Do you sometimes wonder who you really are deep down inside? Do you get inklings of a life inside you that longs for expression in the world? Do you often feel that you have a contribution to make to the world, but are afraid that no one else is interested in your opinion? Do you feel like you have been conformed to the life roles that you have?
All of us learn early in life to play the parts we are expected to play, to learn the roles that are given to us by our parents, teachers and other important adults in our childhood lives. We become more or less adept at being able to conform ourselves to the behaviors that are expected of us in order to gain rewards and avoid punishments. And we begin to identify ourselves with the roles we play.
Most of us learned to act according to gender specific expectations in order to gain approval from our parents, especially, but also from teachers and others. Many of us became masters of the art of disguise. And mostly we did it unconsciously, picking up the clues along the way by observation and inference as we subjugated our impulses to the expected roles.
As we entered our adolescent years, we learned from peers what was “in” or “cool” in our desired peer group, and worked consciously to be like the others from whom we wanted acceptance. For many, this pattern followed them through high school and into college years where they sought out membership in various groups where they could “fit in” or conform to a common standard as a member of the group.
Throughout these years of growing up to adulthood, all of us received input from parents and others about what it meant to be an adult, opinions about how to find our place in the world. Most of these had to do with choosing a career that would be profitable to us and support us in our adult lives. Most of them told us that successful persons had good jobs, so we graduated from university and entered the world of work.
Some of us got married, and found whole new roles awaiting us, especially if we were religiously affiliated. Especially in conservative religious groups, gender specific roles tend to be an expectation for those who are married. And those roles and the expectations that come with them rarely take into account personal uniqueness.
Add children to the equation with the expectations of the parenting roles of mothers and fathers and we, usually gladly, accepted a new role with no idea initially of the demands that children would make.