Discover Your Authentic Self: Be You, Be Free, Be Happy - Sherrie Dillard (2016)
Chapter 2. RECLAIMING WHAT WAS LOST
Sometimes, to go forward we have to look back. This chapter empowers you to discover characteristics and aspects of your true self that may have been discarded and left behind. Before we are able to fully appreciate our unique gifts and sensitivities and embrace our potential, we may unknowingly discard and suppress our innate true self. Yet it is never too late. Your truth is always within, waiting to be rediscovered.
9. You Came from the Stars
You have come here from the stars and the light with a to-do list taped to your soul. Previous to coming to planet Earth, you may have been enjoying yourself on the love planet Venus, sharpening your mind energy on Mercury, or absorbing the wisdom of the masters. Your memory of where you were before you came here has faded. Your awareness of your innate soul knowledge and power has also likely dimmed.
All that we need to learn and know to make it in this world takes priority over the faint memories of the sublime and spiritual. Yet in moments of illumination, we sometimes remember. Something within stirs with familiarity. There is a peace and sense of connectedness that moves us into an intangible but very real knowing of who we are. A thought, a whisper, or a sensation lures us back into a state of awareness.
Early one morning several years ago, I took a car ferry from an island to the coast. It was empty except for myself and one or two other people. It was a misty morning, and as I watched the sun rise, I could feel the joy of my spirit spreading throughout my entire being. In this moment of transcendent awareness, the ferry stopped to pick up more passengers. Within a few minutes, it was full of cars and people talking, smoking, eating, and crowding in all around me. Although I could still feel the essence of my spirit, its unfettered emergence retreated with the busy commuter traffic.
When we are young, we are all on the crowded ferry together. We take on the characteristics, behaviors, and beliefs of those around us and of the world and we cannot simply get off the boat. Remembering the warm center of self becomes more difficult. Yet the soul never forgets. Stirring within is a rich soul elixir that can transform whoever and whatever you believe yourself to be. The authentic you is a timeless being. Give yourself the space and time you need to remember, to retrace your steps and lift off the layers of what you were taught and told. Reconnect with your truth.
I review what I have learned from my past.
10. Re-parent Yourself
Your authentic self is held precious and safe within your soul. The circumstances and conditions of your childhood are a determining factor in how the true essence of who you are emerges in the world. Although your personality, beliefs, and judgments were shaped and formed in large part by your early childhood experiences, within you there is an individualized spirit that is uniquely you. If you were loved and encouraged to be yourself as a child, the true you was reinforced and likely naturally surfaced. If your childhood lacked unconditional love or if you were molded into someone who is not the true you, you may still struggle with understanding and accepting your authentic self. Yet it is never too late to heal, encourage, and support the true you.
Do you feel as if you had a happy childhood? Are there things about it that you would change? Maybe you grew up in a home that was fraught with tension and stress or you had a parent or sibling who struggled with an addiction. Perhaps your parents went through an ugly divorce and you were caught in the middle. Economic problems, job loss, illness, or a home life that was unstable and unpredictable are a few of the conditions that some young children have to confront. For others who may have had a more conventional two-parent family, economic stability, and what looked like an idyllic life, there may have been difficult issues that were less obvious. Emotionally distant parents and the pressure to perform and live up to high standards of perfection create their own stress and anxiety.
While you cannot go back in time and relive your childhood, you can heal and create a different and more nurturing present. Pick one area that you would like to focus on. For instance, maybe you did not receive the kind of love and support you needed or you had a home life that was chaotic and unpredictable. Decide what you need in present time and make a commitment to give this to yourself. Perhaps you want to feel loved and supported. Begin by making a commitment to love and care for yourself. Practice loving and supportive self-talk. Notice when you are critical or judgmental of yourself and cancel these thoughts with positive, supportive statements. Choose loving and supportive friends who encourage and understand you. Express love to others and be kind and forgiving. Allow yourself to receive love and kindness from others. Imagine the innocent and vulnerable child within you. Send him or her love and support.
I give to myself what I wish to receive.
