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Who You Is & Who You Ain't

Posted by CoachRachelG , 14 December 2013 · 184 views

Who You Is & Who You Ain't “Between the ages of twenty and forty we are engaged in the process of discovering who we are, which involves learning the difference between accidental limitations which it is our duty to outgrow and the necessary limitations of our nature beyond which we cannot trespass with impunity.”

—W.H. Auden
During my twenties, I definitely did a lot of the work aimed toward answering the question, “Who am I?” I remember it as a time of feeling completely confident one moment and then unsteady and confused the next. There were days when I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. In contrast, these days were balanced by ones in which I easily walked into any situation and felt at ease.
Through a myriad of experiences, I began to discover a person composed of likes, dislikes, attitudes, fears, beliefs, hopes, and weaknesses. I understood myself on new levels and did the work of breaking old patterns of thought and behavior so as to escape the “accidental limitations” that held me back for years. We have come to understand these “accidental limitations” as our “stories.”
I remember distinctly, a few days after my thirtieth birthday, thinking, “Phew! I’m so glad to be done with that whole ‘finding yourself’ business.” Little did I know! Only weeks later did I realize I had entered a new phase, which I call the “But can you deal with who you are” phase. It became clear to me that the new work to be done was to accept who I was, but also who I was not.
When I came across Auden’s statement, it made perfect sense. We have a duty to get past the “accidental limitations” that arise due to abuse, circumstances, or a variety of experiences. Also, it is important to know what is outside of our nature, because not doing so leads to detrimental outcomes. Without this clarity, we chastise ourselves unfairly or waste time on relationships, careers, or other endeavors that we are not suited for.
Who are you? What have you learned about who you truly are?
Who are you not? What have you or can you let go of believing about or expecting from yourself?
Even as we give up some of our stories and regain a sense of who we truly are, we may still have a tendency to cover up and hide our authentic selves out of fear of exposure or being vulnerable. Here is a very short and sweet question that strikes at the heart of the matter:
I pretend to be ______________________ in order to cover up that I am ___________________.
Over the years, I have heard answers such as “I pretend to have all of the answers to cover up that I am scared to death of being wrong about anything,” “I pretend to be generous to cover up that I am really self-centered,” or “I pretend to dislike sex to cover up that I want to be touched but am scared.”
So, what are you pretending to be?
I pretend to be ______________________ in order to cover up that I am ___________________.
I pretend to be ______________________ in order to cover up that I am ___________________.
I pretend to be ______________________ in order to cover up that I am ___________________.
I pretend to be ______________________ in order to cover up that I am ___________________.
Pick one of the items from above. If you were to give up pretending, what would then change about the way you are, what you say, or what you do?
In order to live authentically, we need to give up some of this pretending, because, if we continue to cover up and mask ourselves, we are guaranteeing the same outcomes. How can we experience intimacy, if we pretend we don’t need it? How can we feel the support of others, if we pretend we can do it all on our own? When we strip away the pretending, we create opportunities for growth and freedom.
For a little more encouragement toward allowing yourself to just be who you truly are, watch Be Who You Were Meant to Be.

Dec 14 2013 11:55 PM

I LOVE this :)

Dec 15 2013 10:54 PM
I remember at 21 I had this experience where I remembered things. I felt like I was forced to be afraid of who I am. So when I encountered a new memory I would freeze or try to hide. I think I became so good at not remembering, that would carry on, even if this terrible memory was being felt. I think I feared losing control, but in trying to be in control by wearing a face and carrying on like nothing ever happened, I lost more control.
Dec 16 2013 01:00 AM

Well said Ludditesunited. It's a very common experience. I hope you are finding ways today to let your genuine self shine through...

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