We Are More Than What We Do: Allowing Our Authentic Nature to Shine

Light Will Guide You Home

“The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is.” ~Unknown

In this society of ours, parents teach their children to do, to perform, to produce. We learn that to be adult, we need to be “productive members of society.” At social gatherings, more often than not, the first question among strangers is “What do you do?”

My first memories include identifying so deeply with my movie director father that when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied, “A writer and director.”

Then life happened, and I spent decades acting out the painful and abusive relationship I had with my mother. Although I wrote almost daily, my life settled into a hand-to-mouth survival existence that had nothing to do with writing.

A string of abusive relationships with men took the place of my unresolved relationship with my mother as I continued to act out the trauma of my youth in a repetitive cycle, all the while trying to keep a roof over my children’s heads and food on the table.

All thoughts of any kind of career fell away and were replaced by anxiety, depression, and the urgent need to pay this month’s bills.

When my mother died, much to my surprise she left me everything she had in the world, and I was able to buy a home and live for several years without worrying about money.

During that time, I quit my job and started to write in earnest. My goal was to publish a memoir about growing up in a motion picture family in Hollywood and share the lessons my childhood taught me about love.

These are the vastly over-simplified facts of my life. Less obvious was my growing self-identification as “writer” and a subtle yet mounting despair as time passed and I struggled to find a publisher or an agent to represent me.

Recently, in a rare moment of absolute clarity, I realized that I had come to identify so deeply with the book and the rich and enviable career of my wonderful father that I saw both as extensions of myself.

Worse, I had come to believe that my value as a human being depended upon my ability to sell myself as a writer and create a career around that identity. I even found myself wondering what purpose I was serving on earth if my gifts could not find a home.

I am fortunate in that several evolved souls number among my friends. Yesterday, one of them shocked me by pointing out that I had been so neglected and abandoned in childhood that I had formed an equation. That equation was: if I could only shine more brightly, then perhaps I would be noticed and appreciated.

This had come to dominate my life, he said.

My friend’s comment knocked the wind out of me as the truth of it brought tears to my eyes. I came to earth believing I was precious and loved, but my relationship with my damaged mother changed the way I viewed myself.

My mother’s neglect and abuse initially shocked me but later convinced me that I needed to do more, and perform at a higher level in order for her to recognize and value me.

Over time, this subtle yet powerful pathology took over my psyche to such an alarming degree that I even began questioning my right to life! My focus had become so externally based that my only concern was how others viewed my work.

I had completely lost any perspective of balance, equating my personal value solely with the quality of my occupation. (I wonder how many of my fellow humans are currently operating under a similar, painful delusion?)

Now that I see what was underlying my obsessive need to sell the book, I feel differently. I can see that I was overburdening my relationship with the book by giving it sole responsibility for my sense of personal worth and, in fact, for my entire life. I have since readjusted my perspective.

Ours is a world of opposites: the more solid and “real” something appears, the less intrinsic value it actually has. Cars, houses, and bank accounts are meaningless in the greater reality.

Our suffering as human beings comes from investing our focus in the external illusion rather than the internal reality.

When careers, activities, and possessions become more important than humanity, compassion, and kindness, we know we’re in trouble.

Don’t get me wrong—the way we spend our time is important, but our daily activity needs to be an expression of our true nature rather than a way of defining it. 

We need to be who we are first and then allow our activities to flow naturally from that source.  The external world is here for our growth and also for our enjoyment, but we can only truly appreciate it when it is a reflection of our internal light, not a replacement for it.

Life is magical, a mystery. Although our society would have me believe that I am here to do, to have, and to own, the truth is that I am here to be. The natural world reminds us of this constantly. 

Every creature and element on earth has a place and a purpose, arising effortlessly from its basic nature: the birds don’t question the value of their songs or the quality of their nests; the sun and rain don’t look to us for approval.

It’s quite funny when you think that we humans consider ourselves superior to animals because we have the ability to experience guilt, regret, anxiety, and stress!

So, how do we transition from a life based on the manic drive to accomplish into one based on living in the flow, one that allows our inner being to expand and flourish?

How do we release the fear that would have us believe that who we are isn’t good enough?

How do we find the courage to express our true nature instead of creating a false persona based on the activities of our day?

