"Finding yourself is the only journey that matters" -- Star Child.
Okay, it's that time of year. We begin our list of self improvement tasks: Maybe losing that five pounds again, saving money, starting an exercise program, etc. There is no doubt that these can be worthwhile aspirations and can make some part of our lives work better. But they are about improving ourselves instead of really being ourselves. What if we started out believing we are acceptable and can best contribute to society first by being our true self?
What if we believe that each of us is here for a reason and therefore have been given unique talents, DNA, family history and perspectives essential for making our own contribution to the world? When we are faced with challenges, and we all will be, using our strengths drawn from this unique self will help us maintain balance, peace and increase the likelihood of finding some joy in our everyday lives. If either we don't know or ignore what we have been given, we disconnect from our source of strength -- our uniqueness. We then make choices based on very limited information because we don't use our intuition, or we may blindly follow what others tell us to do or we are paralyzed by the fear that we might make a mistake. Eventually, we lose our way. Our passion for life and sense of self are eroded. The piece that we have been uniquely given to make the world a better place is lost.
What are the steps or "practices" we need to do to help us be ourselves?
1. Set a clear intention: "I want to know and be true to myself."
2. Pay attention to what brings you joy. This raises your levels of energy and excitement, brings contentment, or activities that you can become totally lost in like painting, working with children, fixing cars etc.
Conversely, pay attention to what depletes you, what causes you to be afraid, makes you feel off-balance or gives you a nagging feeling that you are pretending to be someone you are not. The choices we make in small moments can add up to big changes in our lives.
3.Use your imagination: Take a few moments each day or give yourself time for discovery. Meditate, or write in your journal, or walk in nature, try a class you always wanted to take to expand how you see your life. Get to know how you feel. Empty your brain of expectations and "shoulds" so you can expand your awareness of possibilities.
"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere." Albert Einstein
4. Don't judge yourself. As you get to know the truth of who you are, the more you accept yourself, the less energy you waste on worry and negative thoughts. Use that energy to discover new ways to make your life work for you. Use that energy to express yourself.
5. Ask for help. Every human has experienced the pain of disconnection, fear and insecurity. We can learn from one another and get encouragement.
6. Take risks and make course corrections as needed. Remember that each of us will forget who we are sometimes and get off course. That is when we go back to the practices. If we feel our true self is not in alignment with the life we are living, then our practices can help us to change a career, relationships, ways of thinking, or lifestyles.
7. Don't blame others for your unhappiness. You are the only person responsible for living your own life and making choices.
8. Remember we are not in control of everything and we don't know everything. Many self help programs empower us, but also enforce the false idea that we can always be in control of our lives and the world around us. This thinking puts us on a hamster wheel of trying to be perfect or to control everything.
9. Consider that what we choose to do in the small moments of our lives does matter. Are we choosing to move closer to our truest best self, or away? This choice we have control over. The more in touch we are with ourselves, with the whisperings of our own hearts and not just our rational minds or ego, the better we can make those decisions.
Is the quest for finding ourselves just another form of "self-absorption"? There are differences between being absorbed just in our own well being and developing our truest best selves, so we can contribute to the welfare of others and bring our gifts to a world that really needs our help. This is not about ego, but about recognizing the essential part of the world that we are so we can serve something bigger than ourselves.
How does one develop your true self if you work two jobs or are trying to care for family members or have a major disaster strike you or your family? Immediate survival needs must take precedence. But if we take even some time in small moments to know and appreciate our strengths and weaknesses, then we can better solve problems of daily living. If we do this consistently, then we develop a core strength and confidence that can help us and others in times of crisis.
Besides, as Oscar Wilde once said, "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken."
For more by Kay Goldstein, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.