January 14, 2011

Who You Is & Who You Ain't

"Between the ages of twenty & 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 20s, I definitely did a lot of the work aimed towards answering the question, "Who am I?" I remember it as a time of feeling completely confident one moment and then unsteady & confused the next. There were days when I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. These days were balanced, though, by ones in which I easily walked into any situation and felt at ease.

Through a myriad of experiences, I began to discover a self composed of likes, dislikes, attitudes, fears, beliefs, hopes, weaknesses. I understood myself on knew levels and did the work of breaking old patterns of thought & behavior so as to escape the "accidental limitations" that I'd been held back by for years.
I remember distinctly, a few days after my 30th birthday, thinking, "Whew! 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 not only accept who I was, but who I wasn't.

When I came across Auden's statement, it made perfect sense. We do have a duty to get past the "accidental limitations" that arise due to trauma, circumstances, or a variety of experiences. This is much of the work I do with my clients - identifying the "false identities" they've taken on as a result of past trauma.

Also, it's important to know what is outside of our nature, because not doing so does lead to detrimental outcomes. Without this clarity, we chastise ourselves unfairly or waste time on things that we aren't suited for. This is also some of the work I do - using a variety of activities and conversations to guide my clients to a clear sense of what they've been striving after that has been a drain, because it is not really a part of who they are.

So! Never again will I say yes to day long shopping adventures (not in my nature). No longer will I say no to high-heels (turns out, I really do like being girly sometimes - one false idea I had to outgrow).

Here's to accepting who you ain't as much as who you is and living in alignment with this knowledge!

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