Zooming in on Who You Really Are

Most of us have been confronted by a situation where we had to stand up and announce to everybody in the room who we are.  Usually the little introduction entails your name, what you do for a living and possibly what you love to do in your private time out of the office.  Mine little story usually went something like “I am Erna. I work in the ………………. department as a ………………… and I love painting.”  I always felt awkward and felt that the short introduction did not really tell the people who I really was.  I felt like a number, a statistic because I am so much more than those few words.  Yes, it was not the place nor the time to divulge who I really was and then I realised that what I said was not WHO I am, but more WHAT I am.  When I tell you that I am a wife, a mother, a therapist, a friend and a relatively good driver, all these things are dependent on other factors and influences.  I am Erna because it is the name that was given to me, a wife because I am married, I am a mother because I have a child, I am a therapist because I studied for this career and so forth.

When we do not know the answer to who we really are, we stray further away from our true self.  We identify ourselves to all the influences and things around us and neglect the core inner us.  Instead of really defining who we are, we get confused about our identities and often wonder what really defines us.  When this is the case we start to suffer in life, become disillusioned, get confused and not only do we struggle, but those important relationships around us also fall victim.

When we think of identity, it involves our memories, experiences, feelings, thoughts, relationships and values.  Therefore, nobody is the same as you and you cannot copy somebody else’s true and core identity as your own.  When you break these components down, it will give you a great understanding of who you really are.

What I am talking about here is tough.  The questions that I give you below are tough and being able to answer these questions will take soul searching to be able to understand yourself on a deeper level.  Some of the answers to these questions will come easy and quick, but I want you to you take your time.  Revise your answers, allow yourself the opportunity to rethink your answers a few times and be honest with yourself.

To start off, think of answers that you would be giving to these questions.

  • Who or what would you be if you knew that you could not fail?
  • What is your core personal values?
  • What makes you genuinely happy?
  • If money were of no importance, how would you live your life differently?
  • Are you the total sum of all your thoughts?
  • Are you whatever you decide to be?
  • Are you defined by your strengths and your limitations?
  • What is the purpose of your life?
  • Who or what is your great love?
  • Where to do you feel most like yourself?
  • What could you not afford to lose?

These questions become particularly difficult when we take the outside identities and influences out of the equation.

To guide you through the process of answering these questions and discovering who you really are and how to develop your own core identity, here are a few steps that you can begin with.

  • Take care of yourself: The first and most important step to take is to take care of yourself.  Not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.
  • Catalyse an Identity: List qualities that you admire most in a human being.  Are some of these qualities describing the ideal you, not only who you are currently, but who you aspire to be?
  • Be Quiet and Reflect: Sometimes it is a bit scary and uncomfortable to be silent with your own thoughts and to engage in self-discovery.  To be confronted by our own flaws are not particularly pleasing, but the experience does not only include thinking of the negative.  Give yourself credit where credit is due.  Think of your strengths, the impressions that you give others, basically the whole bag of everything that you are.  Critically engage with yourself on all aspects, take stock and acknowledge of how it makes you feel.  To be able to be completely truthful with every facet of your life, the good and the bad, will help you discover your true self, explore your passions and take decisive action.
  • Who are you VS Who you want to be: Among the questions above, “Are you whatever you decide to be?”, was asked.  When you have a vision of who you desperately want to be, it might not be who you were made to be.  Nobody is perfect, no matter how hard social media tries to convince you.  Your skills, talents and gifts might fit in somewhere else in the bigger picture.  Become honest with your talents and gifts as it can assist you to focus on the changes that you were meant to bring to this world.  At the same time focus on things that you want to improve on.  Change is possible, as long as you embrace the things that you want to change and when you are completely honest with yourself about what is possible.
  • Define your Values: It often happens that we internalise the values that we were raised in, we internalise the values of our parents and our cultures.  But these forced upon values might not be authentic to your own self and therefore will not enable to you create a fulfilling life for yourself.  Are you identifying with values that was forced upon you that is causing you stress?  Search for your own organic values that is true to you and your role in this world.
  • Make good Choices: Are you making choices for yourself or it is based on fear and a desire to please others?  You have the ability to choose what you do, not want to do and who you want to be.  Take time to sort through your desires, aspirations and your thought processes.  Take time to make the right decisions that is in line with your values and what you want.  It will empower you to drive stronger towards who you really are.
  • Shedding: Just like a reptile that sheds its skin as it grows, so can you shed the things that are no longer worthy of what you value and drives your pursuits towards a fulfilled life.  Evaluate what you can carry forward and what you can let go.  The goal is to shake things off voluntarily, it will make it less hurtful and will allow you to grow, develop and examine more freely who you truly are.
  • Improve the Qualities of your Actions: Not all actions need to be big, earth-shattering gestures.  Sometimes it is those small and tiny actions that develops great habits and improves the qualities of our lives.  When you decide to include these small, determined actions into your life, you will start to realise that you have more control of what experiences you allow and therefore have more decisions available to you on whether it brings productivity, meaning and joy into your life.
  • Get some Feedback: Sometimes it is helpful to hear from others what they have to say about you.  Reach out to people that will be honest with you when you ask them questions like “What strengths do you think I need to develop further?” or “What weaknesses do you think I need to work on?”.  Getting the perspective of those around you that you trust and admire can give you a new way of viewing something that you might not be aware of yourself.  The feedback might not always be what you want to hear, but when you open your mind and approachability, it can be hugely beneficial to you.
  • Assess your Relationships and Develop your Social Circle: Think of it in this way, you can never truly know anyone else until you discover yourself.  Other people will only truly need you (the real you) when you know yourself.  When you are well on your path of self-discovery, you will be able to form strong bonds with the right people who will encourage you in a healthy, caring and loving manner.  Therefore, I would like to encourage you to actively create your social circle.  Choose wisely who you want to hang out with and who you want to invite into your life.  Evaluate who are aligned with your values and identity and who you will cut loose.
  • Professional Therapy: Therapy and counselling are always highly recommended when it comes to mental health related matters.  When you are stuck or when you realise that you are punishing yourself through your thought processes, seek help immediately.  We can guide you through the process of self-discovery and how to live a more truthful and authentic life.

Our identities are dynamic.  We change as the influences in our lives changes us.  Relax a bit and just be you.  You are you if you know what you value, what you like and what you want out of life.  As a last bit of advice, also have a look at your beliefs and how they influence your life and your perspectives.  Go out into this big world, live the life that you were meant to live and be kind to yourself.

As always, I like to end my blog with a quote or two and the following might give you a bit more insight.  The first one is from E.E. Cummings who said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”, and this one from Aristotle who said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” and as special little bonus, here is a third quote for you from Lailah Gifty Akita who said “Your opinions about me does not change who I am.”.

As a reminder, GEM Mental Health Therapy and Coaching has decided to offer Skype Video Calls, Zoom Video Meetings, WhatsApp Calls and WhatsApp Video Chats in order to reach as many people as possible.  I have also decided to incorporate Counselling via Email, which seems a bit unorthodox, but some clients do not have the freedom and privacy to discuss heart matters in the enclosed environment that they find themselves in at this time.  Please do not hesitate to reach out so that we can work together on your mental health.

Thank you very much for reading my blog.  I truly hope that it helped somebody, somewhere.  Please send any feedback or comments to info@gemtherapy.co.za and remember to have a look out for a new blog every second week.

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