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What I Want is to be Myself Again

mark blue

I’m learning that when we lose faith in our feelings, we lose faith in ourselves and become outer-directed. That is, we look to the world to tell us how to feel and what to do.  We seek approval and love from others so we can prove to ourselves that we are worthy.  Paradoxically, to be outer-directed is to be self-absorbed. How can this be?  We feel so unsure of who we are , that we cannot let go, be spontaneous or real.We can reclaim ourselves by becoming inner-directed.  This means looking within ourselves for the direction we need.  When we’re just beginning to learn to trust our feelings, this can seem to be truly agonizing.  It means trusting the reality of our needs and our right to express them.  Only then can we find the faith in ourselves and in life, that we have lacked.

Becoming inner-directed takes self-acceptance and self-love.  It also takes time. Until then, there will be no real peace because it is the only way to find ourselves.

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How to Get to Forgiveness

One is, as One is.


“One is as one is, and the love that can’t encompass both is a poor sort of love.”  — Marya Mannes

I have struggled to find the way to forgive myself and others.  Forgiving isn’t easy.  Writing this blog isn’t easy.  I am carrying so much resentment and hurt around with me.  In fact, when I’ve been deeply hurt or victimized by someone else, I may feel I can’t forgive. Yet, for my peace of mind and to let go, I may finally try.  It’s been suggested by a close friend that forgiveness is easier under certain conditions: a positive connection with the person we want to forgive, a deep relationship with the Universe, and lots of time.

Forgiveness is often preceded by grieving fully; we must first heal from the harm that was done to us. Through the honesty, power and wisdom gained through personal growth we are gently led through the process of forgiving ourselves and others. Many of us have also experienced the Universe’s unconditional forgiveness which gives us a model.  I acknowledge my responsibility for my actions, I let go of resentment, I grieve, and, finally, I forgive.

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Your Authentic Self

 

“To thine own self be true…”

 

Most of us associate this quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78-82:

Polonius:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Laertes:
Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

“To thine own self be true” is Polonius’s last piece of advice to his son Laertes; Polonius has in mind something much more Elizabethan than the New Age self-knowledge that the phrase now suggests. To me, what I get from this quote is that unless we can be true to ourselves first, we cannot be true to others.

My path of personal growth has led me recently to wonder, what exactly is one’s “authentic self”? How do we get there? From this exploration, I have summarized what I have learned and am eager to share it with you.

Definitions:

Authentic: Genuine; literally self-authored or endorsed.

Self: Your physical and mental being with all its human and unique characteristics.

Authentic Self: The true you; aligned and congruent self-image, stature, values, beliefs, goals, behavior, word, and public image.

Your Authentic Self and Truth

How many of us have a hard time being true to ourselves?  Those of us that gave up so much of our Self just so that we could be in the life of another did so at the cost of losing who we are in the process. By allowing someone else to define who we are caused us to lose our ability to discover and grow inwardly.  We no longer are able to discern a truth from a lie.  For many of us, we have accepted lies for so long, that finding out what is truth takes time.

Truth is a word that brings out negative reactions to many of us. Accepting truth about ourselves is difficult, especially to those of us who have been abused.  But truth does set one free if we will allow it to; it is a crucial part of healing.  It gives us the freedom to be who we are.  We are able to come to terms with our weakness (without judgment or condemnation) and appreciate our strength.  Truth gives strength; it naturally builds healthy boundaries.

Truth is open; it is honest even at the risk of being vulnerable again.  Truth fears no reaction. Truth is light and brings forth life.  When we walk in truth, we walk in light and when we walk in light we live a healthy life.

Truth is also love.  The greatest act of love towards another is living a life that is truthful.  For those of us who find it difficult to love ourselves, we will find it will come more easily when we are truthful about who we are.  If we walk in truth, we walk in perfect love, and if we walk in perfect love, then we do not walk in fear because perfect love cast out fear.  Because we have been honest with ourselves, we are able to love ourselves with all of our imperfections, knowing that we are a work in “progress” and therefore need not have others approval.

“And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

The second part of this verse is a natural occurrence if we hold true to the first part of the verse.  So, when in doubt about our motives of not being truthful with someone….look inside, are we being less than truthful to ourselves?

