Welcome back, friends, to our first official installment in this Know, Like, Be series! Thanks for joining me again. I hope you find this encouraging, empowering or at least a little thought provoking.
Know who you are.
Who you are defines your story. The things that make you the unique person that you are, color the way you interact with the world, the way you see and perceive every facet of life. That identity informs your actions and creates the responses you get from the world around you.
Knowing who you are is the first step in understanding the interactions, perceptions, actions and responses. Talking about and trying to change the elements of your life is an exercise in frustration and futility if you don’t first understand the parts of yourself that are creating those elements
You know that scene in Never Been Kissed, where fresh from a night of partying, Josie struts into school thinking she’s the cool kid on campus only to be greeted by laugher and shouts of “Loser!”? The jeers and taunts come to a frenetic crescendo and she runs to the bathroom in shame only to eventually look in the mirror and see that very word emblazoned on her forehead.
We laugh and feel pity at the ridiculousness of the scene, but how easy is it to grumpily go through our day, head down, sour expression on our faces only wonder why no one smiled at us? We spend money on clothes or vacations or baseball games or houses or cars or gym memberships and find ourselves frustrated when they don’t make us happy. Learning to know who you are, to know all about yourself, is the first step.
So how do we do it? How do we “know ourselves”?
Anyone who tried to convince you that you should be done “figuring out who you are” by 20 or 25 or 30 was sadly mistaken and seriously short sighted. Truly learning and understanding yourself is a lifelong process, one with five actions.
These actions are present participles. They’re ongoing, continuous. They aren’t an imperative “make, do, give” they’re a constant encouragement “be making, doing, giving”. I hope you will learn to embrace these ideas as just that, a continuous process, a state of mind.
Asking. Listening. Testing. Changing. Accepting
Asking yourself “Do I like this? Do I know that to be true? Does this matter to me or bring me joy?”. When I first heard of this know, like, be philosophy the first task the teacher gave was for us to ask ourselves a million questions. We took inventories, found our Myers Briggs and Big Five scores, journaled and meditated and interviewed and tested and asked some more. Just as research and inquiry is the only way to learn about astrophysics and making the perfect crème brulee it’s also the only way to learn about yourself.
Listening to your responses to those questions. Listening to your body when you try vegan pizza, Crossfit and getting a tan. Hearing from yourself when you talk about what makes you excited. Opening your ears to the perspectives of others. All the asking and searching in the world is useless if you aren’t open to the answers.
Testing what you hear and observe about yourself against your previous perceptions. Comparing what you think you know about yourself to the things you’re learning. Deciding whether that thing that you’re learning about yourself is something that you want to own or eliminate. “Wait, I thought I was open minded and supportive, but the last time my best friend talked to me about her business idea I was critical and sarcastic. What’s that?”. Knowing yourself should be met with the same fact-checking that any other kind of research is. Are you really magnanimous and wise or are you actually condescending and a know-it-all? Conversely, are you really a huge failure who will never manage to achieve your goals, or are you hungry and frustrated that your recent attempts haven’t gone well. Remember, ongoing. As in when you overhear someone whisper about how annoying you are when you talk on the phone, your brain goes “Really? No one has said that in the last 400 phone calls, so maybe that’s not true…”.
Accepting that this thing you found after asking, listening and testing is a true facet of your personality. Owning the fact that maybe you do have a hard time being vulnerable with other people or that you really don’t like going to the beach. Accepting the things about yourself that are the way they are that you are unable to change. Or that you don’t want to change but some people are going to have a hard time with. Whatever. You’re boisterous and loud. You’re organized and particular. Learning to live with your quirks and eccentricities is part of this process of knowing. And boy is it constant. Sometimes in this process you’re just going along, living life and you ask and listen and find some huge personality trait that you never saw in yourself before. And you have to work at letting this new fact be ok.
Changing the things that you discover and dislike about yourself. Finding new ways to express your ideas without being overbearing. Learning to say ‘no’ to the things that you used to pretend to enjoy and reinvesting your time on the things that make you truly happy. This is about growth and development and moving forward. Maybe this means changing what you thought about yourself now that you’re accepting new truths. You ask what you believe, listen to the answer, test it against the truth, accept that it’s your firmly held belief and re-identify as a person who believes.
Teaching new ideas usually demands proof so here’s a little from my own life…
I recently found myself on vacation being a sour grump. Now usually vacation, travel, ad exploring new places are my bliss, so why on earth was I having such a hard time enjoying myself? I started asking. “Am I actually a person who doesn’t like traveling? Is this an issue in the way I am interacting with my husband, my friends or just the world right now? Am I doing things that I usually would enjoy, or that I just think I should enjoy?”
After all those questions I spent a lot of time listening. I listened in the gym and the pool, while hiking and cruising and shopping. I started proving to myself that I was enjoying the sun, and the places and the company and the food. I was struggling with the schedule and lack of freedom.
I had to start testing this theory that I, a person who used to pride herself on being so flexible and easy going, who was the most extroverted social butterfly around, actually thrives on a bit of structure and alone time?
While it didn’t take long to realize this was the truth, accepting this new element of my personality took much longer. Integrating this new truth into my vision of myself was a challenge.
But with this integration I started changing. Changing my perception of people who need structure on vacation. Changing my regular plans to include personal time and space. Working to allow this part of myself to be as much genuinely me as all the parts I’ve always known and loved. Process people.
Knowing who you are is a never-ending process. Never-ending, but starting now.