I had a weird thought this week . . . with all the talk about “finding your true self” and all the books and methods that teach you how to do that, what if finding your true self is as simple as setting aside a few days to be totally alone and see who you are when no one is watching, judging, expecting, requesting, or needing anything from you.
Many of us think we know who we are at our core. At times, I feel confident I do. But as soon as someone else enters the picture, we sometimes set aside our true selves to be what they want/need. Mostly, it’s done out of love, but sometimes it’s done out of guilt, shame, embarrassment, or obligation.
A while back, my wonderful husband was gone for a few days and I had the opportunity to just be myself. I slept in later than usual because there was no one there to tease me or to wonder if I was okay or to be waiting breakfast for me. I turned up my “Irish Yoga” playlist while I did my yoga and, in this private space, was able to really sink in to both the music and the practice. I arranged to get together with some friends, one at a time, while we did things I enjoy, like eating out at a really good restaurant and attending a live performance. I watched a movie that night my husband wouldn’t have liked and I loved it. All the while, I was keenly aware of how those actions made me feel, what they made me think, and how they raised my energy.
It’s important sometimes to get back in touch with what makes you tick all on your own. Not just doing the things you like to do, but exploring your uninterrupted thoughts. Where do they take you? Not just doing something for yourself, but doing nothing and seeing how that feels.
My introvert friends would probably stop me right here and say, “I do that all the time. I love being by myself.” But I’m not just talking about being alone. I’m talking about once in a while removing all expectations, including the ones we have for ourselves. Setting aside the “I have to” things we do every day: “I have to meditate first thing in the morning, or go for a jog, or write in my journal.” When did you decide those things were “musts” in your life? Did it make sense when you decided, but it maybe doesn’t make sense now? Did you decide on those musts because someone told you that you should, or because you believed it was expected of you, or because you thought it would lead to your best self? What if your best self doesn’t need any improvement? What if it just is?
This life demands a lot from us. We demand a lot from ourselves. We play our parts well. During the pandemic, especially during the lockdown, many people had time and space and quiet for the first time since they were children to remember who they are at their core. That, of course, led to “The Great Resignation.” Let’s not waste the experience of these past two years. Let’s give ourselves permission to rediscover our true selves.
John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” I’d say, the true test of our core selves is who we are when no one is watching. Try it.
By Teresa R. Funke
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