In this world we currently live in, we are constantly met with distractions, distrust, and distraught by the divisions between us. Divisions internally are even harder to mend when constructing our sense of identity. Earlier last week I came across a very intriguing example of what I mean.
I was having dinner with a very successful entrepreneur who is a life and business coach. When talking to her she confessed many darker parts of her history like her drug addiction in her early 20's and an abusive stepfather that left her with the trauma she was still affected by. During our conversation, I started to realize a few things. For one, she had successfully compartmentalized her painful past into a separate identity. An identity of trauma that she cast outside the story of her. She wanted nothing to do with this reality. She wanted to talk about her accolades, all of which her assistant sitting beside her would sit looking at her with love and admiration. I came to realize something about her that helped lead her to success...
She had substituted the validation the cocaine and speed gave her with entrepreneurship. Helping others and speaking as a point of authority allows one to form a new identity separate from their past. When someone can get up on stage and say how you should live your life, it can lead you to believe they have always had their life together. We like to see continuity in our leaders, and she clearly knows this, however, there is a point where delusion becomes ineffective and it doesn't lend itself to the same idealistic or fantastical success story she wants it to be. By not accepting your painful past as part of the timeline that helped create who you are today, you are denying a whole part of your very existence.
One thing I found interesting is that when asked what she was most proud of, the 44-year-old woman didn't say her multimillion-dollar business or her husband, but instead she was most proud of her 4-year-old son. There's nothing wrong with having a son or of being proud of your son, however, it really brought me back to what's important in life. This woman in my eyes had accomplished so much and yet at the end of the day, we can be brought back to our very roots of being human and that's starting a family. In a way starting a family gives you a different identity that requires true selflessness, which is refreshing to a life that once prioritized selfish indulgences.
With this said, her primary concern with her son was raising him without the pain she experienced as a child. Tears formed in the corners of her eyes and she spoke of how important it was he did not know the pain she knew...I wish I knew what this feeling she was feeling was like so I could describe it, but I can tell you I felt pain, regret, and shame in her voice as she was saying these things. It made me wonder if she had ever really gotten through her issues and trauma. Well over an hour into dinner it seemed she didn't like her past self who worked in the nightclubs and did lines of coke and delirious amounts of speed. Her selfishness, which is usually a way to fill a hole in one's heart, had become a source of shame in this woman.
I know what these drugs feel like because I was once addicted to them as well. Many equate cocaine and speed, or Adderall in my case, as simply a euphoric and energy-releasing substance. However, I know the feeling of absolute self-love these drugs can give you. These drugs can actually allow a person who believes they deserved their trauma to love themself and begin to love participating in both theirs and others' best interests and lives. For a short wonderful while you become your number one cheerleader. That is powerful stuff. Almost like the feeling of a crowd cheering you on stage...do you see what I'm getting at?
Substitutions of bad habits are dangerous. Many don't find entrepreneurship or another healthy outlet for their troubles. Sometimes they instead find other drugs like alcohol or downers that cause you to not care about your past. See uppers can almost make you feel like you've solved your problems and it feels genuinely amazing. Once you realize this can't keep going on forever, the next best thing is to drown out the pain. If you can't beat it, run from it...do you see what I mean?
This brings me to my main point in this article. It is not worth it to become successful if you have not first checked on your mental health. This is a dangerous move in fact as we move from an identity of shame and regret to an identity formed on being such a workaholic that you don't have to feel. These tears this woman in front of me were shedding were real, and they came so fast that it was obvious those tears weren't just being shed at that moment, she had always felt this way and just a few memories being opened allowed those tears to come out. What I mean is that you will be living on the run instead of living in contentment or peace. If you value peace and contentment, do yourself the favor and work on yourself as much as possible before life becomes too hectic and before the distractions in our divisive world start to divide you emotionally. You deserve to embrace your entire story: the good, the bad, and the painful. Suffering does not lower your value you, it is showing you what needs to be worked on and if you can do that, the success you later attain (for whatever success means to you) will feel absorbently more genuine, and more...you. Continue to think differently.