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Will the real me please stand up?

By Sue Ellen Hanning
Columnist

After coasting last week, are you ready for a giant leap outside your comfort zone?

Are you willing to do what 99 percent of humanity does not do? Are you willing to incorporate into your day that which will make the greatest difference in everything?

The trick is to do this first thing in the morning upon rising. Ready? OK, here it is. Every day from now until the day you die, look in the mirror, smile and say out loud, “I love you. What can I do to make you happy today?”

Whatever the answer is, do it.

You are the most important person in your world. Everything that happens in your life, work and relationships hinges on your being in love with you. This exercise is simple, but not easy to do even if you live alone. After all, someone could hear you talking to yourself.

If you do this every day, I guarantee you will come in contact with the real you. Also, in a short time, you will have little trouble getting outside your comfort zone.

Do you believe that putting yourself first is selfish?

Next question: How’s that working for you?

Our world is full of people who do not think they are worthy of being first. They often fall prey to depression, drugs, alcohol and other addictions. Misery loves company, as the saying goes, so they attract like-minded people, and on and on goes the vicious cycle.

“The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.” — Thales, 624-546 B.C., Greek philosopher, astronomer and mathematician.

When I first read this quote some years ago, my response was, “Not even close.” I was thinking this guy hasn’t raised children in less than perfect situations or endured difficult relationships or struggled to make ends meet. Of course, we know who we are! We know what we like and dislike. What else is there?

When I moved from the person I once was to the person I am now, I understood what Thales meant. Adults often dismiss teens and early 20s behavior with, “Oh he’s just trying to find himself.” What a find that would be if it actually happened earlier in one’s life rather than later or even never; but, alas, the pressures of culture and important people in our lives often win, and the teen returns to a life that is not his, paving the way for years of problems and at times outright misery.

Do you know who you really are, not what you do every day, but the person deep inside that is the real you, the one that yearns and dreams?

We were all born to be a particular someone, equipped with specific gifts, desires and opportunities to share with our world to enrich it, but we cannot be fully aware of these gifts if we are not willing to recognize who is within. Somewhere along the way, our parents, teachers, peers, church, culture asked us to be different in order to fit in or help them not feel uncomfortable when around us. We wanted to please them (or simply stay alive), so we conformed.

It is sobering to become aware that who we present ourselves to be may have been manipulated to suit others, and we simply went along, not knowing what else to do.

Example: As a youngster your dream was to write musical scores for film, but your parents said you could never make a living as a musician, and since they didn’t want you hanging out on their doorstep for an unlimited time, they strongly encouraged you (that’s putting it lightly) to get the silly notion out of your head and choose something sensible for your life’s work like accounting, teaching or nursing. You would know something that afforded you a steady paycheck. Oh, and they added that they would not help with college tuition if you stuck with your dream of becoming a composer. So, you became a nurse because, after all, parents know best, right? As you go about stabbing needles into people’s tushes all day, scores of beautiful music float through your head. Unfortunately, the paycheck is about all you get out of your career, and you learn to settle for less than your dream. This is where most get stuck …in a rut.

If what you do every day doesn’t make your cork rise, then forward momentum is unlikely. The scope of life’s joys is not yours.

Will the real you please stand up? Have you any idea the potential that lies within the authentic you? Would meeting the person you were meant to be whisk you outside your current comfort zone?

I was in my 50s before I realized that I had always been the person someone else expected or needed me to be. During the past 10 years, I have spent many an hour looking within and have learned this is a good place to be. Multitudes meditate, pray, do yoga, study and engage in every spiritual practice known to man, and this is all good, but there are no substitutes for self-examination.

In a nutshell, true introspection can scare the pants off you and stretch you in ways you never knew were possible. From personal experience, many comfort zone busters are tied to introspection. To name a few: being afraid of what we will find; fear of discovering someone we don’t know; uncovering new challenges, and accepting that the person we really are is great.

The challenge is that we have been conditioned to believe someone or something outside of us has the answers and all would be well if we could just find that fountain and tap into it.

But, all the answers lie within us. The word “all” means complete, total, entire, whole, every part, so we are not referring to certain aspects of life, but all of it. One actually has to be willing to meet the dragon face to face. The person you think you are may not be able to handle the situation, but the person you really are can.

This week, take a step toward the real you. If money or time were no object, what would you be doing today? Allow yourself to daydream. Write those dreams down. Enjoy them and join me next time for “Face to face with ourselves.”

“No man remains quite what he was when he recognizes himself.” —  Thomas Mann, 20th Century German novelist and 1929 Nobel laureate.

This story was posted on April 25, 2013.