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Why We Are the Way We Are

You can't change yourself, accept everything & other lessons from Landmark Forum

I have a confession. I’ve had writer’s block for nearly three years. It may not seem like it, considering I’ve been writing in this blog for at least once a month since 2010 and have penned many many journal entries and stories floating around in drawers at home. I guess you could say it’s not your typical writer’s block. I can write, but what comes out is rarely meaningful, moving, or inspiring – at least not to me.

A lot of it is superficial, hastily edited, and sometimes, unfinished. I don’t take my time with things and rush just so I can click publish or send.

Why do I do this? Because I am bored.

Somewhere along the way, during my late 20s, I discovered I was bored with everything – my relationships, my career, my hobbies, even my writing.

Remember when I wrote about how I killed my own dreams? And then I came up with some punchy ways to fix and change that behavior, like toughen up, stop comparing myself to others, and just deal with it?

I practiced these strategies for about a day and a half before realizing what a pile of crap it all was. I gave up trying to inspire myself and regressed to the comforting ease of boredom and being dispassionate.

Since then, I learned something pretty profound: You can’t change yourself.

I don’t mean, you can’t change your body weight or your hair color. I mean, you can’t change your true identity.

I don’t mean, you can’t change your body weight or your hair color. I mean, you can’t change your true identity.

If you thought you were the “fat kid” when you were younger, you will always see yourself as the fat kid, even if you are a super skinny runway model.

If you thought you were the attention-seeking middle child when you were a kid, then you will always feel like that person into adulthood, even if you end up with a boring desk job in marketing.

These are traits in you that are with you forever, and no amount of self-help or plastic surgery will help you “change” that.

So now what? What does that mean, exactly?

Now, here’s the crazy thing, that took me three days at The Landmark Forum to finally figure out:

Accept it.

Accept everything. The good, the bad, the ugly. Accept that you are selfish sometimes. That you are judgmental. That you are weak. That you are strong. This doesn't mean you have to embrace everything. It simply means, you accept, then move on.

And this doesn’t just apply to you and your own hang ups.

Accept the flaws and the strengths in others. Accept the father you’ve always resented, the ex-boyfriend you want to murder, the teacher who failed you.

We hold onto so much baggage in our lives — that sometimes, it literally paralyzes us from doing anything, especially moving on.

There’s a lot I could say about the Landmark Forum – after all, it consumed the last 36 hours of my life, but what I really got from it, was that I don’t accept things. I never have.

I dwell and linger about events that have affected me (both painful and delightful) – all the time -– and find myself stuck in moments that prevent me from living the life that I would like to live.

For example, back in the day, when I was trying to be an actor, I was at a producer’s audition (when it’s basically down to you and one or two other people) for a role on a major network TV show.

I gave that audition everything I had. I didn’t even know I could be that good. I cried real tears, because I was so in the moment.

And then, I didn’t book the part. This other girl, who I knew, got it instead.

It was devastating. It was one of the rare times I put my whole body and soul into something and I still wasn’t good enough. Perhaps subconsciously, or maybe consciously, that was the beginning of the end of my acting career.

I started to think, what’s the point of giving it my all if it gets me nothing?

The Landmark Forum doesn’t say, ”Oh, well at least you tried your best. That means something! Be proud of yourself.”

Thank God. Because someone telling me to be proud of something that destroyed me is pretty stupid and unhelpful, don't you think?

Instead, the Forum tells you: "You didn’t get the part. Accept that it happened. That’s the only thing that actually happened. Everything else is a story you invented about it. You are the one that called yourself a failure. You are the one that said that you weren’t good enough. You are the one that saw it as a sign that you were never going to make it."

Sure, things happen, but we are the ones who invent the stories around them.

Maybe this is common sense to you – and if it is, you are very lucky and just saved yourself the $550 it cost me to learn. But for me, it was a truly profound “a-ha” moment.

Maybe this is common sense to you – and if it is, you are very lucky and just saved yourself the $550 it cost me to learn. But for me, it was a truly profound “a-ha” moment.

There is no inherent meaning in anything. As humans, we invent meaning for everything.

A.K.A: We are meaning-making machines.

I’m reluctant to use too much esoteric jargon from the Forum, because I don’t want to weird any of you out or confuse you, but essentially, the phrase, meaning-making machines is an important one.

You can probably figure it out, but it means:

We attribute meaning (both good and bad) to everything in our lives, and we can’t help it. Just like a machine, this is what we do.

Again, what does this all mean?

Nothing! (sorry, bad joke)

It means that we stop ourselves from truly living, because of all the meaning we apply to everything from before. We tell ourselves, because we got hurt in the past, we can’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable again. Since we fell down one time, we will fall down a second time.

In other words, we pretty much just stop trying to do anything new, especially things we perceive as difficult.

When in reality, those events mean zilch, nada, nothing. It’s just something that happened. And if it happens again, so what? It happened again. It still means nothing.

But, what about the good things that happen? And the positive meanings we associate with them?

According to the Forum, the good stuff doesn’t have any meaning either. Which can be quite upsetting for people.

But I don't think the Landmark Forum is trying to tell you to stop inventing meaning. Earlier, we established this is not possible - remember, we are meaning-making machines, so that is what we do, whether or not we want to.

I think the idea is that we recognize that we apply meaning to things. And if you happen to like a certain meaning, then keep it. It's yours. Who cares if it doesn’t have meaning? If it makes you happier and gives you a reason to live, then by all means, hold onto it!

Rather, the message is that we don’t ever have to be hindered or trapped in our lives. We don’t have to beat ourselves up every time we make a mistake. And most importantly, we don’t have to stay down.

So today, I woke up – after years of writer’s block – and considered the possibility that maybe I could write something that would be meaningful (at least to me). Thanks for reading it.

Just a note on Landmark Forum:

The Landmark Forum was my first motivational seminar or seminar of any kind. (Seems they don’t make Saved By the Bell seminars).

I signed up for it, because one of my good friends, who I respect a lot, invited me to try it out. I saw that it had transformed her life in a really profound way. While I was skeptical about the whole thing, I was also curious. But more importantly, I wanted to experience something transformative as well.

I don’t think that everyone will have the same experiences there, which is why I don’t really recommend going or not going on the advice of one person. If something compels you to try it out (like it did for me), then I think it can be a valuable experience.

My only advice – be open for anything.

Follow me on Twitter: @thisjenkim