Why do we do what we do?

By Anita Sheehan-Nutz

On August 4, 2021
When I was in my early twenties, I got into the habit of reading the newspaper every morning. To be honest, it often was a struggle...

Lots of the news did not even interest me or were difficult to relate to.  I often needed an extra cup of coffee to stay awake.  So, why did I even do it?  Frankly, much of it was to be able to take part in the conversations with my friends or fellow students.  I did not want to look stupid.

I wanted to fit in.

At around the same time, I became very unhappy with my physical appearance.  Magazines and TV ads informed me that I was too chubby and that I would probably never attract the right man 😊.  Action was required, so I joined a swim club.  I did enjoy swimming, but the sometimes cruelling practice sessions soon made me lose interest.  But I went anyway—every day.  Why?  Again, my goal was to look good in the eyes of others, to lose weight and to look like the girls in the magazines.

I had to grin and bear it – to fit in again.

And up until my late 40s, I often caught myself comparing myself with others, and worse, compromising my own beliefs and convictions at times just to seek the connection with others.  Little did I realize that in doing so, I would lose the connection to myself, my own beliefs, my reason for doing what I was doing. 

Luckily, I have come to my senses (with a little help from some friends) and things are lining up differently:

I have given up on trying to sound or come across as terribly informed and smart.  I read (almost) exclusively what I am drawn to and what resonates with.  I now read more than ever, as there is so much that genuinely interests me, and it makes me jump with joy when I learned something new and inspiring.

When I exercise I do it for the pure enjoyment of it (or because I know how good it is for my mood and my body).  I eat what I want to eat without ever counting calories again as I did in the old days.  Guess what?  My weight has stayed at the same healthy level for over 30 years.

In conversations with others, I really examine first where I stand based on my own experiences, convictions and values.  I can stay open-minded and accepting of others’ opinions, precisely because I value my own.  This does not mean that I become rigid about my own beliefs, but I can elegantly navigate what I feel is right for me while respecting the arguments of others.

To sum it up, my strategy today is to ask myself “Why do I do what I do?” The answer invariably leads me to following my authentic self.  I am no longer the weathervane that moves with the trends of our society; I can stay connected to who I really am.

It feels good to be me. It feels free.

My invitation to you is to examine every step of the way why you do what you do?  What is the real motive behind your actions?  To what extent is it aligned with you, your goals, the life you want to lead?

Chances are that simply asking that question will also open up new perspectives, perspectives that get you closer to who you really are.


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