What do you think of when you read this title?

For some, their rights seem like a politically determined list of what they’re allowed to do. For others, they think of basic human rights, such as food and clean water. For others, they think of the Beastie Boys song. 🙂

When I encourage you to fight for your rights, I’m referring to your right to be human.

Let me explain.

As we grow up, we’re heavily affected by the culture we live in. We learn what’s good and what’s bad, what’s right and what’s wrong, and even what thoughts and feelings are appropriate and inappropriate.

While this is inevitable, there’s a problem. The problem is that many cultures have expectations that aren’t possible, not desirable, and not even really feasible for humans.

For example, in the United States (and many cultures), men are expected to be strong, confident, assertive, in charge, and never let anyone get the best of us.

That’s an impossible bar to strive for, and it’s just not possible for a human to never feel insecure, anxious, stuck or duped. Inevitably, we’ll feel all of these things, and then we feel self-critical and ashamed for being sub par.

There are dozens of subtle expectations that our culture places on us. These are conveyed by the news, movies, TV shows, music, schools, religious organizations, and your friends and family. Here’s just a small portion of some of the expectations our culture places on us:

  • You shouldn’t feel down or depressed.
  • You should be able to always see the positive in a situation (and then feel happy about whatever is happening).
  • You shouldn’t grieve over something for too long.
  • You shouldn’t feel sad for very long (if at all).
  • You shouldn’t be afraid, or worse a “coward.”
  • You should be a “real man” who is tough, in control of his feelings, and not “overly emotional” or “too sensitive.”
  • You shouldn’t be selfish.
  • You shouldn’t be dependent or “too needy.”
  • You should be able to be single and love it, you shouldn’t need to be in a relationship.
  • You shouldn’t be afraid of intimacy.
  • You shouldn’t feel self-pity.

The list goes on and on and on.

We’ve all absorbed dozens of these cultural dictates about how we should or shouldn’t be, and what we should think and feel. What’s worse, when we’re feeling one of these ways, others might subtly (or directly) tell us we shouldn’t be doing that.

“Why are you so sad? Look on the bright side!”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. There are plenty of fish in the sea.”

Do these phrases sound familiar?

So what to do? First, we have to fight for our right to be human.

We have to look at all of these unrealistic expectations put forth and take a stand. Others might expect me to be this way, but I will not. I will not punish or criticize myself for not living up to some unobtainable standard.

Furthermore, we must learn what it actually is to be human. What feelings, thoughts, moods, desires, and fantasies do I really experience? What would I be feeling if I let myself just be who I am?

A powerful practice to help liberate you from the shackles of an oppressive internal critic, and to help you break free from inhuman cultural demands, is to come up with your own Bill of Rights.

Stay tuned for the next blog to learn exactly how to do this!