We first need to remember that we have come to this planet for only one purpose, and that is to live in love.

Living in such a fashion, we bless everyone who crosses our path and remind them to live in love, as well.

We can only live like this on a moment-by-moment basis by connecting and staying connected to our higher nature and making the energy of our day the important thing, rather than the activity of our day.  

In this way, when there is a choice between love and fear, we can always go to that higher place, illuminating our lives and the lives of our fellow humans by choosing love one moment at a time.

Photo by MartaZ

About Tiela Garnett

Tiela Garnett is a life-coach and writer. She has created the site Personal Guru to assist you in empowering yourself through connection to the Master Teacher within your own life. Contact her for inspiration or one-on-one coaching at Personal Guru and visit her new site

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  • Patricia Grace

    Tiela, I enjoyed your article very much. It resonated deeply within me. I am often a victim of the hustle and bustle though I know it brings me nothing to truly live on. I loved your words “live in love”. How could we ask for anything more? Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  • Beautiful !

  • Dolcevita

    This is perfect, you know! thank you.

  • Tiela, thank you for sharing this.

  • While reading this, I can relate to some aspects and even started to feel like it was written for me, so much so that I wish I could agree with the overall message…but, I value accomplishment, in whatever way it comes, for without it, I really don’t have a place in this world.

  • Learning2Live

    This touched me to my core. I experienced a mild form of abuse from my parents, neglect and rejection really, which has led me to choose a partner who carried on the cycle. Now after a recent divorce and many hours of spiritual counseling, I am stuck at the point where I cannot believe I valued myself so little, to the point that I never felt good enough to receive the basic of all human needs and wants – love. And here I sit, endlessly mulling over my disbelief. I am an amazing person, and deep down I know my own worth, yet I carried on a cycle which led to hurt and pain to both my children and I. I feel a little stuck in this new identity, so your article resonated with me. I need to let go of this new identity I have created for myself, and remember the underlying belief I have. I am worthy. I have value. I am a truly wonderful, loving, kind, caring, compassionate being. And the only way to believe that fully is to do it NOW, in this very moment, and every moment forward. Thank you

  • Glad you appreciate it, Carl!

  • Oh, sweet Nicole, that is the whole point! I can see from your photo that you are a shining light. It is enough for you simply to be yourself – believe me when I tell you there is not need to “accomplish!” YOU are the accomplishment because you are an expression of the Divine Mystery, manifested in a unique, human form. To place the emphasis on what you do is to devalue your inherent nature. Please know that you are a beautiful expression of Light NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO (or DON’T do)!

    Thank you so much for reading the article and taking the time to comment!

  • Beautiful! Keep up the good work. It hurts when we become aware of how we have under-valued ourselves, but that’s part of the human journey – and it’s passed from generation to generation. It helps to remember that, as humans, we are SUPPOSED to make mistakes. Nothing’s wrong. Most important, nothing’s wrong with US.

  • Thank you, Patricia!

  • Thank you so much!

  • Anonymous

    Your whole post resonated with me deeply, and these lines really stuck with me: Our suffering as human beings comes from investing our focus in the external illusion rather than the internal reality. When careers, activities, and possessions become more important than humanity, compassion, and kindness, we know we’re in trouble.

  • Kathy

    Hi Tiela – I enjoyed your article and loved the line ‘our suffering comes from investing our focus on the external illusion rather than our internal reality’ – so true. I also like the point about thinking ourselves superior to animals because we think ourselves into suffering! I took have written a memoir, about my experience with infertility and ultimately adopting our two kids. It’s filed away at the moment and I am coming to realise that my story is valuable in how it serves others throught the lessons I can share, rather than any real value as a published book..although maybe one day. We all as individuals and as a society need to change the prevailing view so that the highest purpose of everyone becomes love, just as the universe, God intends it to be.

  • Thanks for sharing your story Tiela and reminding us about the power of love in our lives.

    There are so many metrics that our friends, family and society uses to judge us. But what if we chose to ignore them all and live a life of love? There would be so much more happiness and peace in the world. Maybe we shouldn’t be asking people what you do when we first meet them. We just be grateful for their presence and their spirit.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story, Tiela. It is very moving and your message needs to be heard.

