Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are you up-to-date with who you really are?

The above words are so simple, so true and carry a wealth of meaning.  Self-forgiveness is a topic we can save for another time.  For this post let's concentrate on the words, "...and remembered who I am...".

The Course in Miracles is talking about remembering who we are on a spiritual level - remembering and accessing the divine inside.  However, on a more everyday level many of us are not up to date with who we truly are.   Yes, we can recount our history, our victories, our defeats, our struggles, our fears, our foibles.  We have not forgotten those.  But I have seen over and over again how many of us are not up-to-date with the qualities, the strengths we have acquired while dealing with the sometimes brutal givens of existence.  It is as if we still see ourselves through the eyes of a younger, unsure, less competent part of ourselves.

Sometimes trauma can make us temporarily regress - make us feel little inside.  When we feel that way we see the world and ourselves through the eyes of our insecure, inexperienced inner child - even though we are walking around in an adult body.  Some of us can get stuck in that limiting point of view.

So, near the end of a course of therapy - having acquired some knowledge of, and appreciation for the person - I try to hold up an undistorted mirror to them, so that they can see who they truly are.  Many are resistant to the more up-to-date view of themself.  Most do not recognize the strengths they have acquired and use.  "No, that's not me", they say.  "Well, perhaps I was able to ... that one time, but ....".   

A lot of us do not see ourselves as competent as we really are.  Often, people have no idea how resilient, how compassionate, how versatile they are.  It is as if they need to catch up with themselves as a mature, experienced adult with all the intangible, inner acquisitions they have made over their lifetime.

Are you up-to-date with who you really are?  Do you acknowledge and own all the qualities that have brought you this far?  Or do you only 'own' your weaknesses and failings?  They say that what you dwell upon, grows.  That should be incentive enough to acknowledge our failings, learn from them, correct them and not make them our major preoccupation.  Once acknowledged and dealt with, let them go.  Can you learn to love your imperfect self?

 Do you appreciate your strengths?  Are you grateful for and comfortable with your competencies?    Do you view yourself from the perspective of the adult you are, or the child/young adult that you once were?  Is it time for you to 'catch up' and remember who you truly are ... NOW?

Sit down and make a list of the qualities that have helped you survive your life's challenges, e.g.  intolerance for injustice, compassion, persistence, sense of humour, ability to make and keep friends, work ethic, particular values, etc. etc. 

Make another list of the competencies (big and small) you have acquired over a lifetime, e.g.  drive a truck, good hiker, master baby soother, best breakfast chef, adequate golfer, amateur photographer, good listener, great joke teller, gardener, doctor, stone mason, life of the party, movie buff, card shark, etc. etc.

Make another list of the roles you have taken on in your lifetime, e.g. father, lover, friend, nurse, child, aunt, parent, good neighbour, cook, chauffeur, decorator, family cheerleader, etc., etc. 

You won't come up with everything in one sitting.  Keep adding to the lists as things come to mind.  When you feel the lists are fairly complete - look at them, take them in, own them.  Love the person all those qualities, competencies and roles represent.  Be up-to-date about you.  Appreciate all that you are

This is not a narcissistic exercise (unless you make it so!) for once you remember who you are, you are then free as The Course says, to "bless everyone and everything you see".  Remembering who you are and loving the person that you are then frees you from the self-involvement that comes when you feel insecure, unlovable, incompetent.  You are now free to look outward and love and bless all that you see.  You don't have to dwell on yourself, once you have accepted yourself.  Once you acquire self-acceptance you are free to be of service to the world.  Your focus moves outward.

Oh, and if you have trouble seeing past the negatives about yourself (which we all have) while you do this exercise - well, maybe it is time to work on the forgiveness piece as The Course in Miracles suggests.

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  1. Its always so easy to forget who I am and my strenghs in the day to day routine. Meditation helps me alot. Very nice post :))

  2. Wonderful post as always Bonnie.

    It is often difficult for people to get the words of their parents out of their heads or their own words of self-hatred.

    People live in fear so they project distorted mirrors which keeps everyone colliding like bumper cars. It is rare to mirror someone clearly -glad you are there to do this.

    much love

  3. Why is self acceptance so difficult? My spiritual outlook has helped me, knowing that even in my imperfection I am a reflection of the divine. I am, in essence, the divine. Being OK with not having certain things makes it easier to be happy for those that do and that in turn makes it easier for me to grow by turning jealousies into admirations.

  4. This is exactly what I needed today. It is far too easy to fall into the same old beliefs and attitudes, even though we know better.

  5. I often find myself dwelling on past mistakes and on negativet things. Stinkin' Thinkin'. I love the Course in Miracles.

  6. Many life lessons have been learned in the past few months that have helped to bring me up to date as to who I am. Not sure if I have found all of me yet but am working on it! Trauma can come in many forms and very often the people involved do not recognize it for what it is. The loss of a career can be quite traumatizing and many have suffered this of late.

  7. a fabulous post...very relevant in my life as i have walked a twisted road of spirituality at times...its easy to get off track...putting your identity into the wrong areas. i know i kinda went off track a bit but it resonated with coffee i had this morning on something similar...thank you.

