December 21 - Who Am I That I Am Feeling This?

One evening I heard someone saying that she didn’t know who she was…she only knew who she was not. She was also scared of what she might find if she went exploring.

“What if I don’t like what I see?” she asked with genuine fear in her voice.

How many of us feel exactly this way? Why is it so easy to see who we are not, yet so difficult to know who we are?

  How often, as a child, did you start to express yourself only to be told not to do so? Perhaps you would reach to explore something interesting… or impulsively wipe your dirty hands on your clothes. Did you ever sing at the table or talk in church…only to be told either that you should not do that or you ought to know better or even more confusing, “You really don’t want to do that”?

Do you remember what you concluded about yourself in those moments? If you were like so many of us, you probably started to make decisions about what you should not be and from that point forward had little time to think about what you wanted to be. As you began suppressing bits and pieces of yourself, it started to take more and more of an effort to be “not” you.

I can’t help but wonder how our self-image might be different if we had been offered an alternative choice that still allowed us to be who we were but within the societal norms around us.

For example, for those of you who don’t like your hands to be dirty, you might have been given a towel to hang on a nearby tree that you could use when needed. Your cleanliness then could have been celebrated rather than creating a perception that you were bad for using your clothes to get rid of a dirty mess. You would have known that cleanliness in your life was important and valued.

For the singers out there, perhaps after dinner you could have been promised a sing-a-long with the family rather than being told rather harshly to be quiet. This would have allowed you to celebrate and to express how much you loved to sing.

If you delighted in putting your hand into a light socket or on a hot stove, perhaps your adventuresome exploration could have been channeled towards safer experimentation. As an adult, you would have then continued to look forward to adventure and learning.

If you were constantly talking in church or your classroom, perhaps you could have been given a pencil and paper with which to record your thoughts to share later or enrolled in a speech class. Who knows, you might have grown up to be a talk show host instead of trying never to be heard again!

Today, try to remember some instances from 0-13 when you felt sad or angry…as a result of being told not to do what once came so naturally. What is a trait that you can identify in that action that you could be proud of today…that might even be considered one of your gifts?

If you are still sad or angry because you had to tuck a part of you away as a child, you might want to think about reacquainting yourself with that characteristic or talent. For example, my mother used to get really mad at me because I asked so many questions. For years I squelched my natural curiosity. Does that help you to see what I mean?????

What did you learn not to do as a child? How has that affected your life today? Do you spend more time trying to avoid what you think you should not be or designing the way that you want to be? Will you start identifying ways of self-expression that will bring you joy and then find a way to demonstrate them to the world?

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