Babies are full of light. Their whole being is brimming with aliveness, eyes shining with wonder, hearts filled with love.
As babies, we follow our curiosity to explore the world around us. We may fall asleep on the floor regardless whether it is time for a nap or not. We don’t get bored or worried about our future, we just are.
So, what happens? How exactly do we lose our light and that insatiable zest for life? In the following, I am going to describe the steps most of us go through while growing up.
How We Learn to Shut Down
Babies know no boundaries. They are full of life and ready to explore the world around them at full force. If you ever had a toddler flip out at the checkout counter because she did not get what she wanted, you know what I mean! Kids don’t know the rules.
Between the ages of 1-2 the one word a toddler hears the most is ‘no’: No, don’t climb on the counter, don’t open the door, you can’t put that in your mouth, and don’t make a mess with your food.
Rules are important, don’t get me wrong. The tricky part is that while we learn them we lose a little bit of our juice. The magic starts to fade.
We learn to behave, we start to fit in. Soon we find out that loving everybody unconditionally can hurt when people don’t love you back. So, we close off our hearts just a little and love becomes conditional. Going to school is a whole new experience. All of a sudden we have to sit still and find answers to problems. We would much rather run around and experience the world with our senses but now we get conditioned to see the world through our mind. We learn quickly. Knowing the right answer gets rewarded so we get really good at finding out what the teacher wants us to know.
We also learn how to compete. Who has the better grades, who’s the strongest, the fastest, the prettiest, etc. Instead of playing together we start playing against each other. And instead of thinking with curiosity, we learn to think in a linear way: Solutions to problems, answers to questions. And on it goes.
During puberty we don’t ask the really interesting questions because people tend to act just a bit strange when we do. There seems to be something weird about sexuality. So, we shut down our passion and hold back our love.
Finally, around the time we leave school or college, life flips upside down and we enter the world of worries, fear and scarcity. Our strong trust, that everything will turn out well and that life is meant to be enjoyed and savored, vanishes. All of a sudden, we feel scared. What if things don’t turn out? What if we can’t find a job, don’t make enough money, etc?
From that moment on we start to make decisions based on fear rather than trust and life becomes a struggle. We compromise and in the process we become someone we are not.
You Are Not Who You Think You Are
Unless you are brought up in an environment that allows you to explore and to follow your innate curiosity, you will by and by turn into the person you think you should be, someone your environment will approve of. You start bending your character a little, you withhold your passion, tell others what they want to hear, and in general lose sight of who you are and what your unique purpose in life really is.
For the most part, that is how it goes. It is nobody’s fault, it’s how the system is set up. The good news is that in the last few decades things have started to change. More and more people are now designing life styles and businesses that bring out the best in everyone. Collaboration is replacing competition and play is the new work.
Finding out what lights you up and what you are passionate about is an important step on the way.
As always, thank you for reading,
Photo Credit: Alexander Shustov via Unsplash
Hi Karin, I liked your thoughts & I sincerely that as we grow up, we confine ourselves to our understanding of the society. We need to look beyond if we want to have joyful life like what babies have….
Your thoughts are – as always – very inspirational and help keep me focused on my journey to re-discovering myself and how I WANT to live.
You’re so right when you’re writing “We learn to behave, we start to fit in.” It takes time to learn “not to behave so much” later on and find a way to live your life where you can be YOU – I believe the need “to fit in” is just an illusion anyway.
Some of the most successful lives and revolutionary ideas were brought forth by people who didn’t fit in but rather chose to live an unconventional lifestyle.
Thanks for your great post!