Henri Neuwen addressed this question the best, in this adaptation of his deeply profound quote;
“I am not what I do, I am not what they say I am, I am not what I possess, I simply Am.”- Henri Neuwen
To gain freedom from this type of worry, you need to answer the question, if I’m not those things, then what am I?
What am I? Is the deepest, most profound question we ever ask ourselves. To gain any lasting self-confidence, the answer will have to come from within us and not other people or other things. As children we pass through various developmental stages; from a belief that the whole world is me, to things I posses are me (including mum) to full individuation as adults, where we realise we are separate from the rest of the world.
This process of individuation is a life times work and often not completed even in death. A truly individuated human being is a delight to behold. So what is individuation and how do we obtain it? Like the title states, individuation is a process of fully differentiating what is me and what is other. Most of the time our unconscious mind is unable to tell the difference between; our friends and ourselves, our possessions and ourselves, our actions and ourselves. It needs to be taught this.
A personal example of this in my life comes from my experience of shame as a teenager. My parents, especially my step dad, had a very different idea of what was cool to wear than I did, but because they had the money, I wore what I was given. I remember the shrinking, shame I felt going into public with my (dad) clothes, I became the clothes, the clothes were uncool, so I was uncool. This is how our egos work. It seems silly now, but I built my self-confidence on those experiences!
Just try taking a new toy from a toddler and you will see this lack of individuation! They will act like you have taken part of their arm off. That is how we act in areas of our lives, where we haven’t individuated. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to this, I have heard it said that from ages 0-7 we identify with our mums, 7-13 with our dads and 14-21 with our friend group. My teenage son is a prime example of this, when he comes to visit he will be totally focused on 10 different conversations he’s having with his mates online, I don’t get a look it! That is his source of security, his friends.
So, what’s so bad with identifying with, friends, possession, achievements?
Well basically, friends leave, possessions break and achievements fade, sorry for the bad news. This means, all the confidence we have placed in these external sources is incredibly insecure. We know deep down in our deepest parts, that we are on thin ice when we have built our confidence on these weak foundations. That is the source of insecurity and damaged self-confidence. Every time we feel the impending loss of a friend for example, or we even detect their displeasure towards us, we feel a loss of self-confidence.
This false attachment of value damages our personality development in so many ways. I have struggled with “people-pleasing” all my life and because of it I have failed to live a fully authentic life. The authentic life is a life of choosing to express who I truly am, not what others are. When we are expressing others and not ourselves we are left feeling like fakes.
So what are you? You are a truly unique human being, an expression of the source of all things, the eyes of the universe, so live you, not someone else. Hear from me today as one who believes it more and more deeply, You are enough! Friends are good, possessions are good, and achievements are good, but they are not you. You have an intrinsic value, like gold, that can never be removed or taken from you.
Build your self confidence from the inside out, not the outside in. Choose to accept yourself as you are, love yourself, honour who you are as a human being, build yourself up with positive affirmations, recognise and celebrate your victories. These need to be daily disciplines or you will remain a victim of external forces and have to resort to control and victimhood mind sets.
So who are you?