“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Being true to ourselves is perhaps the biggest challenge that many of us face. From the time we are young we are taught what acceptable behavior is and what acceptable behavior is not. We are trained to listen to authority in order to gain approval and we learn to curb our own wants and desires in order to please others and fit in. There is a big difference between fitting in and belonging which is perhaps one of the things that we crave most in life. As I listen to my clients who are dealing with addiction, one thing I hear repeatedly is that they started using drugs because they wanted to fit in with their friends. This ‘fitting in’ never quite feels right, but it is often better than being alone. What they really want is to belong. When we feel we belong we are able to be completely ourselves and are given unconditional love and support. We feel accepted for who we are and are comfortable in our own skin. For many, belonging is not something that is experienced. Many clients describe themselves as the ‘black sheep of the family’ or as ‘awkward.’ When we sense we don’t belong, the next best thing is to settle for fitting in. When I talk with my clients about being true to themselves and the difference between fitting in and belonging, one of the things that many clients state is that they don’t even know who they truly are. They have been so busy their entire lives trying to fit in that they haven’t taken much time to truly get to know themselves. Here are five strategies that I share with my clients to help them get to know themselves better:
1. Begin dating yourself. Act as if you are on a first date with yourself. What are your favorite foods, the type of movies that you truly like, the hobbies you enjoy or the places you would like to visit? Be curious and ask yourself the questions you would ask on a first date.
2. Pay attention to the feelings you get when doing things. Inside there is a sense that if we pay attention to it, either feels heavy and dark or light and expansive. When I think about going to work, or jobs or ways I spend my time, what is the sense that comes? It is a clue which points the direction to get to know myself better.
3. Ask the question, what would I love to do? We are usually taught to think about what we can do and that may not point us to our passions. If money, education and resources were not issues, what would I love to do? Get clear specific ideas of the things that make you feel light and expansive.
4. Ask yourself if you truly believed it was possible to do the things you would love, what could you do now? When you let go of the limiting belief that what you would love to do is impossible, new doors begin to open up and you begin to get to know yourself in a new way.
5. Take time for yourself daily. It is so easy in our hectic daily lives to get so busy with life that we lose touch with ourselves. Take some time every day to just be with yourself. Sit quietly for as little as a few minutes and just feel your body and notice your thoughts. We are not our thoughts, but we are the observer of them. Get into the observer mode and be still.