By Carolyn Hughes, BA Hons, CQSW — Who do you want to be? If you’ve experienced traumas that have left you numb, or the pressures of an image-conscious, success-driven society are forcing you to live your life trying to be someone you’re not, perhaps it’s time to start finding out who you really are. As a result of being abandoned by my mother as a child and raised by an abusive father, I grew up with a dysfunctional identity. I lacked self-esteem, considering myself worthless and unlovable. Battling with depression, I turned to alcohol to help numb myself. Alcoholism only served to reinforce my sense of imperfection and shame about who I was and what I had become. Throughout my 20-year struggle with depression and alcoholism ran the theme of dishonesty and disgrace. I thought and behaved in ways that I would never even contemplate now that I am sober and emotionally restored. Crucial to my recovery was the discovery that my past doesn’t have to define my present and that I could learn to live my life as the person I was meant to be.
Change Your Thoughts
If you don’t like yourself, you need to challenge those labels that you believe define you. The statements that have been spoken of you in the past are not true. You may not have been aware of internalizing them at the time, but it is possible to challenge and reject them now. All traits can be viewed negatively or positively. It’s a matter of perception. As an alcoholic, I was obsessive, controlling and devious. In recovery, I am able to use the opposite side of those traits, which means I have a spirit of perseverance, an ability to organize and creative problem-solving skills. Remember that sometimes it is through your weaknesses that you will expose your strengths. Determine to realize the truth about yourself. Dr. Brené Brown describes authenticity as “the daily practice of letting go who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” As you transform your mind, your behavior will follow. In addition, if you learn to change how you think of yourself, others will change how they see you. The person thought you were will become a memory and your authentic self will emerge.
Nurture Your Body
Abuse, whether it comes from others or is self-inflicted, can result in the notion that you are “damaged goods.” But with the right treatment and care, you can not only heal physically, but become healthier than ever before. You have only one body and it’s your responsibility to look after it. Treat your body respectfully by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and ensuring you get enough sleep. Give yourself permission to say no to those choices that are detrimental to your body and say yes to those activities that will enhance and revitalize. Nurture your body and discover just how good you can feel. To be happy with yourself, you need to stop comparing yourself to others. Whatever stage of life you are in, determine to love and appreciate your body. Train your mind to embrace those parts of you that make you unique, for when you shine on the inside, you shine on the outside.
Discover Your Passion and Purpose
It’s good to have inspirational role models and to aspire to the achievements of others, but it’s just as important to discover your authentic inner self. Define your values, be enthusiastic about the things that you love, and use your talents creatively. True happiness is living authentically, so remind yourself that you are an exceptional and precious individual who deserves a good life. Don’t waste time and energy trying to be someone you’re not, for it will lead only to discontentment and discouragement. Similarly, forget about those things you can’t do and focus on what you can. Most importantly, make your passion your purpose. You will only ever have one life, so don’t settle for less. Learn to change your thoughts, nurture your body and discover your passion. In doing so, you will reveal your authentic self and live your life as the person you were meant to be.