11. Recapture Your Innocence
The authentic you is not static and rigid. It flows with imaginative and creative energy. As the journey to discovering the true you unfolds, you will constantly change and evolve. What you perceive as true for you today may not be true tomorrow. The more you know and express your truth, the more your perception changes. As your self-awareness increases, so does your ability to perceive life fresh and new. There is an innocence within you that can see clearly, without bias and judgment. When you perceive life in this way, it comes alive with possibilities.
In the presence of my three-year-old granddaughter, life is magic. This charming quality was clearly evident when we walked by an old playground near her home one afternoon. The small park had seen better days and had only two outdated pieces of equipment. One was a slide and the other was a set of long metal monkey bars. As we stood in the playground’s weed-infested lot, we each saw something quite different. While I stared at the dilapidated state of the slide, my granddaughter ran off laughing and climbed to the top of it. I joined her, and before you knew it, the slide became a train, with my granddaughter the conductor. As she shouted orders and maneuvered around all kinds of obstacles, I held on tight and marveled at her imaginative skill.
My granddaughter did not know or care that this was an old, abandoned park that had not seen any children in a long time. Through her clear vision of possibilities, she transformed it into exactly what she wanted it to be.
There was a time when we saw everything through the eyes of wonder. As we grew older, we unconsciously absorbed and accepted judgments and limitations as reality. Imagine what would happen if we as adults could perceive potential and possibilities in all that we see and experience. The old slide in the playground was not a magical train, but its essence and my granddaughter’s experience of it was. Our lives are lived through what we perceive. This then becomes what we experience. Recapture your childlike innocence and your world will transform.
I see the world through innocent eyes.
12. You Chose Your Family
The family environment that you were born into was perfect for you. Before you made the journey from the light into this life, your soul was aware of the important lessons, purpose, and gifts that you came here to share and experience. You picked your parents, your environment, and the challenges that you are experiencing.
If you are anything like me, you may wonder why you picked such a challenging childhood. More than once I have questioned the idea that I had full knowledge and agreed to the circumstances of my early life. Yet I am also aware that despite conditions not always being to my liking, my childhood motivated me to develop compassion, inner strength, and independence. It also activated an early awareness of the spirit realm and my connection to it. My family was not a haven of acceptance and love in the way that I would have liked it to be, yet it did provide me with the drive and desire to become aware of and tune into a deeper source of wisdom and love.
Your family has contributed to your growth and evolution in ways that you may not fully realize. If you were not loved and cared for in the way that you needed to be, or if your true self was suppressed and denied expression as a child, know that something in you was and is strong enough to overcome this. Although you were not able to change or control the circumstances of your early life, you are not a victim. Be angry, disappointed, and upset and feel whatever feelings you may still harbor about your early family environment. Then let go of them, forgive yourself and others, and heal.
Your past challenges and difficulties have refined and purified your soul. When you accept and forgive your past, you discover the gifts inherent within the struggles. Whatever you have been through, whatever love and care has been denied, open the door to your heart, mind, body, and soul and know that you can receive it right now.
I recognize the gifts that my early family environment has given to me.
13. Finding Your Tribe
We all want to belong. It is a biological, emotional, and spiritual need. In primitive times, survival was dependent on being a part of a group. To reproduce and ensure that we were safe from predators and had food and shelter, community was essential. As our basic needs were met, the feeling of being part of something bigger than one individual provided group members with emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual support and connection. Adherence to the group’s norms, beliefs, and customs created harmony and reinforced expectations and continued functioning. The belief that a god, goddesses, and deities watched over, protected, and cared for the human realm reinforced group solidarity.
We instinctually want and need to be part of a tribe. We seek our identity and fulfill our desire for community by bonding with others. Connecting with others of like mind and heart is healthy. However, it is important to bond with others through your most loving and positive aspects. When we form close ties with others through negative and fear-based commonalities, this only reinforces and exaggerates these qualities within ourselves. It is tempting to align with others through our prejudices, judgments, superficial likes and dislikes, fears, wounds, and other constrictive similarities and sentiments. Yet you will find that a minor dislike can become a prison of hate and limitations when it is reinforced by group consciousness.
