptance from others? Or was I experiencing the soulful joy of acting from inspiration?
I left that marriage and my East Coast life. A few years later I moved to Boulder with my new husband, Glenn. The world of possibilities opened to me -- the light poured in. With it came a set of Agreements to guide my way that I later dubbed “Revolutionary Agreements.”
Four Agreements especially supported me to embody the truth of who I am.
I agree to live my mission encouraged me to discover my passions and live their essence daily instead of feeling victimized by the “someday” syndrome (“Someday I’ll…).
I agree to speak my truth with compassion gave me permission to say what is true for me, from a place of love. Sure I lost a friend or two, but I’d rather have one friend who loves me for who I am than hundreds of “friends” who like me for who I’m pretending to be.
I agree to look within when I react was perhaps the most challenging – and continues to be the most revealing way to know myself. When I have a disproportionate reaction to what someone else says or does, I now recognize it’s not about them. They have simply provided a mirror for me to see a part of myself I don’t like. I can then accept that part of me, forgive myself, or change if I choose. No longer am I imprisoned by someone else’s behavior!
I agree to keep doing what works and change what doesn’t. Seems simple, doesn’t it? Yet I discovered habits I had fallen into that didn’t work for me any longer (and perhaps never had). Learning how to change those habits gives me freedom of choice.
Like the Declaration of Independence, these “Revolutionary Agreements” serve me (and thousands of others) in experiencing true freedom.
On July 4 when the sky was alit with fireworks – and today when they are a fading memory – I gave and give gratitude for genuine freedom – the freedom to be me.
Marian Head is author of Revolutionary Agreements: A Personal Path to Peace on Earth, Gratitude Journal for a Healthy Marriage, and with Barbara Marx Hubbard, The Suprasexual Revolution. She is the founder of AgreementsInstitute, serving professional coaches and facilitators whose work fosters a better world. www.AgreementsInstitute.com