“Who are you?”, “What is your identity?”, and “Why do you like what you like?” Ask these questions to a random stranger on the street, and you are likely to draw many blanks (and a few odd stares!). But these are just some of the questions pertaining to your sense of self.
Yes, you — remember you? You have a self. And it’s time you two got reintroduced.
You see, so many of us go through life on autopilot, distracted by running errands, commitments, and technology, that we never stop to answer the most important questions of all which are those which belong to our very selves.
Having a sense of self means understanding the fact that you are more than just biology — you have wants, needs, feelings, motivations, fears, opinions, preferences, and desires, all of which have been molded over the years, and all of which matter.
Yes, they matter!
You know why?
Because unless you find out and respect who you are, your needs and wants, and what you truly value, you will never be able to discover and become who you aspire to be.
In order words, your sense of self is strongly linked to how happy, how stable, how fulfilled, and how confidently you live your life.
Up until now, you have been convinced by those around you to be anybody else but you. You have been told your needs and desires don’t matter, and you have bent over backward to please everybody but yourself.
It’s time to end all that and get back to being YOU; that beautiful, divine being that was uniquely created to thrive and not hide. That’s what I did… and my life has never been the same since.
My Lost Sense of Self
My problems started in childhood, as is the case with most people.
Nobody around me — in this case, my mother— had any idea how important it was to have certain needs met like the need to express my thoughts and my opinions in complete safety and the assurance that they will be valued.
Hell, I didn’t even know that I had a self! I was completely oblivious of my sense of self and the damage that was being done to it.
Don’t get me wrong; my mother loved me deeply.
However, her co-dependency and overbearing nature overshadowed my personality and shunted my identity to the side.
I don’t remember being asked as a child –
• What do YOU think about this, Edith?
• How do YOU feel about what happened in school today?
• What is YOUR opinion about this, Edith?
And so on.
My mother’s agendas were often set in stone, and whenever I expressed a desire that went against those views it was summarily dismissed.
Her overbearing and controlling nature took away my chance at self-discovery and self-assertion.
Can there be any wonder why I struggled with a hazy sense of self once I went out on my own into the world? I had no answers prepared for when life started asking me, “Who are you?”, “What do you want?”, and “Why do you want it?”
Why You Avoid Prioritizing Your Needs
People who grew up in controlling, overbearing, codependent, and perfectionist households tend to suffer the same thing. Somewhere early in your journey, you picked up the idea that something is wrong with you.
You became convinced that your needs are not important; that they are irrelevant; that you are responsible for other people’s feelings; that you’re nobody unless somebody loves you.
And now you carry this same belief out into the world. And let me tell ya – it’s very hard to get by when you struggle with a lack of identity.
If you are suffering from a poor sense of self, then these scenarios will seem like the story of your life:
• You rarely offer an opinion at work because, well, “I never have anything important to say” or “why would anyone listen to me”.
• You allow your neighbor to crank the volume to the maximum and disturb your sleep, even though you are tired and need rest for work tomorrow because you feel compelled to “never upset people”.
• You are afraid to disagree with your friends because “life is about compromise…I don’t want to appear rigid.” Even though you are the one who has to compromise every single time.
• You bend over backward to “blend in”. You allow those around you to dictate your values, what is acceptable and what is not, because “I can’t handle when people are angry with me”.
• You spend your time justifying yourself and explaining your choices about everything from your choice of liking country music to the type of clothes you wear.
Living Such a Life Where People Dictate Who You Are Sucks
Trust me, I know, because I’ve lived it. Going through life catering to everybody’s needs but yours is not an ideal life.
A sense of self means having the ability to RESPECT and HONOR your needs and desires, prioritizing them without feeling you have to apologize.
Having a solid sense of self entails knowing who you are, what you stand for, and unapologetically holding to your standards when it comes to your social circle and pretty much anything else in your life.
When you develop a proper sense of self, you will no longer be willing to put up with a lot of the crap you are willing to put up with now.
How I Finally Developed a Sense of Self
I made it a habit to ask myself:
• “Is this what I really want to do right now?”
• “How does this situation make me feel?”
• “How do I feel about hanging out with this person?”
• “Do I really want to go to this party or do I merely want to please someone?”
I still ask myself these questions today. And you know what? Every time I do it, I feel more and more connected with myself!
It feels great catering to my needs first without feeling guilty or selfish about it.
Sure, I do have to meet in the middle from time to time with the people who matter to me—I’m not saying you should be completely insensitive to other people’s needs.
But it does feel good knowing that your SELF is valid, that your needs are relevant, that they are as important as anybody else’s, and that it is time you begin acknowledging and honoring them as you deserve.
How Your Life Will Change Once You Start Building Your Sense of Self
A sense of self comes with many benefits:
• You will become more emotionally stable than you have ever been before. You will feel satisfied with yourself as you are, and will feel no need to bend over backward just to impress people and fit in.
• Your sense of worth will become rock solid as you begin acknowledging and respecting your needs and desires. Over time, as you get used to the pride of place in your life, you will feel that who you are is good enough, and that you have nothing to prove to anyone.
• You will feel safe and secure. Feeling safe, grounded, and secure is more internal than external. When you take your power back and become the only authority that validates your needs and feelings – you know you can rise to any occasion even in the case where external security factors like money, relationships, and your job are no longer there.
If you want help getting started forming a sense of self, check out my special meditation that will set you on the right path.
Approach This Like a Mission
It will take consistency to strengthen your sense of self, but don’t stress over it. Simple, conscious efforts to ask yourself your true motivations for your actions and feelings will do the trick.
Once you start building those mental muscles, nobody will be able to treat you like a nobody anymore. That’s because you will see yourself as somebody, and the way you perceive yourself will reflect on the way other people see you.