Just what makes up an “authentic person”?  It is someone who:

Has great listening skills: everyone, regardless of who they are, wants to be acknowledged, appreciated and loved. When you are engaged in a conversation with someone, are you truly focusing 100% of your attention on what that person is saying? Or is your brain formulating something to say at the next available opportunity?  Are your eyes constantly roaming the room, wondering who else just walked in? An authentic person’s attention is razor-sharp, making the other person feel like the most important person in the world.

Treats others fairly: When carrying out your role, whether it be a mother, business executive, pilot, waitress, teacher or coach, to name a few, you are always dealing with other people. The biggest secret is how you treat them. Do you treat others with respect or are you condescending, especially if they screwed up?

Has integrity: Everyone wants something. But authentic people are conscious of the operative watchword: integrity. They will do the ethical thing even if it means a loss of personal benefits for themselves.

Has the ability to communicate: Business leaders who conscientiously communicate in the open, especially when there is a lot of uncertainty hovering over the future of their employees, end up earning tremendous amount of trust. Rather than hiding behind the cloak of their boardrooms, they step up to the plate and keep people informed as much as possible. Authentic people make themselves valuable because they care enough to keep others in the loop by communicating.

Has the willingness to show transparency: I’ve done a lot of public speaking in my life. Public speakers who aren’t afraid to stand up on stage and speak from the heart, showing their childlike enthusiasm and not presenting themselves as flawless packages, often win the hearts of their audiences.

Why? Because it makes them real. Authentic speakers go into a speaking engagement with the attitude of “I am grateful all these people are spending time with me and I will give them a reason to laugh, cry and otherwise enjoy themselves without worrying how I look.”

Inauthentic speakers will say, “Well, there’s a bunch of jerks out there, I’ll just get in there, get it over and fool them senselessly with my appearance of great success.” People who are willing to be transparent win the love and respect of others.

Food for thought: Authentic people make more friends in two weeks by becoming interested in other people than in 2 months by trying to get other people interested in them!

Some experts on authenticity assert that if an individual is not living authentically in their lives, then they lose meaning and can fall into chronic anxiety, boredom and despair. People might pursue “quick fixes” to avoid the responsibility of living authentically with quick fixes such as anesthetizing themselves with alcohol or drugs or living in fantasies.

Becoming your Authentic Self

To become your authentic self, begin by knowing yourself. Understand human nature, what you can change and what you cannot, your own personality traits, learned behaviors, your values, beliefs, needs, goals, and motives. Consider the choices, events and people who may have “molded” you. Begin to know what guides you throughout life. Know your true strengths. Apply your true strengths to authentic goals. Gain the confidence to be humble. Begin to integrate and align your values, beliefs and actions.

We must face the fears that block our inner truths from coming out, especially the fear of rejection. Even when we feel strong enough to communicate the truth, we don’t always have clarity about what is true for us.  But being authentic doesn’t mean being perfect.  It just means doing our best to be real.  Sometimes that means exposing our warts and imperfections, but there lays the beauty of authenticity.

Coming into your Authentic Self

Don Miguel Ruiz shares centuries of Toltec wisdom in his book The Four Agreements. To apply this wisdom, choose to create these profound agreements with yourself:

Be impeccable with your word. Carefully look at what you tell yourself, what you tell others, and when you decide to speak. Use your word consistently to express and strengthen your values. Don’t use or overlook factual errors, fallacies or distortions during communications. Express yourself authentically. Earn trust.

Do what you say.

Don’t take anything personally. It’s not all about you. Reject the fallacy of personalization.

Rely confidently on your own well-founded self-concept; it is the only evaluation of your worth that matters.

Challenge and balance your first-person point-of-view.

Don’t make assumptions. Suspend judgment. Readily acknowledge what you don’t know and have the courage to ask questions. Carefully look at the evidence. Don’t attribute intent to others. Retain a healthy skepticism as you avoid cynicism. Develop, refine, and constantly apply your own well-founded theory of knowledge.

Always do your best. Do all you can while you recognize you can’t do it all. All you can do is all you can do. You are good enough. Apply your time and effort toward your well-chosen and enduring goals.