  • That was a NarcMother. The effects are classic. The string of abusive
    relationships with men, some (like me) even marry another N. This is
    because of the brainwashing and trauma bonding in which we justify our
    NMother’s to ourselves and others. We see the constant drama, put
    downs, abuse, stuffing our feelings as normal. We will do ANYTHING to
    get the NM to acknowledge and approve.

    Herein lies the problem. The NMother is a disordered person. They will
    NEVER, I repeat, NEVER change. Oh they might throw you a bone here and
    there. They might be very kind and generous (often because the public
    will see their actions in some way so they need to appear ‘normal.’)
    But the bottom line is – they are deeply and permanently damaging.

    Virtually every child of a NM has some degree of Complex PTSD that takes therapy and time to work through. Some become like her some go another way and fight thru layers of blame & shame.

    But NONE of that shame is yours. NONE OF IT. It was put on you by the NM
    to control you. You see, Narcissists see everyone and everything as an
    object. That’s right – an O B J E C T. You have no feelings or
    importance to them other than to use or exploit you. You are a
    character in the movie of their life and if you don’t follow the script
    they demand you follow… rage and punishment.

    There truly is only one way to even start to heal from it – if she’s alive –
    total No Contact with her and anyone who enables or supports her. If
    she’s gone – therapy with a qualified trauma counselor.

    Grieve the relationship you never had and never will. Then make your life
    YOUR way and give yourself and your children the love and support you
    always deserved.

    For the definition of a Narcissistic Mother:

    My Facebook group for Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers who are totally No Contact, in therapy and would like to talk to others in the same position:

  • Eva F.

    I am cruising around the Internet, looking for something insightful, yet definitive to help me end this day. I was head nodding as I read through… Today was an especially eye awakening day, as I taught a class that seemed completely opposite than what I feel inside. Here I am, 8 hours a day advocating to others about drive and promotion and how to be a leader in todays world. In fact, one of my students commented on his ability to fake it, just go through the motions! Is this REAALLY our society? Where is the authenticity, the compassion, the love? I feel like its been sold to live a life of big screen tvs, fancy cars, and expensive dining. I was reminded that living a mindful, yet truthful life is something only a fair few can experience.

  • sri purna widari

    Tiela, I am actually experiencing the same thing now. I really have the urge to prove myself and that I feel I am precious enough or deserve respect only if I have a prestigious job and acknowledge by people. At the moment I do not have a job and I already felt left behind but I also realize that I am not motivated to work hard only for money. I want something deeper than that. Thanks for illuminating me.

  • Thank you, Greg…

  • Glad you liked it! Thank you for taking the time to share your comment…

  • So beautiful, Kathy! Thank you for expressing this – have you written for Tiny Buddha? Perhaps you should submit something, if you haven’t already…

  • So beautiful, Vishnu!! What elevated consciousness… Please visit my website, subscribe and/or just stay in touch. Thank you!

  • Thank you, Bobbi…

  • Thank you, Barbara – clearly, we have walked similar paths! If you have time, please read my Tiny Buddha article “Releasing Judgment and Allowing Others To Have Their Process.” It’s about my mother’s death. I think you will appreciate it. Interesting that you mention PTSD – I’ve had it all my life although most people sort of make fun of me, like I’m making it up!

  • Thank you for sharing – yes and amen!

  • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I’m finally learning to invest ALL my energy in the present moment and not project into worries about the future! This is freeing me up to really enjoy my life…

  • Dolcevita

    You have given your children an amazing gift by being so courageous as to make the decision now to choose a better life for you. Good for you! good for them!

  • genevieve lewis

    like what you say about….”making the energy of our day the important thing, rather than the activity”…..thank you

  • Thank YOU!

  • Tiela…this is a wonderful piece…I would like to reference in my post. How can I reach you? or

  • The FreeBird Project

    Tiela, I enjoyed reading what you had to say. Thank you so much for your candor and honesty. It’s so important to have people like you in the world to share about life, love, and learning.

  • Jerry

    Since reading a Course in Miracles I’ve been working on what your article is suggesting. Fear comes from trying to run my life from how my Ego tries directing it,but the only antidote for that is love which I find through Gods will for me..