It’s hard to stand up for someone you don’t know, including yourself.  The task of defining one’s self gets caught up in our attempts to protect ourselves with a bucket full of defense mechanisms.  This in turn confuses the journey of discovering who you are.  Self-understanding is warped with the image we attempt to project.  Self-protection becomes an alias for self-understanding.

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” — C.G. Jung

How does this usually work?  Rather than self-identification, at a young age we allow others to identify and label us.  Dumb, skinny, fatty, geek, fag, spaz, loser—and you can add to the list.  Every generation updates and downloads their favorites.  To make things worse, the backlog of labels keeps sounding like a CD stuck on “repeat.”

And we were posed with a question in our younger years  — “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A better question might have been, “who are you now?”

We were told that BIG lie – “Sticks and stones will break your bones but names will never hurt you.” But they not only hurt you, they shaped who you were becoming unless you were intentional about coming to your own opinion, realizing that a pseudo identity could have been place on you by others.  How could this happen?  Because words and labels do hurt–deeply.

From that point it’s a small step to camouflage our identity with a makeshift projection that is designed for protection.  Subtly, we think, if we don’t keep up the false persona we will somehow be unlovable.

This kind of ingrown life is something surgeons cannot cut away.  It starts out small, but can metastasize into an internal loneliness, even in the midst of an adoring crowd.   After all, if they accept me this way, why would I chance rejection by letting the real me emerge?     This intoxicating drink has a clear formula – 1 teaspoon of loneliness, combined with 1 teaspoon of denial, and add 1 tablespoon of outward projection.  It causes distortion.  And the remedy for this ailment is not found in a first aid kit.

There are those who make attempts to heal, yet so many walk that relational tightrope leading to a lack of authenticity.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of navigating through all that past debris rather than going to your core and discovering what’s hampering progress.

Here are 3 ways to help you navigate the debris and stand up for yourself.

  1. Be at peace with who you are. Go to the cast that is surrounding your heart and sign it with, “they were wrong!” You are not what they called you.  Look at the beauty with in and take the time to celebrate it.  Know who you are.  Now honor it! Choose reality and do not substitute it with a role.  Freedom of thought is an incredible source of peace, but it only comes from within.  Masking it distorts it, even for yourself.  Untether your spirit by being who you are.
  2. Make daily time to reflect. Turn off the “pings” and the “bells”. Be quiet so you can hear your breathing.  I like formulas… experience + reflection = insight. You’ll still have plenty of time to shake hands, solve problems, answer emails, and care for others.  Take care of yourself first by getting in touch with yourself.
  3. Listen to the story you are telling yourself. We get overly concerned about what others think of us.  The truth is they are probably not thinking about us anyway.  They have their own “stuff” to think about.  Our imaginations run wild at this point.  Our vision is driven by our own fears; our own insecurities.  It’s an illusion we have a tendency to create.  Take the time to listen to the narrative of your heady story.  Since it impacts your decisions and behaviors, it’s important to tell the right one—the accurate one.  If it’s not a positive story, then make the needed corrections.

Rachel Andrews said it well, “As you become more aligned with the truth of who you are, the question of liking yourself goes away.  It becomes a natural state of being.

(Mick Ukleja is the co-author of the book Who Are You? What Do You Want?: Four Questions That Will Change Your Life)

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