Motivation is defined as “the reason one has for acting or behaving in a certain way” and “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something”. (Oxford)
What motivates you? Our motivations are vast and varied, different from and yet similar to each person. They’re typically pretty simple at their base level, not complicated or nuanced. But many people don’t take the time to think it through and examine their motivations, the reasons behind the things that they do. It’s just not something that we like to delve into, that deep work of looking at ourselves and our intentions and asking “why”. I like to think that I’m fairly introspective and I’ve only recently started thinking about these ideas myself. In thinking it over I would say that I’m motivated most by stability and validation. No matter the area of my life I examine, I find that these two central desires directly influence the choices I make and the course of my life.
I have an overwhelming need to stabilize everything in my life, whether it’s my finances, my relationships, my home, my job. I imagine that this stems from a childhood of very little stability, of moving constantly and never having a solid home or family or financial security. My family struggled with money, my parents fought often and I never felt like I could just relax and know that everything was going to be ok and taken care of. I say this not to blame or point fingers, I know that my mom did the very best she could with the best of intentions. But this lack of stability instilled in me a compulsion to seek it out in every part of my own life. Taking and keeping a job and career I despised because of the steady paycheck it delivered. Marrying my first husband and ignoring the neon warning signs because I was intent on providing a secure home and family for my daughter. Pretending that “everything is ok” when an issue should be addressed because voicing it might upset the careful, stable little world I’ve worked so hard to create. This need has made me into an obsessive control freak, constantly trying to orchestrate everything and everyone into the perfect little life that I’ve been striving to create my whole life. The irony is that if I look deeper, I find that this facade of stability is not real and in fact, it’s boring. Life is not solid and stable, it’s not something we can mold and control. My need to do so stems from the feelings of stress and uncertainty I experienced as a child but as I live and learn I realize that no matter how hard I work at it, life has ideas of it’s own and I have no choice but to roll with it. My desire to control everything only stresses me out and frustrates me, makes me feel like a failure when I inevitably can’t. Of course I fail, I’m in control of nothing!
I also have an overwhelming need for validation from others. I don’t know exactly where this need stems from, but I find that I seek it out in almost every area of my life. It’s the subtle little goblin in the background of all that I say and do, whether I want it there or not. When I’m talking to others I work to be funny, entertaining and wise. I desperately want them to like me, to think that I’m someone worth knowing. I find myself molding who I am to fit their needs, their ideas of who I should be so that they’ll accept me. It’s not that I change who I am or become someone false, just that I allow only the parts of me that I think are acceptable to surface while silencing the other parts of me depending on the situation. I can be a chameleon, able to fit into and thrive in whatever environment I’m in. And while this does bring the supposed validation that I’m seeking, it too is false because I’m not being 100% authentic at all. So often in my relationships, I push down my wants and needs and parts of myself in order to receive the love and acceptance that I crave. For some reason I always revert to the belief that the totality of who I am and what I want and need are not good enough, that if I am fully myself then they won’t like me or love me. It’s something that I’m acutely aware of and I’m working hard to rid myself of this habit. Authenticity and vulnerability are so important to me and I’m getting better at being comfortable in my own skin. The real me is dorky and silly, sometimes quiet and introspective. I have dreams and regrets, fears and questions. I think too much, all the time and I’m always eager to learn and discover and talk things over. I’m an imperfect mess and I’m starting to love and accept myself as I am. That’s the only validation I really need.
None of this is to beat myself up or shine a light on my shortcomings. I’m simply looking deeply into who I am and why I do what I do. Continually seeking self awareness and enlightenment about myself enables me to work from a place of love and acceptance and understanding. I can only truly understand the motivations of others if I first acknowledge and grasp my own. The only way to change directions is to open your eyes and see where you are right now.
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