Seek others who uplift, inspire, and motivate you to be the best you can be. When you desire to be part of a group of friends or coworkers, a political party, a spiritual or religious community, or any other type of gathering, ask yourself if your authentic self will be supported. Will you feel as if you can be who you are, or will you have to take on beliefs and opinions that do not feel right for you? Feeling accepted for who you are, feeling heartfelt warmth, and finding support for personal growth and continued learning are trustworthy signs that a group may be a good fit. It can be a leap of faith to open up and share who you are with others. Be careful to be with those who reinforce your highest aspirations and support your efforts to be your most honest and true self.
We all need a tribe who can see our truth and support it.
I pay attention to how I feel when I am in the company of others.
14. Being Nice
It is not always easy to be yourself. It can be especially difficult if you were brought up to be nice and please others. When we want another to like and respect us, it is tempting to align with their likes, opinions, and expectations. Even though you may want to share your opinions and feelings with another, you may hold back and stifle your truth if you feel it is counter to what they think or feel. You may have been brought up to believe that disagreement or a difference in opinion my cause waves or problems. Sometimes it may feel as if you have to make a choice between being true to yourself or failing to live up to what and who another expects you to be. While appreciating another’s perspective and point of view is a positive way to get to know the person and become closer, be careful not to stuff away your authentic thoughts and feelings. All too often in our desire to be nice, we compromise and silence our truth.
When we are young, we are taught the value of playing nice, sharing our toys, and not being demanding and mean to others. As we get older, we continue to be taught in overt and subtle ways to silence our emotions and wait our turn. While these lessons can be valuable and help us to respect others and refine our ego, they can also give us the unconscious message that the raw truth of who we are cannot be trusted. One false move in saying something that another does not agree with or sharing a feeling that may be too intense could doom us to a life of loneliness.
The tendency to hide our true self is made easier when we know what another wants and expects. A friend, family member, coworker, or acquaintance may be blatant or subtle in expressing their desires and expectations, and it can be tempting to simply submit. Being able to make another happy, keep the peace, or sympathize and support another’s beliefs and opinions seems innocent enough. Yet attempting to influence and connect to another with behavior, emotions, or beliefs that are not genuine only creates a false connection.
Being nice can be a trap that eventually leads to a loss of self. If you expect others to always be nice or if someone expects this from you, real intimacy and deep sharing may be compromised. There is a difference between being nice and being kind. When you are kind, you can speak with truth and compassion. Being nice often means smiling when you do not agree or like something. Be kind and give your true self to others.
If you are finding it difficult to be yourself when confronted with another’s expectations, take small steps. Sometimes it is enough to simply say nothing. You can be quiet and detach from the pressure to join in and act in ways that do not feel authentic. You can be polite and kind and still be you. Being yourself does not mean that you have to be outspoken and confrontative. If you do not feel comfortable speaking your truth, breathe deeply and know that this will not always be the case. Take some time away from those who pressure you to align with their vision of who they want you to be. Recognize your true thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Focus on what you need to do to take care of yourself. Be kind to you.
I practice kindness in my relationships.
15. Alone in the Playground
The pressure to conform, be part of a group, and choose sides is felt at an early age. On the journey to developing autonomy and a sense of who we are, we are often challenged by more dominant and assertive personalities. One of my first lessons in peer pressure occurred in the playground of my elementary school when I was in third grade. My school had a large outdoor area where all of the students went after lunch. Like many other seemingly innocent playgrounds, mine was a hotbed for budding alphas to test their ability to exert control over the more timid and vulnerable.
One of the most popular games among my classmates was the girl chase. I don’t remember being given a choice to play or not play. It was what we did. Participation was mandatory. Through some unknown criteria, the girls separated into different groups. The alpha girl leader of the group would run and the other girls would follow her like a swarm of birds. One group would then chase the other groups. I can’t recall what we did once we caught them or when we were caught, but it had a sinister and almost desperate feel to it. I was frankly scared of the whole breathless running and chasing of one another, but I felt too intimidated not to continue the charade. I didn’t want to be on my own, alone in the big playground. Reluctantly, I ran with the rest of the girls, screaming and chasing others as if my life depended on it. Even at that young age, I felt foolish. But I kept it up.
