If you’d asked me as recently as a year ago which word I’d freely associate with the letter A, I’m 100% sure I would have said Authenticity.
I mean, that’s what we’re supposed to strive for, right?
Like many other terms (body positivity also comes to mind), authenticity’s been co-opted by industries which, to be honest, kind of promote the exact opposite. And so I’m purposefully stepping away from using this word as much as I used to.
Am I still aiming to be 100% authentic in my life, in my words and in my interactions? Absolutely. But I don’t feel like there’s a point in talking about it just as much.
Besides, there’s a much more daunting A-word that’s central to my life now — in this case, daunting is actually a good thing! — AUTONOMY.
Because here’s the thing: you’re a grown human being. Which means that you get to make all of your own choices.
You’re in charge of how you interact with the world. You’re in charge of your likes and dislikes. You’re in charge of your reactions.
You are NOT in charge of how others perceive you. Nor should you aim to take that kind of control. It’s a pretty basic principle: if we want others to recognize our autonomy, we have to be prepared to recognize theirs as well.
This can be more challenging than we expect. In a world where we’re used to following trends, to chasing after the next it thing, to espousing all of the behaviours of the groups we want to associate with, suddenly trying to figure out where external influences begin and where we end can feel a little dizzying, ESPECIALLY if we haven’t taken the time to do it in a while.
We tend to operate from a standpoint of “this is how it’s supposed to be,” and realizing that it may not be true, and that we have more freedom than we’re accustomed to thinking, can be downright scary.
What if people change their opinion of us? What if we’re no longer part of the in crowd? What if our choices turn out to be an unpopular option?
For me, that’s the beauty of it all: we are given a choice, and by the same principle, we’re extending the same choice to others.
Autonomy is a great lens through which we can reevaluate the different elements of our life. Are we the ones in charge? Are we trying to be in charge of things that don’t belong to us? Are we letting others take control of areas which should be ours?
This assessment is a very valuable one. It’s not exempt of discomfort (quite the opposite, to be honest) but it sheds an important light on how we operate: are we living our life deliberately, or abiding by a set of rules without questioning their provenance?
- How do we perceive ourselves and why (morally, emotionally, physically, etc.)?
- Why do we engage in certain activities (leisure, hobbies, fitness)?
- Why do we make certain food choices and what are the thought processes that motivate them?
- How do we show up in our friendships and what motivates us to do it this way?
- What kind of partner are we in our relationships and what does it mean to us?
- How do we choose to parent and why we do it this way?
- What words to we use and why (are these conscious choices)?
The list can obviously go on and on. While it can be tempting to shy away from the process — because, let’s face it, it does feel quite weird to ask ourselves those questions — it’s certainly worthwhile.
I make my own choices. You don’t have to make the same choices. You don’t have to like or approve of my choices. And I’m 100% OK with that, because I’ve developed the boundaries required.
Boundaries, now that’s a whole other topic… more on that later.
I’m curious, though: let me know what autonomy means to you. Is this something you feel you have a great deal of in your life? Do you feel like you’re making all of your own choices? Are you (perhaps without realizing it) trying to impose some of those choices on others? Let’s discuss this!
Want some of this straight to your inbox? Add yourself to my Special Crew (we’re the most welcoming crew ever!)