In Order To Love Yourself, You’ve Got To Know Yourself First.

Today I would like to discuss the "Radical" idea of getting to know yourself. You may notice a bit of sarcasm when using the word "Radical" and that is because "getting to know yourself" is not something "new" or "modern".  

How scared or excited are you at the possibility of seriously getting to know yourself?  Discovering the good parts is easy for just about anyone; however, when it comes to the "dark" or "ugly" parts of ourselves, people's reactions are often quite different--certainly not enthusiastic.  

We have been encouraged to get to know ourselves yet we seem to care more about looking anywhere but "In", that way we can avoid accepting we are not as "good" or as "bad" as we may like to believe. Believe or not, just as there are "good" people who don't want to look in at the other side of their nature, there are people who were raised constantly being put down, as such they have developed a fear of discovering there are "good" aspects within them.

At first, when attending counselling/coaching it may seem our priority is to discover who we are; more often than not;people while in session; act as if they are more than willing to launch themselves into self-knowledge yet as soon as therapy gets past the surface, most people start to build up their defenses and setting up walls. Uncomfortable questions are often met with "Do we really have to talk about that right now?", "How about we talk about something else and we'll get back to that", "Oh look at the time...I don't think we have time to do this today" or "That is nothing, I rather tell you about something else that bothers me". If you really have to invest your energy and time getting to know someone it should be yourself. There is no one more important than you; for all change will start with you--everything else will flow from that.  

It is important to recognize during therapy there will be discussions about events and people who had an impact on your life in order to get an idea of what your "blueprint" looks like; however, after doing so most of therapy will be focused on who you are or who you think you are, where do your beliefs originate? are they true or false? and how to help you recognize not just your strengths but your own weaknesses.  Accepting who we are and our power is "key" in starting to heal and rebuild ourselves, but in order to do that, you have to be willing to honestly share not just what puts you in "good light" but also anything that may be considered by your psyche as scary, negative or dangerous.  

When we are not used to it, looking inside ourselves can be quite scary.  We fear the journey may not be worth it; you might even fear that "you" are not worth it.  You may be afraid of what you will find within; it might be something shameful and terrible; too many masks, too much pain, fear, sadness, anguish, anger, uncertainty...and if so, you may fear how will you live with it once it's out in the open.  We have a fantasy that if we don't look to what is inside of us or if we deny things enough, no one will see or know the truth about ourselves.  We tend to believe if something hurts, bothers or scares us, it is best not to dwell in it.  We may erroneously think concealing or denying the truth is the best option; forbid we might open Pandora's box and then have no idea on how to close it. 

My proposal is to just go ahead and dare to open the box; after all you can't hide forever.  Just because you deny something does not mean it did not happen, so why put so much energy into hiding aspects of yourself out of fear of being judged? We tend to forget no one in this life is without blemish; no matter how saintly you may try to portray yourself the reality is you didn't make it this far in life without hurts and without making your own share of mistakes--The important part is whether or not you have learned from your mistakes and whether you are willing to stop feeling ashamed for anything that was not your doing and which left a mark on you...we all have both sides of the spectrum.  

I encourage you to please go ahead and open your box--NOT suddenly--we are not here to overwhelm or retraumatize ourselves; instead do it little by little and with the appropriate help. Dare to do a little bit of self discovery, self healing and self development each day; today a little bit, tomorrow a little bit more, next month a little bit more and so on.  At first it may seem tough and unbearable but little by little; giving yourself enough time to process what comes out; life will start to make sense again. More than anything in the world, I would like you to invest in yourself because no matter how hard you may try, you cannot run away from yourself--sooner or later the running, hiding and concealing will get to you; leaving you feeling very sad, angry, anguished, sarcastic or depleted; the worst part is you won't even be able to express those emotions because there will be a mask to protect.  

All the running will lead you nowhere but leave you feeling as if you cannot do life anymore, then you will be in the same place as you are now--crossroads--so why push things to the limit? It is much better to make the decision to heal and work on ourselves from a place of health vs. when we have a mental breakdown.  I speak from experience; years ago, I had to experience mental breakdowns before I was ready to start reclaiming my life--how much better would it have been for me and my loved ones had I the courage to walk away from what was dragging me down and face the reality that my life; as it was back then; was a total mess and a charade. I was surrounded by people who didn't even know me or didn't care to; as long as I was doing well on the outside, that was enough for them.  Through my journey I've come to the realization that life would have been much simpler had I chosen the real me over the masks, the nay-sayers, the fake supporters and over my own insecurities-- accepting myself the way I am yet willing to continue developing as a human being and healing that which for too many years was neglected inside of me. 

