Be Yourself: Who Am I?

What do you want?

Silhouette of a man with a question markWhen clients come to the Be Happy in LIFE coaching program, I ask them, “What do you want?” They are always confused by my question. They could easily tell what everyone else wants. Their wife, husband, mother, father, boss, children. But they do not really know what they want. Often, all they want is for something someone else wants to stop.

I tell my clients that when you do not have a definition of who you are, it is easy for other people to offer their definitions, regardless of whether they suit your or not. When you are confident in who you are, your self-concept will not change because of something someone else says to you.

For example, if a friend comes up to you and says, “You are not a good friend because you didn’t come to my wedding”, you might think to yourself that you did not come to the wedding because you were being a good son to your mom, who was in the hospital at the time. Your definition of yourself as a good friend would remain despite your friend’s feeling. Conversely, if you do not have a good definition of yourself, you will probably accept it as fact that you are just not a very good friend, because your friend said so.

Once conform, once do what others do because they do it, and a kind of lethargy steals over all the finer senses of the soul
– Michel Eyquem de Montaigne

The search for the perfect combination

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are
– Jim Morrison

Girl holding a sign saying "Who I am - All I need to be"Every person has an image of perfection that they wish to achieve. It is an image of the perfect person, someone who is all-knowing, smart, healthy, wealthy, loving and successful. There is no other person on Earth who is exactly like you and has managed to find the perfect balance of all those things we want in life.

Despite knowing this, we create an image of the perfect person by picking and choosing attributes form different people. Our perfect person is the Miss Universe beauty queen, who is a perfect mother, a great chef, a celebrity, has a PhD in something brainy, makes bucket loads of money like the Queen of England and has the spirit and dedication of Mother Teresa. Although I think it is good to be inspired by others, when we lose ourselves in the quest for this perfection, we chase our tails endlessly and never reach our final goal.

You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand
– Irene C. Kassorla

Search within

We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin
– André Berthiaume

Puppy and kitten "Like me for who I am, not who you want me to be"

Instead of looking inwards in our search for identity, we often search outside of ourselves. We often define ourselves in relation to others. I am a mother to my kids and a partner to Gal, a daughter to my parents and a sibling to my brother and sisters. This is not a definition of who I am, simply a description of the environment and the circumstances of my life, by which I can choose to define myself or not. It is a choice.

Sometimes our background is not so pretty. We try to run from it and by that communicate that we define ourselves by our background, by this outward sign of identity.

The first time I read “The Alchemist”, I thought it was a great story. It describes the search for the self using signs external to us and the ultimate discovery that the treasure lies within our reach all the time – it lies within us.

Like the sky opens after a rainy day we must open to ourselves… Learn to love yourself for who you are and open so the world can see you shine
– James Poland

Meditation is bliss

Be what you are. This is the first step toward becoming better than you are.
– Julius Charles Hare

My first experiences with meditation were back when I was 16. I spent hours by myself. The first few hours were mostly spent feeling sorry for myself, but the longer I was by myself, without any interference or pressure from other people, the more I discovered about myself.

I realized that underneath my desire to please everyone, to be loved and accepted and to be special, underneath the sadness, disappointment, shame, guilt and insecurity lay a feeling of bliss, appreciation,  gratitude, love and happiness. It was strange. As if there were two different me’s. I had positive thoughts I did not even know I could have. I felt a bit awkward at first, as if there was someone else inside of me who was kind, courageous, smart, talented and friendly. Yet within 3 weeks, the two parts of me melded into one.

No man for any considerable period can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.
– Nathaniel Hawthorne

magazine cut-outs of facial features. Caption says "I decide who I want to be"As a person who likes human company, I quickly realized that others’ definition of me impacted my definition of myself. It hindered my ability to choose which “me” I wanted to be. I would come home and go straight to my room. I would close the door and stay there as often as I could. I would sit in my bed at night, staring at the wall and imagining potential future scenarios.

The more I did it, the more I discovered that when the starting point was “I am not good enough”, the future seemed gloomy. When I started with “I am good at something”, it ended really well. I think that during those weeks, I examined so many connections in my brain, that I could tell exactly which feeling a particular thought would trigger.

Ride the energy of your own unique spirit.
– Gabrielle Roth

I strongly recommend this process to all of my clients. It was only 20 years later that I finally went to study Transcendental Meditation. I went through the process of being on my own and learning my own thought patterns without having any knowledge of meditation.

Do not use the excuse “I don’t know how to meditate” to stop you from doing it. Take time for thinking, in a quiet place, away from others. Think, ask and answer. When your thoughts are scary, stay with them, distance them from their source and slowly move them away until you control them entirely. Imagine possible futures and when you do not like them, pop them like bubbles and start again until you imagine a good, strong, powerful, happy future.

I think of life itself now as a wonderful play that I’ve written for myself, and so my purpose is to have the utmost fun playing my part
– Shirley MacLaine

Women meditating on rocksEvery one of us is the director of their own life. We are the producer, director, actor, camera person, editor and, eventually, viewer. You are the only one who can do it for you and the only one who should.

Not every person outside of us is detrimental to our definition of self. Some people are inspiring if we learn from them rather than them trying to shove lessons at us. If you think it is hard to do it alone, get a life coach, a person who helps others define themselves, without judging and without forcing their own agenda, someone who has total respect for your choice to be yourself.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life
– Steve Jobs

Start NOW!

It’s wonderful when you can bring sparkle into people’s lives without fading away from your own true color. Keep the hue in you
– Dodinsky

Regardless of where you are, what your circumstances are, what your parents did and not do, what your qualities are or what qualities you think you lack, you can start the process of discovery and self-definition right now. I cannot say exactly where this journey will lead you, but I can guarantee it will be empowering and take you to amazing places.

When you dance to your own rhythm, Life taps its toes to your beat
– Terri Guillemets

This may mean that you have to stay away from people who influence your self-perception. People who ensure you keep a definition of self that suits them, even if sometimes it is the definition that allows them to complain about, judge or criticize you. If you need to, get away. Go to the balcony, close yourself to your room, go to nature or even go inside yourself. Have the courage to work through this process.

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away
– Raymond Hull

Life is a wonderful journey only when we are courageous enough to take it. Take the first step and you may discover amazing people on the way, one of them will look exactly like you.

You were born an original. Do not die a copy
– John Mason

May the force be with you!

This post is part of the series Be Yourself: