Why I Disagree With Tony Robbins

In the past few weeks, a digital poster of one specific quote has shown up a number of times in my Facebook feed. I’ve seen it numerous times before but it didn’t move me. In fact, I actually disagree with it. It did not sit right with me to share a message that I personally do not endorse, let alone disagree with, so I didn’t.

In the past week alone, this quote has shown up again. This time, it was shared by personal development gurus Tony Robbins and then again by Peak Potentials Training. Naturally, when a key person of influence and an organization whose entire business is about personal development are spreading a message that could potentially skew how people think about themselves, I feel compelled to say something.

Not long ago, I wrote about influence in Part 3 of the Help! Facebook Ruined My Life! series (to refresh your memory, go HERE to read the article). Today’s article is one example of taking personal responsibility in questioning the validity of what is being said by influential people. After all, right and wrong is subjective in nature. It is completely perception driven, artificial and man-made. A discussion of opposing views is necessary, I feel.

The quote in question is this—“Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself.”  I cringe every time I see that quote. It disagrees with every fiber of my being on so many different levels I can’t even begin to describe.

I personally find it quite amusing that many quotes have the tendency to spell out a message as either one thing or another. This one in particular often makes me snigger. Why can’t it be both? Why can’t life be a combination of finding yourself AND creating yourself? Why does it have to be only creating yourself? Who sets the gold standard for saying that is the only way to live? Who gets to decide that finding yourself is not necessary?

Here’s why I disagree with this saying—finding myself was a major part of my personal growth journey.  It was necessary and pivotal to paving the way to who I have become today. In the decade that I have spent finding myself, I have been humbled by many lessons life has taught me. One of which is the power of conditioning and programming. The other is the voice of the ego.

Human beings are not immune to conditioning and programming. In fact, that is how most parents raise children—through some form of conditioning and programming. When a child does something good, they are rewarded. When they misbehave, they are punished. That is how they learn what is desirable behavior and what is not. That is conditioning in its most basic form. It’s like giving the family dog a doggie treat every time he rolls over when you tell him to. Children are no different.

I agree that the function of parents is to guide children and to teach them to differentiate between what is right from what is wrong, and what is good from what is bad. But because parents themselves were also once children, they are also not immune to conditioning and programming. Throw culture, dogma, expectations and social norm into the mix, and we have a melting pot of all kinds of Do’s and Don’ts, all kinds of Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, all of which are relatives, none of which are absolute. But kids don’t know any different. They know what they know because that is what they have been taught by the adults in their lives. They become who they become because that is how they have been shaped by the adults in their lives.

You see, when I was a child, I knew exactly who I was. I was boisterous, loud, fun, funny and very expressive. Unfortunately, in my culture and upbringing, those were not desirable qualities to have. Good children are typified by those who are quiet, who never cries and who sit still all the time. I wasn’t a good child. In fact, my mother often scolded me for being bad. If I cried when I was in pain, she would tell me not to cry or she would hit me some more. When I spoke, she would tell me to shut up or she would snip my tongue with a pair of scissors. Over time, I was conditioned to be what she considers a good child. I learned to keep quiet, I learned to never cry even when I was in pain and I kept to myself a lot of the time because that was what good children do. All these qualities, I carried with me through to my adulthood but they were not who I am naturally. They were the artificial aspects created through conditioning and programming.

I suffered tremendously in my twenties under the weight of one question—“Who am I and why am I here?” Under the conditioning and programming of my upbringing, I had lost touch with that part of me who was boisterous, loud, fun, funny and very expressive. I was unmoved by emotional displays and was detached and not in touch with my own emotions. It wasn’t until I met the man whom I thought was my ‘The One’ and felt the pain of losing him that I began to peel off all the layers that had been slapped on the real me. Deep inside, buried underneath all kinds of past experiences, conditioning and upbringing is a soul who knows who it is and what it wants but it would forever lay dormant if I hadn’t gone on my self-healing journey to peel off all the artificial parts I had created for myself based on someone else’s perception of who I should be.

That was lesson number one. Lesson number two is the voice of the ego.

The voice of the ego thinks that it is in charge of making things happen in life. It believes that its actions are the only cause of specific effects. It believes that it is the only creator of its own destiny. I know now that the voice of my ego had been too arrogant. I know now that creation is not something I do on my own, it’s something I do in conjunction with the Universe.  If I was the sole decider of everything that happens in my life, I would have attained everything I wanted by now. I would have married the man whom I thought was my ‘The One’. We would be living in a double storey house in a neighbourhood lined with trees. We would have had a baby by now. But none of that happened. I tried to make it happen but it didn’t go according to my plan. If that doesn’t prove that creation is not a solo effort, I don’t know what does. Just because we are in the driver’s seat of our lives doesn’t mean we are the only ones steering the wheel. Thinking that we are the only one steering the wheel is the voice of the ego.

So, here are my two-cents, I think that life is about finding your authentic self, creating the life that you want while leaving room for magic to happen. I took it upon myself to amend the original poster to look like this:

What do you think?

To Finding Yourself,

Chiao Kee

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