How should I feel?

Her wee eyes were bright, a smile spread across her face as she stood on the seat.

This two-year-old princess, all dressed up and ready for the flight, gave sweet welcome on a trip to Victoria, years ago. She was adorable, and obviously excited. Such joy!

Her father’s demeanour did not, however, match hers. His brow furrowed as his eyes met ours, and he shared his perspective, “This is her first flight. She’s nervous and scared.”

Her smile faded as she looked at her Papa; she sat down with reserve. She was learning how she was “supposed” to feel and act, and she’d had it wrong.

That was a life-changing moment in time, for the wee princess, and for me. She was learning how to respond to new experiences from one of her greatest teachers.

I suddenly became curious about how I’d been conditioned. I wondered how many of my fears, emotions, and habits-of-mind had been passed to me from previous generations. I wondered how these continued on, to influence my children’s experience of life.

This incident cracked my world open.

I was like the little girl. For much of my life, I’d lived and responded to life as I thought I was supposed to. I always thought I had it wrong when it came to my thoughts and feelings; they couldn’t be trusted. 

I was:

  • Horrified by what was supposed to be funny
  • Nervous when I was supposed to be happy
  • OK when I was supposed to be mad
  • Sad when I was supposed to be grateful.

I disagreed with things others seemed happy to go along with. I believed, for many years, that I just didn’t get it.

I quickly learned many of my true thoughts and feelings made others uncomfortable or angry when they were out of alignment with theirs. It seemed I had to conform to keep everyone around me comfortable.

Deeming my own thoughts, opinions, and feelings an inconvenience and often wrong, I shut them off and conformed to the status quo.

Others, who seemed savvier and more skilled in what was appropriate in a given situation, became my mentors in being an acceptable human being. It seemed safer to stay with the pack.

Too quickly, we learn to shift to the conditioned response instead of noticing our authentic thoughts and feelings; we become unaware of what’s happening within. We’ve learned to accommodate to what’s popular or expected.

Learning to sit and become curious, to make space for what’s truly within to arise, allows us to gain insight, and know what’s true for us.

It’s not that we react from our emotions, but we learn to question what’s true for us, and if it’s in alignment with our deepest values and beliefs.

It took many years, and a whole lot of inner personal work, to realize it didn’t stop with my feelings. I learned to limit my life based on the fears, values, feelings, and beliefs of other people’s life history.

I came to realize I wasn’t alone. Most of us have been indoctrinated by our families and the prevailing culture.

The prevailing culture isn’t necessary right, as we’ve seen too often in society’s evolution. Popular opinion is often wrong.

This conformity extends into workplaces and society, and is revealed in people “doing what they’re supposed to,” instead of doing what’s right.

In risking being real, I’ve made many deep connections with people who admit to not ever feeling or thinking the way they’re “supposed to.”

Living up to others’ expectations and accepting others’ beliefs caused them to limit their lives. So many cookie-cutter people, living cookie-cutter lives, doing what they think they’re “supposed to.”

It saddens me to see people succumb to the expectations of others, and betray their own values, wisdom, and desires. The personal cost is great, as living out of alignment with our personal values creates strife and sadness within.

It’s taken courage and deep inner work to get in touch with my own true thoughts and feelings, but it’s been affirming and liberating. It’s allowed me to connect authentically and more deeply with myself and others.

Waking up, living our lives based on our own wisdom, experience, and values leads to living a happier, more authentic life. For me, it’s led to living a life uncommon that’s been richer and more interesting than I could’ve imagined.

This is a time of great change and amazing possibility, if we get real. Learning to listen to and honour our own feelings, values, and inner wisdom leads to living a more authentic life; this is how positive change happens.

Our world will benefit, as we allow ourselves to get real and let our authentic lights shine.


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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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