What Does It Really Mean to Live Your Own Life?
“You’ve gotta live your own life” is a trope that might remind you of the 1960s! Yet, there’s profound truth embedded in what might seem like a mere slogan.
We can feel this impetus to “live your own life”, and the ways it has embedded itself in popular culture. For instance, through the time of the pandemic, and now in its aftermath, we have been hearing about “the Great Resignation”. Through the pandemic, many people have been actively leaving jobs where they faced burnout in precarious or stressful work environments. They have simply made the move, and gone on to other things. The popular imagination has been captured by the image of large numbers of people suddenly moving in the direction of what they want in life. As we have gone through this major life transition, it has evoked the question of “how do I go after what I really want?”
The inner urge to “live your own life” can powerfully capture our imagination. We can imagine going with our deepest inclinations, and being captivated by them, finding our lives suffused with meaning and value. There may be part of you that hears that persistent call to “live your own life”. But how do you actually do it?
“‘Live Your Own Life’? Well, Maybe If I Won the Lotto…“
In fact, the stock and trade of companies that run lotteries are fantasies that riff on the theme of “live your own life”. In the fantasy space of lottery advertising, people cavort unencumbered by financial and other restrictions, apparently waking up every day to live out whatever whim comes to mind. But is that really what it means to “live your own life”?
For most of us, living our own lives would need to be something more than random cavorting. Questions of meaning and purpose or value are fundamentally connected to what it means to live your own life. What is it that you ultimately value the most, or that has the most significance for you? It might take some genuine inner search, to find the value or meaning that would be central to the feeling that “I’m living my own life.”
What kind of things carry the greatest meaning and value for you? When do you feel that you’re most yourself?
Listening to Your Own Life
If you’re like most people, it may take some genuine effort to properly answer the question of what really carries meaning and value for you. Most of us are so bombarded by the busyness of our culture and the constant din of advertising that we find it hard to get to what really matters to us in a personal way. C.G. Jung writes of how he went through a prolonged period in the middle of his life where he was trying to get down to the depths of himself. My experience working with individuals in midlife transition suggests that many people have an experience that is not all that different.
Part of what makes this process more involved is that each of us has an unconscious aspect of our personality. This is not something broken or pathological; it is part of the overall richness and wonder of who we are. But it does mean that we have to try to understand and explore our unconscious selves, if we are to be genuinely able to truly live our own particular unique life.
Quite often, people will carry awareness of themselves in their unconscious mind that is partially or fully unknown to their conscious personalities. It is only when we start to listen to the voice of the unconscious, in our dreams, in our emotional reactions to others, and by finding ways to express our inner life that we can really begin to meet the challenge to “live your own life”.
Whose Life Is It, Anyway?
To live and to live out who we really are is our unique privilege. Seeking to compassionately understand ourselves and to live in accord with what has the deepest meaning for ourselves is one of the most important and valuable things that we can do. It can be of immense benefit to work with a supportive /a-midlife-transition on the great journey of “living your own life”.
Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,
© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)