These agreements are essential elements of authentic expression and earning trust.

References

Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, by Martin Seligman

Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation, by Edward L. Deci, Richard Flaste

I Am a Strange Loop, by Douglas Hofstadter

Authentic Happiness Website, by Martin Seligman, Director of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center.http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx

Self Matters, by Phillip C. McGraw

Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, by Nathaniel Branden

The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

Peaceful Warrior — Dan Millman learns to enjoy the journey in this docudrama.

Everybody Needs a Rock, by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall

Knowing Yourself, an Amazon.com Listmania List

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Discovering Our Uniqueness

“The search for a new personality is futile; what is fruitful is the human interest the old personality can take in new activities.” — Cesare Tavese

Complete these sentences and if you’d like include your answers in my poll:

Hard, isn’t it?  It’s usually easier to come up with five awful things about ourselves.  Yet, knowing who we are and being able to state it is a good exercise in self-esteem.  It feels good to be able to make positive statements about ourselves and our uniqueness.  We get a new sense of identity, especially when we take the risk of telling someone else about ourselves (Feel free to take a look at my page titled “This Boy’s Life – All about Me” which is this exercise at a much more detailed and intimate level). It’s the small things, our preferences and idiosyncrasies that add color and substance to our personalities.

The longer we work on ourselves through personal growth, or recovery, the more we enjoy our unique combination of qualities.  We begin to feel “comfortable in our own skin.”  We can start by affirming them to ourselves often, “I am unique. There is only one person like me.  I am worthwhile, competent and lovable.”  We can focus on ourselves, not in grandiosity, or self-centered ways, but lovingly.  Getting to know ourselves is an adventure, one we can enjoy each day.

Damn Heels Hurt! When In Pain, Who Knows Best Where it Hurts?

 

“Only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches.” – English proverb.

When I am in pain, I know where it hurts. Other people may be ready with suggestions and advice, but I am the only one who eventually can know what the matter is.

We are each a unique expression of humanity and we are the only ones who can live our lives. When we are stricken with addiction to compulsive behaviors, we know where it hurts and how much. While we may have to bear a lot of pain, we can name where it hurts and begin to do something about it. When this happens, it’s possible for others to come to our aid later on.

This is true whether in the program or on a path of personal growth. We know where the hurt is and we take that first baby step. In doing so, we turn to others who help us bear the pain and walk by our side on the open road to personal growth.


Just Be Honest

 

just-be-honest 

“Just start being honest” my ex-partner was always telling me.  “It’s not that difficult Mark, just do it.”  For a large part of my adult life, I was dishonest with the people I said I loved.  My dishonesty grew as I became more involved with my addictions to crystal methamphetamine and sex.  My behaviors began to protect and hide my addictions from those I loved most: my significant love relationships, my family and my friends.  That is what I was fooling myself to believe anyway; that I was smarter than they were and that I was fooling them that I was not in fact a drug addicted, sex addicted person.  The real me was using drugs and having promiscuous sex outside the relationship, but telling them that I was a clean and sober person, committed to our monogamous relationship as we defined it.  Lies and dishonesty ruled my life.  I was smoking crystal meth in the bathroom, while my partner at the time was in the bedroom next door.  I was creating stories and drama that would seem to support or validate my excuses or reasons to be away from home.  I thought that my partner believed I was away for some legitimate reason, so that what I could really do is meet that hook up for sex behind his back. 

 

I began to not only get high from the drug, and get off on the sex, but I was also getting something out of the lies and deceptions I was creating.  I thought my partner was fooled by my tall tales and drama.  More drugs and more sex led to more lies, tales and drama creating two lives; two worlds.  I was living two separate lives; one life that was shallow and fake and filled with dishonesty and the one I wanted my partner to believe was going on opposed by the life of drugs and sex that I was in reality living.  It was when the two lives collided that everything began falling apart around me.  My partner, who I tried to fool myself to believe, was stupid and believing in my distortions and lies was actually fully aware of every mistruth of my words and my actions.  He knew all along when I was dishonest and sadly that was most of the time. 

