2020 and 2021 became a period of self-reflection for me, as it did for many of us. I wasn’t happy. I hadn’t been for a long time. People would say to me “just be happy” or “just be positive.” The thing about those types of statements is that they don’t tell you how. If I knew how to just be happy, I would have done it years ago. On top of that, you aren’t ready until you’re ready and no amount of people telling you to change is going to cause you to change.
I finally got to a point where I wanted things to be different, enough that I was willing to change for it. The problem is, I didn’t know where to begin. So I started looking just generally for inspirational quotes. One that I stumbled upon was Paulo Coelho‘s, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”
I thought about this for a long time. Un-becoming. What did it mean? I had spent my whole life trying to become something. Trying to become the perfect daughter or the perfect friend. Trying to become a librarian. Trying to become a good Christian. Trying to become what I perceived others’ expectations of me to be. None of that made me happy. Honestly, it didn’t make anyone else in my life happy either. So, what was I doing?
In my confusion, I turned to music, as I so often do. Jewel is one of my go-to artists. I was listening to “What You Are” and the lyrics really jumped out at me.
Everything I hope to be, I already am. Everything I am supposed to be is already within me. It always has been. So, why didn’t I know what it was, or even that it was there? I think it’s because, from the time we’re born, we are taught by our parents, grandparents, teachers, peers, coworkers, everyone in our lives, how to be and how to live. The problem with that is that they can only teach us from their own experiences and perspectives. Their experiences and perspectives aren’t ours and sometimes useful information can get lost in translation. Communication is largely a lost art.
The solution is to un-become. I have to examine all of these things I’d been taught to be. I have to sift through the information to keep the relevant lessons and discard anything that doesn’t serve my becoming the best version of me. This is by no means a quick or easy process. I’m still working on it and probably always will be.
Trying to figure out what is for you and what isn’t is hard enough. Know thyself. It’s ancient wisdom, but it’s so true. I’ve been learning who I am, at my core. What do I believe? What do I feel? What do I think? What do I want to be? What do I want to contribute to the world? What am I capable of contributing to the world? What makes my soul happy? How do I become who I’m meant to be?
So much of this involves shadow work, which I’ll get into another time, because the only way I can really know myself is to know the dark and the light, my weaknesses as well as my strengths. It’s difficult and scary and it’s so hard to love yourself when you admit these darker parts to yourself. It’s also the only way that you can love yourself. Light doesn’t exist without darkness. Strengths and weaknesses bring us into balance. They help us grow and they help us to help others grow, those whose weaknesses are our strengths.
These things I’d read and listened to had set me on the right path, but as if to confirm my path, as the universe often does, I came across another quote…
Finding yourself is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering of who you were before the world got its hands on you.Emily McDowell
Maybe all of this is obvious to you. I’m a classic over-thinker and I need order, instructions for doing things. Hearing statements like “know thyself” doesn’t help me either. I need to know how. Since there isn’t one set of instructions that works for everyone, I just have to research. I have to read and listen. I have to talk to people who have been on this journey. I have to develop my own set of instructions based on the research and some trial and error. I have to find my own way. That’s hard for someone like me, but it isn’t impossible. I have already seen so much positive change come out of this journey and I’m really just scratching the surface at this point. I’ve been digging deep more recently, but my excavation is still in the early stages.
If you are in a similar situation, keep going. All of your progress is good, even if it doesn’t seem like it right now. I was frustrated for so long because I didn’t feel like I could see any changes in my outward life, or that anyone else could see any changes. But I did feel different. It’s because I had been growing, but I had been growing my roots, the part that nobody else can see. It wasn’t time to bloom yet. It still isn’t. My roots need to be strong.