I just watched Emily Esfahani Smith’s lovely TED Talk on how we can all live more meaningful lives (I cried a little). Emily says there are ‘four pillars’ on which a life of meaning is built: belonging; purpose; transcendence; and storytelling.
This is kind of self explanatory I think. We gain meaning in our lives when we feel loved, supported and accepted for who we are. THIS has always been my biggest problem. As an introverted, opinionated weirdo, ‘fitting in’ has never been my thing. My family was dysfunctional and toxic, I always found it hard to make lasting friendships, and my instinctive response to pain and rejection is to withdraw from all social contact (sometimes for years!). None of that has been conducive to a sense of belonging.
Emily says this is not just about finding a job that makes you happy. This is deeper. I think it’s about finding something you can do to make the world even a little bit better. Again, I have always been conscious that my life lacks purpose. I have no real interest in career advancement, I have no family… Meh, it’s all a bit empty and sad really (is it any wonder I got depressed!)
What is there in your life that raises you above the mundane? That takes you out of yourself? Here’s one pillar I’ve got nailed! I have many ways to transcend the everyday. On a small scale there’s reading fiction (or watching movies), and my rich and golden inner-life. More outward looking and healthful means of transcendence include: long distance walking; learning; travel; writing; being amongst green things. I’m all good for the ‘transcendence’ I think 😊
This is the most surprising, and for me the most exciting and useful of Emily’s four pillars. These are the stories we tell about ourselves. How we describe our lives, to ourselves or others. As you can see above, my story was pretty bleak and in consequence, my life had little meaning. However, after basically hitting rock bottom a few years ago, I decided (although I didn’t think of it in these terms then) to re-write the story of my life…
The new story of me…
I am kind and loving. I strive every day to be a better person than I was the day before. I understand pain, anger and loss, and know the face a person shows the world may not at all reflect who or what they truly are inside. This has taught me patience and forgiveness. I’ve tended to be self-sufficient but I’ve learned that people will offer help and support if I ask. I’ve also learned it’s better to live in the present.
I have a talent for communication which I’m able to utilise professionally, but I care deeply about a number of causes which I aim to support and advance through peaceful activism. Through this activism (and other means) I found a community of clever, caring and dedicated people who inspire me – and who have become my family and friends.
So, that’s some of my story right now – and I feel pretty good about it. Who knows how things will look in a few years? I am open to, and hopeful of, positive changes in future but I think, even if I roll along like this, I’m okay just as I am.