That was not the only time I went along with what others were doing. When I got older, I drank beer at parties and I kissed boys and had sexual experiences, mostly out of curiosity and because others were doing it. Somewhere in me I knew I could say no, but I did not have the confidence and self-awareness yet to go against the norm.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I began to make choices based on what I wanted to do and what felt right to me. I discovered that listening within and acting on what was true for me offered me an exhilarating freedom that I didn’t want to give up. I finally found my “no” voice, and I used it as often as I wanted to. I would like to say that I am completely free now of compromise and conformity, and for the most part I am. But I also recognize that this is a lifelong process. Sometimes I still find myself going along with another’s plan or not taking care of myself in order to fulfill another’s desire or expectation. I still can fall into the trap of feeling that my choice is to go along with another’s program or to be alone in the big playground of life. Fortunately, I come to my senses a bit more quickly now and kindly opt out, knowing that individuality does not mean loneliness.
Give yourself this gift. Choose what you want to do and with whom you want to do it. Inner happiness and peace are the result.
I choose what I want to participate in.
16. Let Go of the False
From a young age, you have been led to believe many things about yourself and the world that are not necessarily true. You most likely have been labeled, characterized, categorized and given attributes, interests, talents, and abilities that are not in alignment with who you are and what you have come into this life to experience. Some of what you assumed to be right and true for you has come from the opinions and feedback of well-meaning family and friends. Some of your perceptions and beliefs have come from observing others in the world and accepting traditional norms. Over time, these falsities become your reality.
For instance, from a young age, it was assumed that Jed, a client of mine, would go to college, grad school, and maybe medical or law school. Even though he felt an undeniable passion for music and writing, Jed felt that at best this would only be a pastime and hobby. He, too, felt that college and grad school were his only real option. While in college and then grad school, he did his best to deny and dismiss his musical interests, as they did not “fit in” with his self-perception. Still, he felt most alive when playing and writing music. Upon graduating from law school, Jed was fortunate to be hired by a busy law firm. It was at this time that he put music completely aside to focus on his career, yet his love for writing, playing, and performing music never subsided. A few years into his career as an attorney, he started to struggle with depression and anxiety. It took a few more years of soul-searching and help from a therapist for Jed to accept what he had always known. Music had to be a part of his life. He eventually left the law firm to focus on a career as a musician. Although it was not as lucrative as law, Jed has never regretted his decision.
On the journey to knowing self, it is necessary to first accept all of who you are, even those characteristics and attributes that don’t seem to make sense or fit in with the life you envision for yourself. Be honest about your likes and dislikes, your feelings, emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. Practice full acceptance and embrace all of who you are. Be honest and listen to your feelings and beliefs as well as your dreams, passions, and longings. As you do this, you make way for new insights and awareness. Take all of who you are and evaluate what feels right for you. What is true and what is not true for you will become clear. You will begin to naturally shed the illusions of what and who you imagined yourself to be and allow your truth to shine through.
It can feel vulnerable and scary to become aware of and question whether you are involved in and doing what is right and true for you. Yet when you know and live from the truest part of yourself, you experience an inner synergy that expands into every area of your life. A constant supply of inspiration, passion, positive energy, love, and wisdom flows through you from the depths of your being.
I accept all of who I am.
17. The Price of Popularity
From a young age, we are pressured to conform and fit in with the accepted norms. Instead of encouraging self-acceptance, some parents knowingly and unknowingly teach the opposite. Out of concern that their children may be teased or bullied for being different, some parents teach their children to be like the other kids, fit in, and sacrifice their individuality. Starting from a young age, well-meaning parents may buy their children the most popular toys, games, clothing, sneakers, and various accessories in the hope that this will help their child to be liked. Many inadvertently motivate their children to ignore what they desire in favor of what they believe will help them to be like the other kids. Although they have the best of intentions, there is a potentially soul-robbing message in guiding a child to adopt outer norms in favor of discovering what feels right and best for him or her.