 

When I finally became aware that I was the only one playing my game, and that I was fooling no one but myself and that I had lost everything and everyone important to me, I was at the lowest point of my entire life. Everything was gone and everything had changed.  I was lost, alone and afraid.  Confusion and delusion had ruled my life.  Everyone I loved now seemed like those scary looking clowns.  Alone, I prayed to my god, Mother Universe, and asked, “What have I done?”

 

It was only then that I could begin rebuilding my life.  Only this time, it would be a life that is real.  What I put out to the world, the person I presented myself as, would be authentic and honest.  If I said something, I wanted people to know that my word was good enough to take to the bank.  No more distortions, lies and no more drama. 

 

What a slow process this has been.  At least it seems slow going to me.  The hardest part has been getting honest with me.  It is unbelievable that I even thought of myself as a fool enough to believe my lies.  I have spent so much time becoming aware of how I wanted myself to be, versus how I was trying to fool myself I was.  I realized there was a tremendous amount of incongruity between my authentic self and the person I was really presenting myself as.  By taking small, gradual “baby steps” I am becoming comfortable in my own skin and thereby honest with myself.  Once honest with myself, I am honest with all others in my life. 

 

No one was, is or ever will be the ignorant asses I tried to convince them they were.  Not one person I had fed my lies to was stupid.  In my awareness, it hurts to see the self-doubt that my lies created in once confident and happy people.  What do I do now?  For starters, I practice forgiving myself.  To those I hurt through my dishonesty, I validate that their suspicions were correct and that they weren’t crazy, stupid or ignorant.  I apologize for the man I was and demonstrate authentic remorse for my actions.  I make amends.  Then, I only put out what is honest.  I just become honest.  It really is that simple.  I just do it. 

 

            I write this today because there is one person in my life who means so much to me that is right now at the exact point I was when I lost everything and was brought to my knees.  I have tried many times over to make it clear that I am no fool, I am not stupid and that I have been the player of his exact same game.  He seems to be holding on to the lies and distortions much tighter than I ever was.  This may not be his time for change yet.  However I am giving to him every opportunity I wasn’t given.  I want him to know that he is safe to be honest and can disclose fully his actions without fear of my reaction or retribution.  If he chooses honesty and to be his authentic self, I know we will have a long and happy life together.  If he chooses not be authentic, and continue the lies, distortions and drama, then I must begin that arduous and painful process of ending a relationship — and that breaks my heart.   Just be honest.  It’s not that hard.  Just do it.  Baby steps. 

Tired of Being Someone Else?

Let\'s Pretend to be Someone Else

I love acting. It is so much more real than life. – Oscar Wilde

Many of us have gotten used to playing a part.  I know that for me, I sometimes hesitate to reveal my innermost self because I may have felt ashamed of who I really am.  We can go through life with our true selves hidden by the masks of our false selves.  Some form of dis-ease has compelled us to be false, and we may have even taken pleasure in playacting.  It may have made us feel good at times to know we’re deceiving everyone around us, including our friends and loved ones.  There were times when I am certain I fell in love with my own cleverness.

Eventually, if you’re like me, we become tired of being someone else.  Our lovers, partners, our children and our friends became confused and hurt by our games and our inconsistency.  They long to know us as we really are.  As we gain the courage to get to know and love ourselves, we can drop our masks and let ourselves be seen and known and loved by others.  Our lives, and theirs, will be richer.

That Slippery Land of Fantasy

“At the bottom of the modern man there is always a great thirst of  self-forgetfulness, self-distraction…and therefore he turns away from all those problems and abysses which might recall to him his own nothingness.” Henri Amiel (1821-1881), Swiss Philosopher and Poet

I am aware of the way I sometimes rush around or slide off into the land of fantasy to distract myself from looking at myself too closely. Am I afraid that what I might find is nothing but my own… nothingness? Are my addictions a misguided search for some kind of identity at any price?

I am discovering that identity is not something given, once and for all. Perhaps there is never a fixed point at which I can say, “I am that.” Life is a process, upheaval, reversal, change and a continuous process of becoming. If I can be brave enough to welcome change and the pains it can cause, I may never have to fear the vertigo of nothingness or the madness of distraction that becomes self-destruction.