It’s the age-old question, “Who am I?” We’ve all heard it; we’ll all asked it of ourselves. But, have we found the answer? Try answering that question right now. I don’t mean answers like, “I’m Joey’s mom, a dental assistant and a good cribbage player” or “I’m a financial planner and a phenomenal golfer.” I’m talking about the serious, nitty-gritty, to-the-core stuff- the stuff that you may not even be able to put into words.
One of life’s greatest gifts is the ability to truly know and love ourselves. Once we have found this power, the world opens up to us in ways that we could never imagine. We see life from a different perspective. We value others at a deeper level. We have the courage to face the trials in life and the confidence to keep moving forward. We have inner peace, clarity and the ability to relax. We have purpose and sense of direction. We know where we are going, yet we have the ability to adapt to change. We have the assurance that we will gracefully and courageously face whatever comes our way. We develop the ability to laugh at ourselves, to recognize and embrace our strengths, and to work on our weaknesses. We are able to conquer doubt and overcome fear. We can look our demons straight in the eye and renounce their power over us. We learn to forgive and be patient with ourselves. We enjoy our own company.
Getting to know yourself doesn’t have to mean a pilgrimage to a faraway land or spend years of lonely contemplation while camping in the wilderness. This is a spiritual journey, not a physical one. It takes patience, practice and time. The best way to get to know anyone is to spend time with them- and getting to know yourself isn’t any different.
“That’s ridiculous!,” you say, “I spend time with myself all day long- I’m with myself 24 hours a day!” True. But you probably spend a lot of that time in a busy blur, driving kids here, picking them up there, doing dishes, making dinner, helping with homework, doing the laundry, playing with your phone, watching television, etc., etc. Our constant barrage of chores and miscellaneous activities keep our minds preoccupied and focused on anything and everything but personal growth.
Try to find some time everyday that you can devote to getting to know you. Right before bedtime may be a good, quiet time for you. Or, maybe the best time is in the morning, before anyone else in the household wakes up. Find whatever works for you. Ask yourself questions that you may not have asked in a while, or ever before. Think about your answers and respond to them honestly. This would be an excellent time to start a journal if you don’t already have one.
Here are some questions to help you get started:
What are your hopes and dreams? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve them? Of what are you most afraid? What makes you feel really good about yourself? Where is your confidence level? In Whom do you trust? What are your beliefs about God, spirituality, and faith? What are you looking for in a relationship? Did you have a happy childhood? Why or why not? What significant events have shaped your life? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How will you improve upon your weaknesses? In what ways will you let your strengths shine?
You many want to start with a short 10 or 15-minute time frame. Ask yourself and answer one or two questions at each setting. Spend time with the stillness, where there is nothing but you, your thoughts and your feelings.
What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Allow yourself to feel the feelings until you can identify and name them: fear, confusion, anger, peace, joy. Stay with it even longer and ask yourself why you are experiencing these feelings. From where do these feelings stem? A good trick to remember when trying to get to the bottom of an emotional issue is to play Reporter/Detective.
Reporters always try to answer the 5 Ws: who, what, when, why, where. Detectives always try to get to the truth. Ask yourself questions until you get to the underlying reasons behind your sometimes seemingly un-explainable feelings. The “why”s are usually the most effective of all the Ws, so you may want to use them more.
For example, you identify and name the feeling of fear. Why am I afraid? Because I am alone and someone may break in to the house. What makes me think someone is going to break into the house? Because there are so many bad people out in the world. You never know what they could do next. There has always been and there always will be bad people in the world. Why does it affect you now? Because I feel unprotected and vulnerable against them. Why do you feel unprotected and vulnerable? Because I don’t think I would be able to protect myself against them. Is it possible that you are feeling unprotected and vulnerable anyway, and are using the “bad people” explanation to justify your feelings? It’s possible. Aside from the “bad people,” why do you feel unprotected and vulnerable? I’m alone. Do you remember feeling unprotected, vulnerable and alone at any other time in your life? Yes, when my family moved when I was 10.
You get the picture. Using this process will help you scrape through the layers of coping mechanisms and get to the real you that is waiting to be discovered. At first, this may be very difficult, especially if you have unhealed wounds or areas in your life that are in need of attention. It often takes people several tries before they are able to get this far.
While this sounds a bit bizarre, it’s absolutely true: getting to know yourself can be an intimidating process. Sometimes we are just too afraid to look in the closets or dark corners. We have vague memories of the monsters lurking there and we aren’t about to go rouse them.
Unfortunately, we will stunt our own personal growth if we are unwilling to do a little house cleaning. The good news is those monsters aren’t as big and scary as they seem. They lose most of their power the instant they are confronted.
Quality time spent alone, to reflect, think and ponder, is tantamount in getting to know yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin. The time you take to be still with your feelings and listen to what your soul is saying will be worth every lost pound of emotional weight.
This information should not serve as a replacement for therapy. Please visit the Can Therapy Help Me page for more information or contact a therapist in your area should require individualized help.
FCCS is directed by Melinda Haynes, MA, California LMFT 102308. Oklahoma LMFT 1153. North Carolina LMFT 2143.