Know Yourself seems like a strange title since most people feel that they truly do know who they are as individuals. But do you really know yourself? Or when you ask this simple question, does the simple reply of your name, job title and relationship status come to mind?
Sure, these characteristics define who you are, but there is so much more to it.
When I was a junior in high school, I was asked to go on a retreat called Kairos. Kairos is typically a four day trip with classmates (Catholic schools participate) away from parents, school and “life” to study yourself, God and the relationship you have with Him, others and yourself. Being asked to go on this retreat as a junior was an honor so I graciously accepted.
The first speech given by a senior at my school was titled “Know Yourself”. This individual spoke about her deepest, darkest personal secrets and let her emotions come pouring out. I was going through some rough times that school year, so I was impressed by her strength and ability to lay her problems out for the room to dissect, all so we could have the chance to understand ourselves and God a bit more.
I learned something that evening. I learned that we all have things going on in our lives that are distracting, confusing and hard to be involved with, but we cannot let them define who we are as individuals. We must persevere to be the selves that we want to be and solely learn from our experiences rather than sulk in them.
My senior year of high school was my hardest year to date in my life. A dear friend of mine was killed in a car accident the same day my family’s home was broken by divorce. In the same breath of despair, my high school boyfriend had dumped me. I have written about these experiences before because at 17, I honestly thought my world was coming to an end. Reflecting on it helps me understand it better.
Despite all of these tragic things happening in my life, I was asked to lead a Kairos retreat for some other senior classmates and to deliver the very talk that had changed my perception on life, “Know Yourself”. Being asked to give this talk was an honor, but it also scared me. I was being asked to speak of my deepest, darkest secrets and to not hold back on any of my emotions.
Through my own stories and personal experiences, I was asked to stress the importance of self-acceptance of both good and bad qualities. I was told to share personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as examples of how I have reflected on who I am realistically.
Again, at 17 years old and with the stressful events I was going through, speaking about these things publicly, especially in front of classmates, was not my cup of tea. In fact, it felt more like torture. It felt as if I was being forced to act, feel and understand the maturity levels of a 30 year old.
I went on, however, to give the most heart-felt speech of my life. I broke down crying several times, as did many of my classmates listening. I shared joy, love, shame, fear, hate and embarrassment. I explained that I barely knew who I was simply because I was angry and sad about all the things happening in my life and I feared I would hate the person I was becoming. I feared that God had abandoned me. This experience is one that I am only capable of thoroughly understanding now.
I was very angry at that time in my life, but now that I understand why, I have been able to change that emotion and better define who I am now and who I want to become.
Last week I wrote a post about change being good and that it is necessary to move forward in life, love, joy and creation. In order to know yourself completely, you must be capable of changing who you are, even if it means making extremely hard decisions like changing jobs or ending a relationship.
The best way to get to know yourself, your real self, is by writing or keeping a personal journal. Write down these questions and then answer them. Set a specific time frame (one week/month) to revisit your questions, re-answer and reflect on your past self while settings goals for your future self.
1) What are my beliefs? Values?
2) Who do I love? Who loves me?
3) What are the characteristics I love best about my closest relationships?
4) What are my passions? What are my hobbies?
5) What do I enjoy doing? Creating? Making?
6) What makes me smile? Who makes me smile?
7) Am I currently in a relationship that fits the answers above? Job position? Lifestyle?
Always remember that your experiences do not define who you are. Your experiences are just that…experiences to help you learn, grow and create who you are.
Do not try to fit into certain groups or classifications to identify who you are…you are not a label.
God will never give up on you because you will never give up on you…always try to be better.
Remove the definitions of yourself that you do not like (your job, negative peers, etc)…make the change.
Achieve your highest self by creating your highest self. Recognize who you want to be and make it so. God is within you.
Affirm your identity when you are satisfied with it! Everyday I say my personal affirmation out loud with pride in every syllable. Be happy and know yourself! Be yourself!