Will the journey be easy? Clearly not, if it were our society would not be as it is. The journey requires real effort. To being with, it implies accepting that you do not know your raw self.  People who are willing to go in the journey of self discovery aren't crazy, on the contrary they are brave. Often that which has a great personal "cost" to us is what can generate important changes within us; but you've got to be willing do the work. It is those "crossroads" which truly mark the before and after of our personal story; that isn't day you will look back and say "It wasn't easy or the simplest thing to do but hell I did it!...yayyy for me"--That is self love and that is the only way to build real self confidence; otherwise you will forever be looking over your shoulder wondering when your "secrets" will come out or when will someone stick a knife in an already bleeding emotional wound...that is no way of living.  When no one can say anything about you that you already have not own about yourself is when people cannot hurt you, control you or manipulate you...that is when you become free. 

Most of us have a "character" or Ego; we need an ego to survive this world otherwise we would be doomed.  Our character however doesn't have to be a false one; character according to Carl Jung, is the integration or acceptance of all your personalities or facets of self--He further explained that within us there are various facets: We all have the saint, the mad person, the angry person, the depressed side, the dreamer, the idealist, etc--healthy integration of those aspects leads to a healthy "character" or healthy Ego. The problem lies when we embrace a character which isn't us but a mask; false ego; such character is usually born from self denying and the accepting of ideas, concepts, values which were not ours but imposed upon by parents who although could have meant well, did not take the time to encourage us to be us.  Too many times parents instead of teaching self acceptance and self responsibility are too busy building a "trophy" child either due to their own wounds or due to their ignorance and desire to be praised as "good parents".  Maybe you were a shy kid, or the loud rambunctious kid, or a nerd, a dreamer, a kid with an entrepreneur spirit, etc. Yet your parents instead of teaching you to listen to your inner voice, help guide and discover your emotions and why you behaved the way you did were more concerned with shutting you down and building a "strong" character...Such conduct often leads to kids growing up into adults who never feel good enough.  The results can vary, one person may choose to give up on himself while the other competes to succeed because it's the only way he may feel he can obtain his parents love, approval or admiration. That person may have gone through life without anyone saying "Hey you are good enough the way you's okay you will find your way...there is nothing wrong with you and I love you".  In no way am I encouraging parents not to set healthy limits with kids; if you see your child destroying himself or putting his life in danger; you are not going to go "It's ok"--obviously common sense is required. 

Getting back to false ego or fake character; most of us have identified for many years with such character; so it may be hard to believe you can-- regardless of your age--drop the mask and accept the raw you. The truth is this character is a tremendous and effective invention of our minds, designed to help us survive--that wasn't bad when we were growing up, otherwise we wouldn't be here....but reality is we are so much more. 

Our character has been built as if we were made of marble; an exquisite piece of marble. Let me explain what I mean...We are born with incredible potential, beauty and strength yet we were fed a lot of information that said we had to tiptoe around everything because otherwise we would always end up hurting others; somehow our caregivers confused teaching empathy with the murdering of our own needs, often teaching self sacrifice for the sake of the needs of others. The irony of things happens later; you see when a child is taught to love and accept himself and to take care of his needs first and his wants second (within reason), then to share of what he has vs give up what he has; that child grows up to be a healthier adult than the child taught to hog everything or the child who was taught to give up everything for the sake of others. Sadly our society confuses teaching a child self love with arrogance.  If  a child feels safe and secure in his surroundings he is often looked as selfish, self involved (even when that is not the case) and constant feedback like that can do as much damage as it can to constantly be putting a child down and demeaning him; one will grow up to see himself as a selfish monster, the other as the helpless victim--the roles might even shift; with one becoming a tyrant due to being tired of giving up everything he has and the other may become the perpetual "good Samaritan", always putting his needs lasts in order to atone for the way he grew up. We forget, it all comes down to balance and the desire to stop blackmailing our children in order to get accolades for ourselves as parents...let's stop living through them!  When it comes to human nature/parenting, no one has the right answers for we are all unique; however, we can certainly increase the chances of raising healthier human beings if we try hard to separate our story from theirs.  Our story should be a guide not the propeller. We need to stop telling our kids that love comes at a cost of being "good", that is better to be liked than to be real. No matter how many "crazy" ideas you may have been taught, the truth remains you are a wonderful being full of potential and the internal power to change your life and affect your surroundings; you may have forgotten this truth but your inner spirit is willing to guide you if you are willing to listen to it vs. putting your faith on external things.

Of course "looking in" has its dangers; don't be alarmed, what I mean is by doing so, you may want to start making changes in your life and every change has a price--others may not like what you are doing because they are used to the old you. The interesting thing is this, why put so much weight on what others think you should be? after all and without exaggerating, what they are asking of you is to sacrifice your life in exchange for their comfort. The fear we feel is really the knowledge that things around us will change; in small or big ways.  We may start setting limits with others.  You may start standing up for yourself. You may choose to quit your job, change careers and instead do what you are passionate about.  You may choose to get divorced; for the person you were with masks on and the person you are without them are quite different; neither partner may longer fit in each other's life or one of the partners within the relationship doesn't want to embrace change and would rather continue living a charade.  You may choose to tell your family to stop trying to determine who you are and how you should live your life.  You may choose to tell everyone who wants the old you to fuck off and for once put yourself first by walking away; hence loving yourself first.  After doing any of those things, life might not be easier and might have setbacks but at least you are being you and you will start surrounding yourself with people who are willing to be raw around you; not stopping your growth but propelling it forward.  

