Finding Yourself

Hi lovely readers,

I know I’ve been posting a lot recently – it’s partially because school isn’t in full-force yet and I’m busy, but not as busy as I will be, so I’m trying to have a lot of content before that point. But it’s also because lately I’ve been learning a lot from therapy, individual work on myself, and through my experiences in my sober house. One of the things I’ve been working on is really getting to know myself, from the good to the not so great, and then loving myself because of what I’ve learned and in spite of certain things.

When we enter into our addictions, we lose ourselves. I couldn’t have told you much about who I was a while ago, other than that I was not the person I wanted to be, I was unwell, and I constantly used drugs. All of the aspects of my identity were in crisis. I think it’s very important that when you return to sanity and sobriety, you figure out what makes you, you.

I think the easiest way to start is with a pen and paper, and some written categories. What comprises a person? To me, it is our morals, our values, our natural abilities, the things we strive for, the things we need to constantly work on, how we present ourselves, our past, our present, and what we want our futures to look like. Fortunately, writing in detail about even one of these aspects usually makes us tie in another portion of who we are.

For example, my morals include honesty, open-mindedness, loyalty, compassion and empathy, which is related to believing in being as non-judgemental as possible. But then I find myself wondering when the last time was I upheld these morals, and when I last failed to live in accordance with them. I am successfully quite honest now, but recently in order to cancel a plan with a friend I made up an excuse so that I wouldn’t have to go, because I was feeling tired and depressed and unlike myself and worried I would be unpleasant to be around. A truth about myself, and something I have to constantly work on, is my insecurity and self-dislike, which ends up often making me dishonest because I don’t know how to cope with my inner frustration. And sometimes, despite how motivated I can be, I take the easy way out because my anxiety makes me paralyzed. When I think about empathy, I think about the last time I got angry at someone and was quick to judge. This was my ex, who I know I can’t communicate with anyway, but who I lashed out at because our past makes me feel very hurt and insecure and damaged. And I have a desire to control situations and people, because I am a perfectionist and because I am an optimist (not a bad thing! I know I sound like I’m being negative, but stick with me) and I realized my idealized version of him was never going to be a reality, which is no fault of his own.

Then there are my actual categorized identities: I am a student, I am an athlete (to a very small and personal extent), I am a writer, I am an employee, I am a pianist, I am a daughter, I am a big sister, I am a girlfriend, I am a friend, I am a recovering addict, I am Bipolar 1, and I am a part of a recovery community in my house. I strive to be, overall, a good person, first and foremost, too, and I know I have good intentions 90% of the time, and don’t strive to hurt anyone. Those are all part of who I am, too, and when expanded upon can explain other aspects of my identity.

Our pasts can be riddled with pain and trauma, so after exploring what things you think comprise who you were until the present, be sure to focus on things you’ve accomplished and what your happiest moments were, too. Did you win an award for anything? Do you distinctively remember making someone very happy? Did you fall in love with someone or something? What brought you joy? Then move to the present, which can be the most difficult part, because we are all changing constantly. Really examine yourself in this moment – what do you feel? What do you see when you envision yourself, physically and within your being?

And then move to the future. As genuinely as you can, think about what kind of life would bring you satisfaction, joy, and pride. Think about, when you’re in your 90s, what you’d like to be reflecting back on. Who would you have become? What would you have accomplished, and who would you be surrounded by?

Lastly in your list, because in my opinion this is really the least important part, think about who others see when they meet you, and if this really reflects who you are. I’ve always been someone who dresses, does my makeup, and presents myself not so much to make a particular impression, but to show others the version of myself I believe to be the most true. During really difficult periods of my life, this meant dressing in very dark clothes, wearing equally dark makeup, dying my hair and shaving some of it off, having a lot of piercings and tattoos (which I still have, and actually really like as I feel they help me remember a big piece of my identity and life). I don’t regret this, because at the time, I was true to the biggest aspect of myself, and through presenting myself that way I opened a window into my heart for others to perhaps judge and misunderstand, but in the case of some of the friends I still have, love who I really was just from meeting me. I am not someone who looks at how others present themselves, regardless of what exactly that might look like, and makes negative judgements, so I try not to do the same of myself. But now I’m in a different place, and I like to look like I feel, which is generally happy, stable, creative, but organized.

Finally, reflect. Make peace with yourself. Acknowledge that you are uniquely you, and both your good aspects and bad aspects comprise someone deserving of love. And you are always growing, should you choose to strive for that. You can always work toward bettering the person you are, but it is also healthy to acknowledge that there can be no bad without the good, and you are lovely in the present, as much as your future self might be a different kind of lovely.

Knowing who you are brings a confidence to every interaction you have, and when life presents different paths, can point you in the direction you need to go. Knowing myself better and better with time, through therapy, writing, and reflection, has made me a lot more compassionate towards myself, and is often helpful when I am on the verge of a lapse. If you know all that you are capable of, and all of the wonderful things you are when you are not using drugs to escape yourself, then maybe returning to that lifestyle will seem less appealing.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. Lots of love,

Liz

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