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Who are you?

Posted by Dr. Ellen Kridman on

In order to be happy, we have to know ourselves – to know what it is that we really enjoy doing. I believe we all begin life knowing who we are and what makes us happy, but we leave our true selves behind in an effort to please the meaningful adults in our lives. As children, we are bombarded with “shoulds” until we eventually buy into other people’s ideas of what we should do.

What you should be and what you should do is whatever you feel most comfortable being and doing. You must be true to yourself. Don’t try to conform to other people’s expectations of you. The most important person to please is yourself. If you are happy, everyone who is touched by your life will benefit.

We often hear stories about people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and who achieved their goals against all odds. But I know that for every one of those who achieved their goals there are at least a thousand others who didn’t pursue their dreams because they weren’t encouraged to do so. As children, we assume that because our parents are older and wiser and because they love us, what they say must be true. If they told us:

  • You have an awful voice.
  • You will never be an artist.
  • You are too shy to act.
  • You are too clumsy to be a waitress.
  • You are too short to be a model.

You don’t have enough brains to go to college, we believed them. You can’t change the past. Your parents and the other influential people in your life said what they believed to be true. That doesn’t mean it was true. As an adult, you can decide on a different belief. You can now decide to believe in yourself.

We all have an inner guide that tells us what is true for us. We just need to have enough confidence in ourselves to follow our guide. I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is that you listen to your guide. Please take the time to sit quietly with your eyes closed, and ask your guide, “Who am I? What do I want to do?” I promise you’ll get an answer if you really try. One of my students had a difficult time getting an answer from her inner guide. She came to me terribly upset and said, “I don’t know who I am. I know I’m Peter’s wife, Kira’s mother, and Derrick and Carol’s daughter. But I don’t who ME is!”

I told her to try again, but this time she was to make believe her husband didn’t exist, her children didn’t exist, her parents didn’t exist, money was no object, age was not a factor, and time was no problem. Sometimes we have to overcome what we perceive to be obstacles before we can hear what our inner guide has to tell us.

The second time my student tried the exercise she was more successful. She came back to me saying that secretly she had always wanted to be a doctor, but she felt that at age thirty-two it was too late.

“Of course it’s not,” I told her. “If you take one baby step at a time every day, at the end of the year you will have completed three hundred sixty-five baby steps, which equal one giant step. The first step might be to call the local college and ask them to send you a catalog. Another baby step might be to setup an appointment with a counselor. Then just take one course to see if you can pass. Then another and another, and eventually you’ll be ready to apply to medical school.” I told her it might take ten years, but even becoming a doctor at forty-two would give her many years of practicing medicine. After all, in the words of one of my students, who received her college degree at age seventy-three, “I figured I was going to be seventy-three anyway, so why not be seventy-three with a degree rather than seventy-three without one?” She might as well be forty-two and a doctor.