Some of the negative feelings I was having towards myself last week (see ‘Let it go’) hinged almost entirely on things that someone else had told me about myself. But the thing is, I know that path is a doomed one – I do know better than that.

In the past couple of years, I’ve come to understand who I am. Not who I’ve been told I am, nor who people might think that I am, but – deep down – who I really am.

I also know what I want to do and I know what makes me happy. (And sad, and calm, and angry of course. As well as everything in between.)

I know that the only one in control of how I feel, and how I behave, is me.

And I know that I’m now a more authentic, and better, me. Who has more authentic and better life.

But of course it’s not all quite that simple and rosy. Because even when we’ve identified that better and truer self, there are things we’ve been told about ourselves (as seen last week) that hang around and rear their ugly heads, often at the most inopportune of times. Not to forget insecurities we’ve grown attached to that come back to haunt us, unwanted and unbidden. All of which can trigger a host of negative thoughts and inauthentic behaviours that we end up pretty ashamed of.

Maybe these moments don’t quite veer us off our path (although sometimes this too) but they most definitely jar with us and create some uncomfortable discord.

It’s not just the scenario I talked about last week either, where some negativity from an old relationship came back to haunt me. It can also happen with more innocent, even well-meaning, things…

Just a couple of examples…

  • My Dad sees me as a chip off the old block whereas I know I’m similar but different. Often this leads to friction on my part and I react badly (in ways I don’t respect) to not being seen as an individual.
  • Plus, while we’re on the subject of parents, mine always wanted to see me be the best at things, which I think contributes to my sometime tendency to look to others for validation about performance. (Even today, I reached out to Dad to say some yoga teaching had gone particularly well and when the desired validation didn’t come it made me feel (albeit momentarily) like I wasn’t good enough. Though I know I am. And I know that the satisfaction I get from teaching far outweighs any external validation I could receive anyway! But even knowing all this I slipped back into that old pattern…)

[Interlude: that sounds like a pile of of parental issues there but I assure you I had a very happy childhood, and I have very lovely parents! The point I’m making is that there’s all this life detritus, from everywhere, around us that we have to work through and process to uncover the true us inside.]

Self-observation and self-awareness

Self-observation and self-awareness of course is the key (and a lack of negative self-talk – that horrible, mean little voice in your head). Which, yes, requires work. But it’s work that’s essential if you’re to understand yourself and separate what is really, truly you from all the noise, finally finding fulfilment and living a life that you can be both proud of and at peace with.

It makes sense, no? In understanding yourself – your positive and negative traits, your strengths and weaknesses, your core values and desires – you know both what is you and what isn’t you plus you can recognise those triggers that set you off down an inauthentic path.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve come to love yoga so much: it’s helped me practise standing back – to simply observe, and come to understand. And of course, as  T.K.S. Desikachar said, “Yoga is the practice of observing yourself without judgment.” so it helps with that too.

It’s also taught me how to find space, within which to pause and decide how to act.

But even if you’re not (yet!) sold on yoga, you can start to understand yourself better, and begin finding your own truth by asking a couple of simple questions:

What does the real you – the best you – look like? How do they behave?

What about the circumstances that allow this person to be?

Plus the flip side:

What does that ‘not you’ version of you look like? And how do they behave?

Then…what about the circumstances that allow this person to be?

Then with answers to these questions you can start to identify where you might make changes in your life – to better align with your truth, and allow your true, best self to thrive.

My own best self

My best self is a caring, creative and soulful person – intuitive and sensitive to those around her. She’s passionate, present, calm and positive. Driven to helping others and making a contribution to the world.

My not so good self is often short, snappy and impatient. Incredibly negative towards themselves. And too quick to judge others too.

For me to be my best self, I have to step back and live to what I today saw described as my natural rhythm – plan downtime, protect my boundaries, address conflict and avoid negativity. Be capable of saying no when it’s needed, of listening to my body always and of investing in me-time as required. Switching off from social media! Reading. Doing yoga. Getting out to run. Writing. And, importantly, spending time in the outdoors.

I have to eat well (and avoid gluten!). To surround myself with only those people who make me feel good. To not worry too hard about trying to please everyone. To celebrate imperfections – both mine and everyone else’s.

To check in with myself and decide my own response to a situation. And to be ok with whatever that is (no judgement or negative self-talk remember!).

There’s still a way to go of course, but what’s most important is that I’m working on it. And I know that I’m my best version now, far more than I was before. Plus, it’s a journey right – a lifelong goal. And a good one, I think too – after all, it’s all any of us can really hope for isn’t it, to be the best self we can be?