“Follow your heart,” “Go with your gut,” “Find yourself,” “Speak your truth”—we’ve all heard these phrases ad nauseam. Each one is supposed to encourage us to live authentically and in line with our own wishes, desires, values, or ideas. Yet, we can also find it so very difficult and challenging to do so (or even to fully understand what doing so means).
First of all, what is our “heart” or our “truth,” exactly? And is it really ours? As someone who has taught in high-achieving environments like Yale and Stanford, it’s easy for me to see how one’s culture completely shapes what one thinks is “truth.” High-achieving students (and high-achievers generally) buy into the idea that “I am what I do.” They think their value stems first and foremost from their productivity—whatever shape or form that takes. As a consequence, their well-being depends entirely on whether they are getting rewards and achieving their goals: receiving A’s, successfully founding that start-up, getting a powerful internship, or landing that coveted leadership position. You are a worthwhile human being if and only if you are successful, powerful, or wealthy or have reached a certain status.
Many female students I have taught in my classes shared with me that—even if they are deeply interested in starting a family—the message they receive is inevitably “You can’t do that until you’re in your 30s or you’ll ruin your career.” No one would take them seriously if they admitted what they truly wanted—even though, medically speaking, the healthiest time to have a child may be in one’s 20s.
Continue reading the full article: Psychologytoday