Life’s not simply a search for happiness – it’s a search for self. If you think about it, everything you do, from grade school to team sports to working to falling in and out of love, is about getting to know who you are.
Through your experiences – good, bad and all that’s in between – you learn what you don’t like to do, as well as what you love, what stresses you out, as well as what calms your nerves, the behaviors that make you feel sad or sick, and the ones that bring joy and health into your life. On this journey of self-discovery, you learn what makes you tick.
The benefit of true self-knowledge is empowerment. Self-knowledge gives you the tools to achieve your greatest potential by just being yourself. That’s why when you’re worried about a job interview or a first date, the advice you most often receive is, “Just be yourself.” But it’s not always that easy, is it?
Sometimes we get blocked, blinded or bogged down. Sometimes we get just plain overwhelmed by the demands of life and lose track of ourselves – usually, just temporarily. This is normal and natural, and it happens all the time, because part of knowing your “self” is losing track of it every now and then, and having to do the work to find it again. Whether you’re off or on-track with your self, it’s always a good time to honor thyself and, in so doing, get to know yourself a little better.
A spiritual practice is the foundation of your quest for self-knowledge. Whether it’s done in or outside of your home, it’s time spent devoted to the care of your soul. Through this practice you come to know what matters most and how you can live your life in a way aligned with those priorities. You come to know how best to be yourself.
For some people, study is a spiritual practice. For many, a religion. For others, meditation, yoga or both. If you already have a regular spiritual practice – wonderful! But if you are still refining or working on developing one, a good place to start is at home with 5, then 10, then 15-minute meditations (simply breathing and sitting still) – whatever you feel comfortable and capable of doing, as long as you do it every day.
Talk about it
One of the things that can get in the way of truly being yourself without any doubts is when you find there’s something about yourself that you don’t like. Self-dislike can stem from a variety of causes. It could be the result of guilt one feels over past experiences. There could be issues of body image and self-esteem. You may want to change the way you look or feel, but don’t know how, and this leads to unhappiness or depression. When a person is unhappy or depressed, they usually don’t feel comfortable showing their true self to others.
If you want to change the way you feel, but haven’t been able to despite your best efforts, seeking therapy is a good choice. Therapy or counseling is a way to get to know yourself better by discussing your patterns of reaction and behavior with someone who is trained to gently guide you back to your true (rational) self. Beginning therapy is in itself an act of honoring your self, saying, “I’m going to pay attention to you and heal you.” Through self-knowledge accumulated with the help of a good therapist, you learn to know, love and be yourself again.
Go with the flow
Mind over matter is an expression commonly used to describe the power the mind has to overcome the supposed limitations of the body. With today’s more sedentary lifestyle of computers and big screens, inverting the expression might be of more help. Think matter over mind – the power of the body to overcome the supposed limitations of the mind. Think yoga, exercise, dancing, hiking, movement. Think of the portals/chakras of the body opening. Think creative energy released and flowing freely. You know how good it feels!
When you charge up your body with exercise and good nutrition, you charge up your inner self. Stress is reduced, you sleep better, spirits are lifted, you have more energy, and you might even feel sexier. All these benefits make it easier to relax and just be you. The key is finding a form of exercise that works for you, then establishing a routine, which we’ll go into more below.
Do what you love
When you do what you love, you nourish yourself and feed the soul. So often, we don’t do the things we know will make us happy and healthy. Why? The reason might be psychologically complex, but it might also be as simple as, “I don’t have the time or the money.” While the latter may be the case, it could also be that your priorities aren’t arranged in a way that allows for the resources to honor yourself properly. After your basic responsibilities are covered, money is meant to be spent or invested. And what better way to do both than to use it to feed your soul. So, if you know that hip-hop classes or soccer games or Spanish lessons are what will make you happy – make it a priority.
Like money, time is also a valuable and limited resource. It’s good to start small. Devote one day or night a week to the thing you love doing the most. It will give you something to look forward to every week. After six weeks, you’ll have developed the habit of doing this thing that you love, and if it’s as rewarding as it should be, you’ll be chomping at the bit for more. You might even find yourself rearranging your schedule to try to do it twice a week!
What does doing what you love have to do with being yourself? Well, isn’t it obvious? When you feed yourself by doing the things that you love, you grow and blossom. And this flower that you carry inside of you will be something you’ll want to share with everyone you know.
Give of yourself
Last, but not least, focusing on something other than yourself is a way to honor all the good parts of you. By being a steady friend to your friends, a loving relative to your relatives, and a kind person to those you don’t yet know well, you not only enrich your own life, but you enrich the lives of others. Even in strained or difficult relationships, the virtues of love, kindness, honesty and generosity can be practiced.
If you feel compelled to give back in a more direct way, such as volunteering as a youth mentor or working in a homeless shelter, in doing so, you honor yourself and those around you. This is the only life that can be lived assuredly and confidently. If you live in this way, you will always be able to be yourself without any doubts.
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