One of the biggest things that shapes my world view is a belief that my life is not my own.
In some ways, that statement seems completely nonsensical. Because of course my life is my own. I mean, if it’s not mine then whose is it?
Am I not an individual?
Don’t I make my own choices?
When I get up in the morning, I decide how my day looks.
I can go into work, or I can call in sick. If I go to work, I decide how hard I want to work during the day. I choose what I want to eat – I can eat pizza pops and candy all day if I want. I can flirt with co-workers, come in to the office drunk or high, and pick up prostitutes. Hell, I can head into my bosses office and defecate on her desk if I really wanted.
I have those choices. I have that *power* (if you can call it that).
Based on all of the above it seems obvious that my life is my own, and I can do with it whatever I want.
Thing is, although I COULD do whatever I want, I don’t (fine – I’ve probably had days that I ate nothing but candy and pizza pops, but they’re rare. Never more than once a week).
Generally there is some thought process behind my choices; and 99% of the time this involves weighing my choices against my core values. Values that tell me doing things like flirting with co-workers, coming into the office drunk or high, picking up prostitutes and defecating on my bosses desk are BAD decisions.
I can’t say that I’ve ever wanted to do any of those things, but even if I did, they are choices that would potentially have long term implications on my life. And these implications don’t just affect MY life, but also the lives of the people around me. The people I care about.
See, my life isn’t just about me. My actions may be my own, but they impact other people.
I’m a father, and virtually EVERY decision I make has the potential to shape the lives of my children. Some decisions can radically affect their futures, but even for smaller decisions I need to model behavior to them that shows them how I believe they should live their lives.
In my mind, when I became a parent I gave up the right to focus primarily on me.
Even without children, the same rules apply in relationships. It’s one thing if all you want is to casually date. Casual dating is all about you, and what you get out of it. It’s the easy part – the “fun” without any responsibility. You see someone only when you want, and on your terms. You can focus on what you get out of that “relationship” and not actually care about the other person (side note, I don’t consider casual dating an actual relationship). And if they don’t like that? Too bad for them, you can move on and find someone else.
That approach to relationships works for some, but most people want more out of their relationships. Most people want at least some commitment from the other person. For that person to be faithful to them; and maybe to start building something with them. I think most of us like the idea of growing old *with* someone, and sharing our life with them.
For that to happen, things need to change. It can’t just be about you anymore. Relationships are about both people, and both people matter. Both need to feel valued, and heard. And for that to happen, the other persons needs/wants have to matter just as much as our own.
In a relationship, your actions are still your own. You are still an individual, and you can choose to do whatever you want. But your decisions impact your partner, and as a result you need to take your partner into account in the things you do.
You can still choose to do whatever you want, and not take your partner into account. But if you do that you are not respecting that other person, and you are not respecting the relationship.
Even if I don’t have children and I’m not in a relationship, I would still contend my life is not just about me. I still have parents, siblings and friends. I still have co-workers who rely on me.
There are ALWAYS people who are impacted by my actions and my decisions.
That doesn’t mean I have to live my life for those people. That doesn’t mean I *can’t* do what I want. But it DOES mean I should take them into account, and realize that my decisions may affect those people adversely.
Pretending I’m an individual who can do what they want without realizing my actions impact others is self-absorption. Thinking we are special, and we can do what we want because the regular rules of life don’t apply to us is entitlement.
In reality we ALL have moments of self-absorption or entitlement. It’s just a question of how often do we do these things, and how do we respond when we’ve realized what we’ve done?
To me, I am in control of my own life. I make my own decisions, and I do my best to deal with the impacts of those decisions. And I do that recognizing that while I control my own life, it impacts others. So I need to take others into account.
And in that regard, I accept that my life is not my own.