  8. Turquoise: That is another of the incredible benefits of a meditation practice.

  9. Stacey: Yes - self-hatred seems to be pervasive in Western culture. I recall hearing the Dalai Lama say he was shocked to discover the levels of hidden self-hatred in the west.

    'colliding like bumper cars' what a great way to image our insecurities and projections!

  10. Angela, Yes, it takes some hard work, at first to stay awake and catch ourself, underestimating ourself! It's about remaining conscious enough to step up and in to our true selves.

  11. Missy: Yup - not a great place to dwell. Since we do live with ourself - how much better a place to dwell would be respect and appreciation for self. It's what we want from others, but do we give it to ourselves?

  12. Lorac: That is so true! There are so many ways to experience trauma and often people minimize the impact of life events. Job loss is a huge stressor/trauma - and a demoralizing blow to our self-esteem. To be able to 'remember who we are' in times of loss, change, disorientation is a huge source of strength.

  13. Brian: Yes - while we want to own our strengths, qualities, competencies, roles - we still need to recall that we are so much more than any role, identity, job description. Like Ellen said above - we are as divine as anything on the planet and yet we live so small. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Bonnie,
    Thank you. This is a beautiful post and hits very close to home.


  15. This is so meaningful, and so healing. Wonderful to remember how resilient and capable and lovable we are. Sometimes the act of writing our attributes down on paper helps make the words become real in our minds and hearts.

  16. Going back to work has certainly brought with it some surprises in this area and also some hard realizations about how I'd let myself and my own capabilities slip away in favor of passivity. I find I'm much more capable that I ever thought I was and I have to say, it's given me some new confidence. I always have believed it's good to do something that scares the heck out of me at least once a year, or I consider it time wasted. This year has been no exception... Great post, Bonnie. Thanks, as always, for making me ponder the important stuff.

  17. Hello Bonnie

    I love your choice of images that accompany this piece of writing. It reminds me that we are all growing - growing to the light...

    Happy days

  18. Bonnie, I had to come back to this post a couple of times before feeling ready to make a comment. Is it just our culture that teaches us to be so resistant to recognizing our good qualities?? And when I say 'us' I mean 'women'. In your experience, is this, or not, more of an issue for women than men?
    And is this limited and often negative perspective of ourselves as widespread in other cultures?

    Certainly the message girls get, or got in my mother's generation and mine (and for eons before) was that it was unattractive to be 'proud' of oneself. And then there's our children's generation, the Ys (or are they the Xs??) who were the product of an entirely different parenting style, and are accused of going to the other end of the self-esteem spectrum. I dislike generalizations, and wonder how much of that is true.
    You have encouraged me to make a list. So I'll do it! I think it would be really interesting if those of us who do this would 'publish' our lists. Or is there any point to that? Is it enough to say it to oneself? Rhetorical questions, but you might feel like answering them anyway. Thanks for yet another intriguing post, Bonnie.

  19. Barbara: One good point you bring up (among many) is that it is hard to take risks if we have not owned our strengths and competencies. And, we do learn a lot about ourselves by risk-taking.

  20. Deborah: Great points and questions! It does seem that women are much more concerned with their perceived inadequacies. But this affects men too.

    There are so many factors that play into this ...
    Religion for one - we are born 'sinners' in need of redemption ... Parenting styles is another - how often do we use shaming words to 'correct' our children? This culture of celebrity is another where we have inflated, air-brushed models held up as cultural ideals. And, of course, our capitalist society that has found making its possible consumers feel wanting or inadequate or ugly or untouchable, etc. etc. will provoke them into running to the store to purchase the product that will make them acceptable and desirable. We are so enthralled with the image we present, than who we are really - all smoke and mirrors - no substance - and then we wonder why we feel empty or worthless ready to buy the next thing that will make us 'okay'.

    I'm sure you and others could come up with many more reasons for why we find ourselves in this predicament.

    I find beyond a lack of self-acceptance there is a pervasive, secret epidemic of self-hate. It is so sad.

    It is fine to be proud, at times, but pride is not what is being encouraged here - it is simply loving acceptance and ownership of who you are. Then, moving beyond any preoccupation with self to a dedication to service (in whatever form that may take for you).

    Thanks for making me think more deeply about this Deborah.

  21. P.S. Just thinking I wish I had written the word 'supposedly' in front of 'are born sinners in need of redemption' in the comment to Deborah.

  22. I keep coming back too, not sure how to articulate what I think. I had an experience a while back of running into a group of girls from high school. We had been close for awhile, but then girl drama eventually came into play and our friendships of over two years were abandoned. I haven't seen them in 25 years. What are the chances I'd run into the three of these girls at a restaurant and be seated right next to them? When I went to say hello, they said they had just been talking about me and the fun we all had together.

    One of the girls described it as confluence. We sat and talked for ages and it felt good. It felt genuine, real, and comfortable. I realized how time and life experience had turned all of us into better versions of our former selves.

    These are the times I notice the evolution of my qualities. Hmmm, definitely going to make a list!

  23. Vicky: Yes, you make a good point. Our qualities and competencies do evolve and sometimes so imperceptibly that it takes an encounter like you describe where the comparison of what we were to what we have become is right in our face.

    That's the whole point - catch up with who you really are now and don't live with an image of yourself that become 'concretized' in our minds when we were in our twenties.

    Appreciate you sharing your experience Vicky.


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