How well do you know your Self? Could you be selling yourself short?Jan 25, 2022
We all like to think that we know ourselves. I mean, come on. Haven’t we quite literally been the one who’s been there the entire time, in every single waking – and sleeping – moment? Seems like that should mean something, right?
And we have all of our friends and family to share their observations about us to further deepen our knowledge of ourselves. Maybe you’ve heard them say something about you for years. Some characteristic they’ve identified about you (even if it happened only that one time) that they remind you of regularly, so it becomes part of your thinking – knowing – about who you are. Something seemingly benign like, “Oh, Kelly. She always forgets stuff.” Or, “You always react like that.” Or, “She should do ____ for a living, she’d be good at it.”
Equipped with all of this knowledge about ourselves, we go about setting up our lives – complete with careers, relationships, a house, maybe a couple kids. We live our lives each day. We find our groove. We get up and do our morning routine before we take off for work. We end our workday and do our whole evening routine thing. Not bad, right? Seems like we know what’s going on and we can take care of business.
I know it’s cliché, but I think we all eventually reach a point when we realize something’s missing, that there has to be something more, that something needs to change in our lives. Maybe it’s a lackluster career. Maybe realizing you’re drowning in physical clutter or financial obligations. Maybe one or more of your relationships is bringing you down more than lifting you up. Or maybe you struggle to identify or articulate the source of your discomfort. Whatever it is, I think we all hit this point at least once during our adult lives.
But what then? We may be tempted to just hunker down and wait for the discomfort or the uncomfortable question to dissipate. It’s probably just a phase, right? Maybe we cover up the feelings with excessive amounts of television, eating or drinking too much, packing our schedule with activities or mindless hours of scrolling. We may even question if something is wrong with us, after all, this is what life is supposed to be like so why can’t I just be happy?
The trouble with that, though, is that dealing with it by not dealing with it is never going to truly resolve the issue. You can’t ghost an unexamined issue and expect that it won’t eventually come to haunt you somewhere down the road.
A better way to navigate through this phase would be to reach out to someone who can ask the right questions to help you find the right answers. Someone who you don’t have a history with and won’t apply your past to the present. Maybe a therapist or coach, a realtor or financial advisor, or maybe a personal trainer.
Over the past 14 years, whether it’s been through my work with coaching, organizing or retreat clients, it’s inevitable that conversations around making a change in habits and routines or trying something new and out of their comfort zone comes up. Oftentimes they embrace the idea, but there are also times when I have to push them beyond their typical responses. Other times, the client may say things like, “I’ve tried everything and nothing works. It’s just the way I’m wired,” or “I know myself and I don’t think that will work.”
There are cases where this may be entirely accurate and should be accounted for. I’ll use a personal example to explain. Many swear by a morning workout, but I know that that doesn’t work for me because I enjoy working out late afternoon/early evening. I wake up every morning with my brain switched on and ready to work, so it makes a lot more sense for me to go straight to quieter, more intellectual activities in the morning when my thoughts and creativity are fresh and flowing. I’d be setting myself up for failure if I decided that I should switch to working out in the mornings. So, knowing myself in this situation supports my goals for occupation and physical wellbeing.
In cases like this, there’s no reason to push to do something different because what is being done truly is working. Instead, you build around this knowledge. For example, if you put your keys in the same place every day, but regularly misplace your purse/wallet, you wouldn’t want to put your keys somewhere else. Instead, you may consider putting your purse/wallet where you put your keys. This is a simple example where knowing yourself helps.
Where I’d push a client to dig deeper, beyond what they know about themselves, is when it comes to stepping outside of their comfort zone to figure out their truth.
Facing the challenge of answering some of the bigger, more potentially impactful questions, such as those regarding career or relationships, we often respond to those questions from the comfort of our groove or routine, or what we think of as knowing ourselves. When we respond to these bigger questions based on knowing ourselves, we are often responding based on who we have been in the past, failing to invoke the possibilities of who we can or will be moving forward.
When we repeat thoughts or actions, our brain will literally wire itself around those thoughts and actions to function more efficiently. That’s why changing a habit can be such a struggle. So your brain has wired itself to put your keys in that same spot every day and now you don’t even think about it. Your past behaviors have created your current, and future, reality.
We also have thoughts and have developed beliefs about how life should be, what career we should have, where and how we should live, and so on, and then created a life around these beliefs. These thoughts and beliefs are based on our many experiences, and also on the opinions of others and various outside influences. Just as where you habitually put your keys has developed supportive wiring in your brain, beliefs about ourselves have been wired.
So let me ask you: How well do you really know your true self? Do you really have an understanding of what your full capacity is when you’re basing your perspective on what’s in the rearview mirror? Or have you gotten stuck in a groove, running on habit and outdated beliefs that may have never actually belonged to you, but were assigned to and absorbed by you?
Changing what we believe about ourselves can be very challenging, but we are capable of such change. Think about the situation we’ve all heard of when a parent lifts something incredibly heavy that’s fallen onto their child in order to save the child. There are many examples of these and other feats, and it’s a solid bet that that parent never thought that they could have taken such heroic action before they were faced with the situation. Of course, this is an extremely rare thing, but it illustrates the point.
Applying this idea to your own life, where might you be limiting your future based on a past perspective of who you are? Do you really understand what your potential for the future is when you look at it from the perspective of knowing yourself?
For example, based on how you’ve handled situations in the past, perhaps repeatedly, do you stay at a job even when it makes you unhappy because you believe it’s the only work you know how to do? Or do you stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy because you believe this person is the best person you’ve ever been with or ever will be with?
Could it be that you’re living the life of a past version of yourself? One that’s based on the mood or the place you were in life when that situation occurred or decision was made and which influenced the way you handled it or felt about it? Is the self you know based on the habits and routines that you’ve fortified over the years?
Of course, your current self will lean towards sticking around because you’re wired based on past experiences, and, let’s be honest, it’s just easier. But if you tap into your vision of how you want to be, what do you think your future self is capable of? Can you find the true happiness and fulfillment you’re looking for when you ponder these big topics with the limited view of who you have been in the past?
If you do find yourself clinging to this current version of yourself, ask yourself why. Is it possible that fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, or the fear of success keeps you in your comfy groove of the known? What kind of happiness and fulfillment could you be missing out on? When was the last time you did something to shock your system and jolt yourself out of the way you’ve always done it? Even things as simple as driving a different route, taking a trip to a new destination, or striking up a conversation with a stranger.
When was the last time you asked yourself:
- Is this really what I believe?
- Is this really who I am?
- Is this really what I want?
- What could I do regarding ___?
When you play around with these questions, are you met with potential problems? Obstacles? Doubts? Well, of course you are! When we look at doing anything new, there’s always a learning curve, and as we work through that learning curve, we rewire our brains. We need to push back against limiting thoughts and beliefs.
Maybe you’d like a different career, but it requires a different skill set than you currently possess. Instead of letting that stop you, how about looking for a resource to help you manage it instead? For example, I have my own business, so I obviously have accounting and taxes to manage. While I was once a financial analyst, I’ve never quite grasped accounting, let alone taxes! And because I wasn’t interested in learning, I hired someone to do it for me instead of letting this particular lack of skill (or interest) stop me from doing what I wanted to do.
What would it be like to become curious about yourself and to let go of knowing yourself? Just begin! Bring activities like meditation, journaling and quiet reflective time into your daily routine. They will cultivate mindfulness, as well as a deeper connection with your inner guide – the you that really knows you the best. Get curious and excited about what will show up! And just like the parent who lifted the heavy thing off their child, you may surprise yourself!
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