Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
Do you have a nickname? Even if no one has used it in years, did you have a pet name of some kind when you were a child?
My grandfather called me “Stevie” until the day he died. (He’s the only one who could get away with it.) I was “Ralph” to my Aunt Missy, and “Butt-Butt” to my Uncle Tiger (his real name is David). “Stinky” is what my wife calls me most often. Those nicknames are a glimpse into the loving relationships I have with those closest to me: the names my inner circle use(d) to remind me they’re quite fond of me.
While I love nicknames, there are other names I’ve been called through the years that haven’t felt so good. I’ve been called, “sissy” and “fag,” “sinner” and “broken.” But those aren’t nearly as painful as the names I’ve called myself; things like “crazy” and “weak” and many that are much, much worse.
Embracing Your True Self
What about you? Have people labeled you and boxed you in, when all you’ve ever wanted to do is be free? What would it feel like to live the life you choose, rather than the life others think you should live? How long have you been performing for the approval of others? What would it feel like to take off the mask and stop pretending?
There are all sorts of labels people try to slap on us, and boxes we put ourselves in. But it’s who we are beneath the noise, chatter, and unrealistic expectations of other people that really counts.
Consider this wisdom from Thomas Merton:
Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God—because Truth, Light—knows nothing about him. And to be unknown to God is altogether too much privacy.My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love— outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.
Merton goes on to say...
We can be ourselves or not, as we please. We are at liberty to be real, or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours. We may wear now one mask and now another, and never, if we so desire, appear with our own true face.But we cannot make these choices with impunity.Causes have effects, and if we lie to ourselves and to others, then we cannot expect to find truth and reality whenever we happen to want them.If we have chosen the way of falsity we must not be surprised that truth eludes us when we finally come to need it and that confusion reigns.– abridged and adapted from New Seeds of Contemplation
The journey toward authenticity (or the “true self”) begins with self-awareness.
What is self-awareness? The dictionary defines self-awareness as “knowledge and awareness of your own personality or character.” When you’re self-aware, you have an accurate and clear understanding of your personality, strengths, weaknesses, and beliefs. You know what makes you tick. Self-awareness also includes an understanding of how others perceive you. Lacking self-awareness can lead to a very confusing and frustrating life!
Embracing self-awareness can empower you to be your true self.
Your level of self-awareness can influence your relationships, career, and happiness:
- Self-awareness is necessary for taking control of your life. The direction of your life is determined by your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and reactions. Self-awareness is the principle way of understanding and influencing these things.
- Self-awareness highlights faulty beliefs and emotional reactions that stand in your way and gives you the power to make adjustments.
- Self-awareness illuminates the real reasons for past failures and challenges. We often dismiss our failures as bad luck or a lack of proper timing. But it’s also possible that we failed to perceive the situation, others, or ourselves accurately. It’s much easier to see the reason behind relationship, work, and other struggles when we can look at ourselves clearly.
- Do you consistently struggle at work or in your relationships? What can you do better?
- Those who lack self-awareness are puzzled by their negative outcomes or blame others exclusively.
- Self-awareness is a critical quality for leaders. One study concluded that a high degree of self-awareness was the best predictor of success for executives.
- Executives that have an understanding of their weaknesses are able to build a team composed of members that fill those weaknesses.
- A lack of self-awareness puts a limit on your leadership abilities.
- Self-awareness is the foundation for personal progress. Without it, any personal development efforts will be severely hampered.
- Self-awareness is the cornerstone of success and self-improvement. Without self-awareness, the knowledge you possess can’t be applied effectively. It’s necessary to understand your beliefs, habits, strengths, and weaknesses to make a personal change. Avoid assuming that you’re self-aware. Give it some time and thought.
Building greater self-awareness won’t happen overnight, but it can be developed. You can start building your self-awareness, and reaping the benefits, starting today!
Download my Daily Authenticity Checklist:
Use these questions daily to ensure you are living an authentic life. Think of them as diagnostic questions to ensure you are embracing your true self every single day.