September, 2004 There’s only one you. Your individuality should be driving everything you do. But, sad to say, many of us end up being someone other than who we really are. Whether we haven’t discovered our uniqueness yet or we’re trying to please someone else, we’re not living as authentically as we could. We’re settling for lives that are absent the challenges and contributions that rightfully belong to us. We need to learn to live with integrity, be comfortable with our authenticity, and rediscover our person passions before we can truly be who we are.
Baruch Spinoza said, “To be who we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming is the only end in life.” But what, exactly, does it mean to be who we are? One place to begin answering this question is to observe your personal style, not just your style of dressing, but everything you do. Personal style is the outward manifestation of your inner self. It showcases your natural preferences and expresses what you truly love.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS?
How do we discover who we are? Writing a personal advertisement is one way to begin. Have you ever had the occasion to write an ad? The goal is to catch the reader’s interest. Try this exercise:
Ten Positives About Me
In a notebook, list ten positives about yourself
This may sound like an easy assignment, but you’d be surprised at how many people have trouble coming up with ten positives. What usually happens is that we tentatively begin to name our strengths, talents, abilities, and outstanding qualities, only to discover that the act of identifying them brings out the voice of our very judgmental Inner Critic: “What do you mean you’re intelligent? Compared to whom? You know you’re not as smart as your cousin Tracy! What are you thinking, then, to call yourself intelligent?”
The Critic doesn’t stop there. “And you say you’re sensitive? Yeah, you’re sensitive all right — you’re too sensitive! You let everyone else’s problems affect you.”
BE WHO YOU ARE
Our Inner Critic can be a very powerful presence, especially if we haven’t identified the Critic’s voice. Generally, our Inner Critic is somebody in our lives who diminished us in some way or whose opinions we have come to regard as truth. Or our Critic may personify our own perfectionism, which keeps us from enjoying our accomplishments become they don’t seem good enough.
Ask your friends for their thoughts on your top qualities and take the opportunity to listen intently so that you can learn something about yourself that you may not have known. And, the proper response to what you hear would be just to say thank you. If your friend tells you that you are beautiful, your first reaction might be to think, “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” That’s your Inner Critic comparing you to your ideal or to others that you or society have deemed beautiful. However, your friend might see you as beautiful because of your smile, your eyes, your kindness or generosity, your sweetness or energy.
The fact is, virtually all of us have many more positive qualities than what we can see with our own eyes. Our Inner Critic is merely a reflection of all the negativity we may be used to experiencing and is not the whole truth or final word on our character or personality.
Keep doing the “Ten Positives About Me” exercise until you have no trouble listing ten or more positives — and believing them. Remember, your positive qualities are just as real and important as any others, and accepting and building on them will make meaningful growth possible.
Sunny Schlenger (www.suncoach.com), a Professional Organizer for the past 25 years, teaches the art of managing both time and space, creatively and effectively. Sunny is the co-author of How to Be Organized In Spite of Yourself and the author of Organizing for the Spirit.