If being like others and fitting in is emphasized from an early age, the authentic inner voice is ignored and suppressed. As we grow older, if we continue on the path of looking outside of ourselves for reassurance and security, we may miss out on the important process of inner self-growth and development. The authentic self is a wise, innate compass that keeps us in touch with our true talents, desires, and needs. When we lose connection with this inner self, we search for who we are in the world and in others.
As adults, children who have denied their ability to trust and listen to their inner self are set adrift in a confusing world, not knowing their purpose and reason for being. We may try new things, buy the latest gadgets and comfort items, or go to the most popular places in a misguided attempt to feel a connection and find ourselves. Or we may play it safe, fear change of any kind, and judge and criticize those who are different.
To some degree, we have all repressed and ignored our inner impulses in order to fit in and please others. The way back to self takes concentrated effort. Think of something you wanted to try or experience as a child but never did. Actively explore, learn, and participate in this hobby, interest, or desire. Even if it seems to be a childish activity, find some way to rekindle an old curiosity or passion. Indulge yourself a bit. You likely have been denied too long.
I actively pursue an old interest.
18. Soulful Memories
There are times in our childhood when we get a transcendent peek into our true nature. We touch and feel something within us that is deep and true. Although we can rarely understand and put into words what we are experiencing, we want to hold on to that inner spark and absorb whatever magic it holds. Do you have a soul-glimpsing memory from long ago tucked away within you that still whispers to you?
When I was young, my family rented a cottage on a lake for a few weeks in the summer. Although I do not have many memories of this particular place, the few that I have stand out in their vividness. One still has a visceral effect on me.
The lake was in a mountainous area of winding and narrow dirt roads. Driving through the forest, you could barely see through the heavy trees and foliage. There was a spot at the top of a peak where, looking into the distance, you could see the lake. The translucent blue sunlit water shone and sparkled through the trees like soft, fluid clouds. I remember sitting in the back seat of our station wagon feeling hypnotized by the green and blue shimmering forest and distant lake. One sunny morning on the way to the lake, I experienced a moment of lucid awareness. The light of the sparkling blue sunlit water, the forest greenery, and the golden rays of the sun all wove together through the dark woods in mystical harmony. My body tingled and a calming, surreal, and almost magnetic sensation moved through me. This simple scene affected me to the depths of my being. It was an invitation into a magical world that spoke to me in a compelling and mystifying language. I felt I could dissolve into it.
Try to remember what moved you when you were young. What bypassed your thinking and touched your heart and a deeper part of you? In moments of heightened awareness, the world and the true authentic you cross paths. Something in you lights up and awakens.
Over time as we get older, this inner connection gets quieted and dulled. Yet the authentic you still rises in recognition when you encounter something in the world that touches your heart and soul. Pay attention to these kinds of impulses and sensations, however slight they may be. As you listen and feel for them, they will grow stronger and inspire your heart to leap with joy and wonder.
I listen and feel with pure innocence.
19. Conforming: The Early Years
When we are young, our parents are like gods. They are the final and infallible judges of who we are and what we need. Like little sponges, we absorb their thoughts and feelings and their beliefs and biases. These thoughts and feelings sink deep into our unconscious and become the norm. As we get older, we begin to form our own preferences and likes and dislikes separate from our family. Quite often, this more authentic self conflicts with our early childhood conditioning, especially in our early teen years, when our individuality may surface in confusing and tumultuous ways. For many of us, it is when our true self begins to emerge that the stress of being different surfaces.
In overt and subtle ways, we are taught that love equals loyalty and devotion. To love our family, our country, and God means to submit to and adopt values, norms, opinions, and beliefs that may not necessarily ring true to our inner sense of self. Conformity provides the illusion of safety and protection from life’s inevitable problems and unexpected surprises. For many, the price of individuality comes with feelings of isolation and separation from those we love. The choice of being oneself or being alienated from family members is too difficult for some to bear. To fit in, those interests, talents, beliefs, opinions, and desires that go against the grain of the family system are further denied or repressed.