Discovering ourselves is starting a quest in which you collect the pieces of who you really are and start putting them in their rightful place. 95% of people believe they know who they are, the statistical reality is that we only know between 10 and 15% of who we are.  We lie to ourselves stating we are fine and that our life "is normal" because it fits the status quo; as such it's supposed to be a successful life and maybe it long as you are being real about it. However, if you are pretending you have the "perfect" life and you are the "good, always positive people, who never argues and never experiences chaos" then you are procrastinating your life because such attitude is bullshit; no one's life is perfect and free of "negative emotions", problems, etc...because life isn't a straight line; the beauty of life lies in its ups and downs, for in going through them life offers us new chances to get to know ourselves and make the changes necessary to become authentic.  That means if you keep procrastinating you are surviving vs. living. You are choosing a mask over reality; sadly too many people in our society choose the mask and think themselves as healthy when in reality they are just adjusted to an unhealthy state of living.  

Self-knowledge leads to self love and to self compassion when we have to face parts of us that may be less than desirable.  Self knowledge leads to the vomiting of what holds us back and keeps us ill vs the idea that denying something means the truth doesn't exist.  Self knowledge gives the opportunity to feel aligned with who we really are which produces authentic energy; yes there will be times facing your shadow may leave you feeling depleted, but unlike the mask, the feeling will pass and energy will infuse your life--the more you go through the cycles the less depleted you will feel and the more clarity you will gain.  Sometimes we don't realize by denying our weak points we are also denying the strong ones; in doing so we become "happy" "complacent" zombies and we stop feeling; not the idea of feeling but the ability to actually relate and produce changes.

When we start to know ourselves, a certain dance of emotions begins.  We experience pain; yet at the same time; the strength to go through it. Every time we go through this cycle of "pain-processing-strength" our self-esteem goes up because we know we are being brave--we are looking within and accepting what is. As we start to remove each false layer, we become more loving towards ourselves.  Our capacity for acceptance increases, we feel we have more to give and we are also capable and worthy of receiving genuine love; with its ups and downs--not some concocted Disney version. 
Understanding ourselves more leads to the beautiful paradox in which we understand others better. Understanding generates acceptance and acceptance gives inner peace. We mature more mentally as the processing of our anger leads to illumination and internal peace; we can only get there by processing our "negative emotions" not bypassing them.  Our understanding of what "acceptance" truly means becomes clear.  Accepting no longer means having to be participant of what goes against our peace of mind while pretending we are okay with it.  Real acceptance means understanding you cannot change, heal or guide anyone who isn't ready for that journey, and that it's more than okay to walk away from situations or people like that without hiding your head in the sand.  Acceptance means knowing that forgiving isn't the same as tolerating.  Acceptance means you let go of fighting with a cement wall and choose to invest your energy on you, on those that matter to you and on the things that will produce results; as you can see the journey within it's quite the investment.

Over time, practice of self love increases confidence and creativity; you become better able to make decisions that are right for you and develop more honest relationships. You learn that if you make a mistake you don't overcome it by running from it, that it's human and that you are better of owning them, learning from them and modifying your behavior instead of hiding in shame or allowing others to constantly try to punish you.  You start to see mistakes as an opportunity to grow into the person you know you can be. 

As you get to know yourself, you learn more about your way of reacting to things; by doing so you learn to anticipate a situation and are better equipped to handle things and their consequences--little by little you become more proactive vs reactive. None of this will happen overnight but you will see the changes within you; as you take a look at who you were and who you are during your journey of self discovery, you will be left with a more congruent sense of self--you won't have all your "ducks in a row" but you will be happier with yourself than when you started.  

Your genuine self is within you, waiting for you and wanting the opportunity to manifest. Knowing you is removing layers of false conditioning, beliefs, fears and stories of who you are supposed to be. If you don't know yourself you can't love yourself no matter how much you claim you do. If you don't love yourself you can't respect yourself, no matter how much you pretend you do. If you don't respect yourself you can't take care of yourself, if you don't take care of yourself and build genuine self-esteem  you will suffer in silence. 

Get to know yourself! You deserve to give yourself time and deserve to give yourself that gift. When you finally start seeing the genuine you; no matter how different than the norm that person may turn up to be; you will allow yourself to shine without seeking false approval.  You shining is a gift not only to you but to everyone else, for in seeing you be confident enough to expose yourself as you are; with all your imperfections; you indirectly encourage others to do the same. It's the ripple effect and it starts with you! 

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By Sofia Falcone

I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges, victories, hopes and learnings, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves!

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