I was talking to one of my closest friends the other week, and she gave me a lot to think about for February. At 23 years old, she’s already working full-time as a behavioral therapist and living on her own. Clearly, she’s doing something right, and no matter what we talk about, I always leave our conversations feeling better than before.
We were talking about relationships, and about living alone. She said something along these lines to me: “you keep talking about yourself in relation to other people. You’re more than just somebody else’s friend, or sister, or ex. Find out who you are when nobody else is around.”
2021 is the perfect time to step into the person who you’re becoming, and that starts with some self-reflection.
How Do You Define the Chapters in Your Life?
Of course, I told my friend that I know who I am when nobody else is around, and didn’t give much thought to it after that. But…. she was right. When I talked about my past-self, it was only ever in relation to, well, my relationships with other people.
What’s up with that?
The chapters in my life are easiest to separate by friends and boyfriends. One bestie until I was 8, then a new bestie a few years later, then a new boyfriend every couple of years after that. It never struck me as odd to think of my life that way. But….it is odd. I could just as easily have been thinking of these periods of time in relation to school and whether I was in elementary, middle, or high school.
Instead of saying “when I was in high school,” I talked about time periods in my life by saying “when I was dating ___,” without ever even realizing it.
You Are More Than a Supporting Character
Sure, I know who I am and what I want, but I’ve often felt a little bit like a sidekick, or a secondary character in someone else’s story, and I probably never would have addressed that feeling if my friend hadn’t pointed it out to me. I don’t know if I would have been able to recognize that feeling for what it was, honestly.
You can know who you are all you want, but if you’re still thinking of yourself as the supporting role in your life, then it doesn’t matter how well you know yourself because you aren’t even really there for yourself. Another friend of mine always says that “you have to be your own best advocate,” and I think I finally understand what she means by that.
It isn’t selfish to live life for yourself. Just don’t be a jerk about it!
Take Charge of Your Narrative
Some time last year, or maybe the year before, I noticed that when I talk to myself, I do it in the second person.
For example, I wouldn’t say to myself “I’m going to be a successful blogger.” Instead, I would (and still sometimes do) say “you’re going to be a successful blogger.” Anymore, I’m not telling myself that I’m going to be anything. Instead, I’m telling myself that I already am. But that’s a topic for another day! 😉
After realizing that I was thinking in the second person, I started asking friends and family what perspective narrative they use when thinking/talking to themselves, just out of curiosity. It was a toss-up, a tie between first and second person perspectives.
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I think these 2 ways of thinking were a way for me to try to avoid accountability. I was taking a backseat in my own life. Instead of acknowledging that I was able and allowed to take charge of my life, I was avoiding responsibility and “letting life happen” to me.
As I’m writing this, the song playing at work is uncoincidentally relevant. It’s Stop Talking by Miya Folick, and the lyrics are:
“You have to make a choice, Don’t be an accidental voice… We will become the words we say.”
Be Kind to Yourself
Taking charge is scary. When I was in college, I took a public speaking class and was having a hard time preparing for the first speech. After talking with the professor, I told him,
“I’m afraid to practice my speech. What if I practice for hours and still fail? At least if I don’t practice at all, I can tell myself that it was because I didn’t practice, and not because I wasn’t good enough.”
That conversation with John, the professor, plays through my head every now and again. He told me that if I did my research and was as honest while writing my speech as I was with him in that conversation then I would have nothing to worry about. Public speaking ended up being my favorite class!
You owe it to yourself to lean into life. Doing any less is being unkind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. If you wouldn’t lie to your best friend, then why would you lie to yourself? Gas yourself up the same way you gas your friends up. Encourage yourself to be the best version of yourself you can be, because you’re the only one that can make it happen!
Avoidance Guarantees Failure
For years, I lied to myself about all sorts of things. Which, inevitably, meant I ended up lying to other people, too. If I couldn’t be honest with myself, then how could I be honest with anyone else? I was mean to myself, and put myself in painful situations, and ended up being mean and hurting the people in my life, too.
Think of your relationship with yourself as the foundation for your relationship with others. Get into the practice of being kind to yourself. Kindness is a practice, after all!
That means that you can’t avoid things that you need to do for your yourself. If there’s something that has to happen for your own well-being, then you owe it to yourself to make it happen. Don’t keep yourself in a situation that makes you unhappy just because you want to make someone else happy. It’s unfair to the both of you, and chances are things will get messy. Trust me.
“You have to make a choice, don’t be an accidental voice… we will become the words we say”Stop Talking – Miya Folick
The sooner a broken bone gets set, the straighter it will heal. Will it hurt setting it straight? Absolutely. Will it heal if it doesn’t get set? Probably. But it’ll take longer, it’ll heal crooked, and it might cause lasting pain. But it could still heal. Does that make sense?
What is Your Relationship With Yourself?
How do you think about yourself, talk to yourself, and treat yourself when nobody else is around? Are you kind, gentle, and forgiving? Think about the kind of person you want to be for the people in your life that you love, and then practice treating yourself that way.
There’s no way of knowing whether I would have made the same mistakes in the past if I would have been kinder to myself. But I can say with certainty that I was my own biggest bully during the times in my life when I hurt the people I cared about. And since being kinder to myself, I haven’t repeated those mistakes. Which, I think, is worth something!
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