It’s like fingernails on a blackboard when people tell me, “I’m trying to find myself.” I point at them and reply, “I found you you’re right there.”
George Bernard Shaw said it better, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
We don’t “find” ourselves. We don’t wake up one day with a giant epiphany about who we are and what our purpose(s) are. What it’s really about is accepting the responsibility of developing an identity.
For those of us in recovery, this requires four things:
- Identifying everything we were taught that isn’t true about ourselves and our worth.
- Accepting outside input from healthy people
- Integrating what is true and letting go of what isn’t.
- Having a lot of support in this undertaking
While this process is fairly easy to understand, it’s usually painful to go through. If we recognize that we were raised by unhealthy people and that how they treated us was no reflection of our worth, then we are forced to sort through the injustices of our lives in order to come to true self-acceptance.
More problematically, identity is a predominantly a choice, and we’re people who don’t trust ourselves to make good decisions. We’re also people who view change as going from one extreme to another. If we have lived with poor self-worth, we fear that change will make us insufferably full of ourselves.
That never actually happens, especially if we have people in our lives who hold us accountable and keep us grounded.
All the messages we received about not being “good enough” were lies. All the ideas we hold about love being earned are lies. All the beliefs we came to by virtue of how we were used and abused are lies.
But when we struggle to trust ourselves and others, how are we to identify what is true and what isn’t?
Use the Golden Rule in reverse: Judge yourself the way you judge others. We tend to look for the best in others and the worst in ourselves. When people in recovery tell me how shameful they are, I ask if there are any healthy people who agree with their assessment?
We cling to the lessons of our childhood. We remain excessively loyal and feel obligated to the people who hurt us the most. If we are willing to explore what they taught us, then we can recognize that those things are true of no child.
Simple: There’s no such thing as a bad kid. There are kids who are hurt and scared and acting out, but that’s always attributable to their environment and the people in it.
Even though most of us feel like scared little kids all these years later, we’re adults who have better options now then we did then. Of all that you might choose, choose to invest in you and to allow others to invest in you.
Choose your attributes and character. What are the good things about you? Choose honesty, integrity, and to be fully accountable. Choose kindness, empathy, and compassion. Choose hard work. Choose you’re the skills you want to develop and the flaws you need to overcome. Choose who and how you want to be from today forward.
I promise it’s worth it and I promise you’re worth it.