Some food for thought as we venture into the New Year and strive to make changes in ourselves-- do you know who you are? I mean that honestly. Can you accurately and completely see yourself for who you are? We all paint a picture, muddling the true characteristics of ourselves and making authenticity difficult to decipher. Understanding yourself is hard and requires a deep, honest look at your actions, reactions, and motivations as well as some potentially uncomfortable journeys of discovery. So, let’s get to it!
I spent a lot of time buried under the weight of perception, all the way through college and into my professional years. In just about every interaction, I was either trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be or I was trying to mirror those around me to fit in. Just typing that out was exhausting. Living it was frustrating and unfulfilling.
I had a really hard time understanding who I was and how I wanted to project myself to others (as if they were two separate entities…). To make things more complicated, there was a third view in the mix: how I thought I saw myself. Which was obviously different than who I was or how others saw me (confusing, no?). Don’t get me wrong-- naturally, there are variations in ourselves. The tone of voice we use, what we wear, the words we chose, physical movements-- they are all influenced to some degree by our intended audience. My confusion, however, lived far beyond these nuances. I was constantly chameleoning, trying endlessly to adapt to social situations, but never quite fitting in and often feeling empty. I was just lost.
At a certain point in my late 20s, my perspective began to change and I started to figure out where this deep-seeded confusion came from. As painful as it was to face, I came to understand that for most of my life, I was deeply uncomfortable in my own skin and I didn’t think what I had to offer as just myself was enough. My value was measured by social interactions and external approval. Everything I was, from my activity choices to the way I carried myself, was so carefully curated to suit the world around me. I created an empty, fragile straw house defined by someone else’s standards. Of course I couldn’t identify me-- I never actually built myself in the first place.
When we invest wholly into the feedback of external stimuli, we can lose sight of ourselves. We begin creating products that are not representative of our unique perspectives and talents, and are instead a duplication of what we see around us. We carry so much individual power and potential, and we have all the tools to fully step into that with proper introspection.
How do we react when we’re backed into a corner? How do you make decisions? What emotions come forward and how do they influence our actions? Where do these actions and reactions come from? All of these are means to defining and understanding your authentic self because they have the ability to be raw and uninfluenced. When they come from a place of internal honesty, they reflect authenticity and they can teach you about yourself if you’re willing to listen. It is through these experiences and analyses that we develop confidence in our actions and thus in true ourselves.
We are all a work in progress, but if you can define yourself as anything, it should be “proud”. Your mistakes, your accomplishments, your ideas-- when they are authentically yours, you can confidently stand beside them and live a life of honest being.