There is a difference between knowing yourself and assigning a story to yourself—and a fine knife-edge in between the two. In this life, learning about and respecting ourselves is the key to spiritual growth and enlightenment. So if you become increasingly aware of what you do and don’t like, you get better at avoiding situations that will cause you pain or discomfort. You also delve deeper into social circles and activities that ignite your passion. But there is a risk in doing this: the risk of becoming obsessive in your self-awareness. A negative outcome of this obsession is assigning a story to yourself to such an extent that you resist your instinct to explore.
It is a fantastic thing to gain self-awareness and confidence in who you are. Part of growing up is wading through the years of peer pressure and trying to fit in until you come out the other side realizing that life is too short to fit your square-shaped self into someone else’s triangular-shaped box. But while you have breakthroughs in learning about yourself, it is crucial to remember that it is one long journey – not an end point to be reached. Along that same thread, the nature of living organisms is that they grow and change as the times do, so the person you are now may be very different to the person you are in 5 years’ time.
With this is mind, you might see how it is a dangerous game to assign too much of a story to yourself; clinging to your life’s story can close you off from potential experiences and encounters that could bring you joy. We wouldn’t want that now, would we?
There are two aspects to us that are at conflict in this situation. The ego revels in having an identity; it feels important. The soul, on the other hand, lives to explore, to pioneer, to discover. It is important to sync the two so that both feel respected and listened to, thus balancing your energy. Ultimately, it all comes down to actions based on feeling, on gut instinct. Below are my tips for differentiating between positive self-awareness and negative storyboarding.
1. We humans fear a lot of things; a whole chunk of which are not actually going to put us at the risk of knocking on death’s door. It’s important to feel the fear and do it anyway on at least a semi-regular basis – leaping over hurdles like speaking your mind, putting your heart on the line, showing off your talents, and walking your own path are the things that will ultimately make you happy. These things won’t be easy, and your ego won’t like that, but since you were born to explore, you owe it to yourself to go after those things that make your heart flutter.
2. Consider carefully those who you surround yourself with because their values, outlook, and morals will infiltrate your personal energetic atmosphere. Respect yourself enough to not spend valuable time in the company of those who drag you down, but do not be too quick to judge others that you do not know; you could be writing off an opportunity with a soulmate because your ego thinks it knows best.
3. The Future. Whether it is meet new people for the first time or debating whether or not to go after a dream, we run the risk of taking on an identity in these scenarios that can hinder our progress. Each of us is so deeply aware of our past experiences that we feel they make us who they are. Of course, one cannot simply ignore his or her past, the hurt experienced, or the emotional turbulence, but letting those past situations define you can limit what you see on your horizon.
I have an exercise you can do if you are trying to get out of your funk and want to start afresh:
Imagine you were dropped on planet Earth this morning as the fully developed person you are today and were starting from scratch without a history of failed relationships, job opportunities gone awry, and hopes and dreams that you let get away from you. What remains? This allows you to get into the headspace of seeing life with fresh eyes–without a story attached of what each aspect of your life means or ‘should’ make you feel. What does this person need to do in this situation? Explore, of course! You’ve just been dumped here, so you don’t know what you like, what you’re good at, who to become friends with, or what your life’s work could be.
Get out of the habit of letting your past define who you are because all it will do is hold you back. Feel those things that make your heart sing, and search for more that you resonate with; respect your intuition, and don’t be so quick to say ‘no’. Your internal guidance system will help you along the way, keeping you out of danger. This allows you to view the world as a playground, so get playing already!
Have you challenged you self-concept lately?
Also by Kat: How to Practice Appreciation Yoga
Related: On Closing a Chapter in Your Life
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Photos: Kat Kennedy