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Knowing yourself is that first step you take before you can move forward and develop the life skills that help you become a more authentic and balanced individual – someone who can be an asset to society. There is also no end point to this process. It is an ongoing personal adventure that can be an exciting, positive experience.
The problem is that we are not always honest with ourselves, even going to great lengths to hide the truth. We often blame others for our behaviour instead of taking responsibility for our own actions. The prisons of the world are full of criminals who blame their victims for the crimes they have committed against them. History is also full of famous people who felt they were just misunderstood and that they had no choice but to do what they did.
The point is that…nobody can make you do anything and all this attitude does is make you feel entitled to do what you like.
Taking this standpoint also allows people to act with impunity and not feel bad about it. If someone else is always to blame, you are never at fault. The most toxic aspect of all this ‘smoke and mirrors’ behaviour is that we lie to ourselves and put on masks to face the world. This might work for us in the short term but is counterproductive long term. We then take off down roads that will ultimately prove self-defeating and unfulfilling to us. If you know who you are and what is important to you, you can choose a course of action that will take you in the right direction.
So, if you want to be a happy, successful person who thrives in this world, you must start with an honest self-assessment about who you are and what you need to make you happy. This knowledge helps you make the right decisions for yourself. Everything that follows must start there. The ultimate goal surely must be to become a more authentic person, someone who is true to themselves.
One of the tasks is to try and separate who you really are from the various roles you have taken on throughout the course of your life. There are family roles you have been ascribed through your upbringing, birth order and experiences. You might be a father, teacher, friend, sister and mentor. You could be known as the ‘black sheep’ of the family, the ‘clever one’ or the ‘pretty one’.
Schooling and interaction with your peers has probably also put pressure on you to fulfil certain roles and it benefits you to know what these are and if they fit with who you are now. There is nothing inherently wrong with these different hats we wear but if you feel constrained to always behave in certain ways then it is not helpful for you anymore.
In more extreme cases, you may be donning various masks to cover up who you really are. Now, we all wear masks to a certain extent and that is not always a bad thing, as there are social niceties we need to follow. The problem is when the masks prevent you from being yourself and limit your own growth and development.
The best way to approach this is to examine each hat that you wear to see how comfortable it still is for you. Does it empower you and allow you to be flexible in your approach to life? If it feels uncomfortable and no longer fits your personality, get rid of it. If you suspect that you are using masks to hide from the world, then perhaps now is the time to address this and work on discovering who you really are, at your core.
A word of caution here.
Be prepared for resistance to any changes you might try and make. Some people might have a vested interest in you still being the same person you have always been and will put pressure on you to stay the same. This is completely normal behaviour on their part so don’t be surprised by it. Change is never easy, both for you and the people around you and if you start to improve yourself, it often leads to other people needing to change as well. You are not responsible for how other people react to this process.
Get on with being true to yourself!
To be nobody but yourself
In a world which is doing its best,
Night and day,
To make you like everybody else
Means to fight the hardest battle
Which any human being can fight;
and never stop fighting.
e.e.cummings – American Poet
Take care and be kind to each other