One of the most important things to know about yourself is that you grow and change. Know Thyself is not a destination, it is an ever-changing journey. I have spoken with many that believe they cultivate an idea of who they are and they become married to that self-image that they fear acknowledging any changes (internal or external). This leads to misery, for you and anyone who shares your life.
Google the phrase ‘journey off self-discovery’ and you will find articles, blogs, web posts and quotes aplenty. Knowing who we are and our life purpose is central to a persons need to fit in and find a place in the world. I believe it is why we are obsessed with labeling ourselves and others. We need things to make sense and fit together. This gives us a sense of control in our lives.
Control starts with knowing you, truly and honestly knowing you. The you in your heart that you do not speak about to anyone. The one who is afraid of being made fun of for liking XYZ. That is the you. That is the person you need to know and cultivate to have a life you adore.
First, embrace the fact that we grow and change by both internal and external factors. External factors are more easily recognized. They are things such as school, career, partner, friendships and societal expectations. Internal factors are more difficult because they are often emotional. Changes in relationships, physical or mental health, and our thoughts, feelings and desires based on our life experiences and choices.
Externally, my life changed when I left home to go to college. It was a time of absolute freedom from another controlling my decisions; however, I was wrestling with my familial expectations versus what I wanted at that point in my life. Given lack of life experience, new situations and people I made a lot of choices that I learned from; some of the lessons were very harsh and life changing. However, I lived, experienced and chose. Without these experiences I would not have been led to the person who introduced me to meditation and encouraged me to pursue my love of art and writing.
This situation and the choices I made at age 17 put me on the path of self-discovery. My love of philosophy and mythology led me to the greek maxim “Know Thyself”. Decades of study, contemplation and reflection on this maxim have led me to believe in this as one of the foundation blocks of the healthy self. It has also led me to believe that you cannot embrace yourself as a stagnate discovery, but a mutable journey.
Think of it as weaving a beautiful tapestry full of light and dark colors. If you solely focus on the light, the brightness is overwhelming and seems gaudy and unreal. Focusing only on the dark is depressing and tragic. However, woven together they create a balance of beauty. A connecting web of a life fully lived.
Often, we allow societal and familial expectations to overshadow our self desires and expectations. This leads to imbalance in the body, mind and spirit. These imbalances can cause anger, depression and physical illness (just to name a few).
Have you ever thought: “I have no right to feel unhappy or dissatisfied with my life because everyone tells me how lucky I am? Yet, this isn’t what I want. I know I should want this, but I don’t?”
That is living for expectations that are not for you. One persons ideal is another nightmare. My ex-husband wanted to live in a certain style house with a certain type of friends, no kids, no pets and work corporate jobs at a certain income. I was dying on the inside to the point I was physically ill and seriously depressed. Each day I went to a career I hated, over-shopped trying to fill the void of the family I wanted and became more and more depressed as people told me I was ungrateful for the life I had.
I wasn’t ungrateful, I was living a life that was not for me. I was living a lie that my soul knew. The more I worked on Know Thyself, the more I understood this. I tried to make it work in that life situation but the fact was we each had different truths for what we wanted for life and those truths were incompatible.
Not everyone will come to extreme life realizations. I did and had I not, I would have lived my life unhappy. Instead, I had the courage to find my own path. For me, this path includes a partner who is my best friend with three kids under 8 and two dogs.
Know Thyself looks different for every one of us. There are many paths to get there. I personally love writing, as such journalling is one of my primary resources for gaining personal insight. Meditation is an amazing way to slow down and start the connection process. Mindfulness is a fantastic way to slow down and stop constantly multi-tasking. Music (composing, playing, listening) is soothing and can assist us in connecting with our thoughts and feelings. Art is great for mindfulness and connecting, as well as expressing emotions. These are just the tip of the ice-berg.
Going forward we will be discussing the paths to Know Thyself. Subscribe to further explore this topic.