If you have experienced or are currently experiencing what feels like a choice between being yourself and being accepted by family members or close friends, choose yourself. You will never regret this empowering step into who you are. Love is freedom, individuality, and acceptance of our truth.
Most likely, the family members and friends who require your conformity and adherence to their values and choices were once in a similar situation. Their parents and their parents before them likely demanded the same. As you claim your freedom, you allow others to make a radical departure from a restricting form of love. Your courage inspires and motivates family, friends, and those who are fearful of who and what is different to choose another way.
Be the one who is strong enough to go it alone. There is an invisible ray of magnetism that will draw to you those who share your passion and strength.
I am strong enough to be me.
20. Young Extroverts and Introverts
There is considerable psychological evidence suggesting that we are born with specific preferences in relating to others and the world. These predetermined inclinations are a cornerstone of our authentic self. As much as we or others would like to change these preferences, we are hard-wired with specific tendencies. One of the most significant contributions that famed psychologist Carl Jung made was his insight into and understanding of these innate preferences.
Extroversion and introversion describe the way that individuals relate to the world and receive energy. Extroverts are energized by people and the outer world. They tend to be gregarious, action-oriented, and enthusiastic. Introverts are energized through solitude and reflection. They often find excessive outer stimulation exhausting. Neither preference is better or worse than the other. While most people lie somewhere along the continuum of extroversion or introversion, not being in sync with our family’s predominant preference can cause misunderstandings and feelings of shame.
The Extroverted Child
While parents and their children often share common traits and characteristics, there may be inherent differences that can be challenging. No amount of positive or negative feedback and coercion can change a child’s inner wiring. A child that is highly extroverted needs active social time with friends, can become bored when alone, can be talkative, and may want a lot of interaction with their parents. If a parent is equally extroverted, there is likely to be harmony and mutual understanding. However, if the parent is an introvert, they can quickly become exhausted and overwhelmed with a high-energy, socially interactive child.
When an extroverted child is not appreciated for their outgoing nature and their need for external stimulation is not met, a parent can give the child the unintended message that there is something inherently wrong with them. An extroverted child who is constantly told to settle down, go to their room, and be quiet and is pushed to play alone can become tired, depressed, and lonely.
If you were an outgoing, active, and enthusiastic extroverted child who grew up in an environment that did not support your natural way of relating to the world, you may still feel that you can be overwhelming and simply too much for others. Recognize that your introverted parent, teacher, grandparent, or whoever it was that gave you this message did the best they could do. They likely felt overwhelmed and inadequate in meeting your needs.
Find others who share your outgoing nature and live it up. Participate in activities that promote interaction, activity, stimulation, and the opportunity to meet new people. Know that your charming extroverted self is a wonderful gift.
The Introverted Child
Although being an extroverted child can have its challenges, an introverted child is more likely to be misunderstood. Extroverts make up roughly 75 percent of the population and introverts a mere 25 percent. To be outgoing, interactive, and social is the expected cultural norm, especially for children. While adults may be able to have alone time, avoid overstimulation, and enjoy introspection and reflection, children with these same qualities are often viewed as a bit odd, shy, or moody. Unless a child has a parent who either is an introvert themselves or understands introversion, life can be particularly difficult.
I grew up with extroverted parents and three extroverted siblings. As an introvert, I was often overstimulated and exhausted by the constant noise and level of activity in my home. I would often escape alone to the basement to just sit and quietly play. Even then, my mother, an off-the-chart extrovert, would send my sister or one of my brothers or a neighbor child to play with me. As I got older, my mother did her best to encourage me to invite more friends home, join groups, and generally be more like my other siblings. Although I had friends and was active in sports and other activities, I needed alone time and this was a cause of concern for her. I grew up believing that I should be more outgoing and social. Although I did my best to curb my introversion and be more like the rest of my family, I only became cranky and tired. As much as I tried to join in, all the activity and constant noise overwhelmed me. It wasn’t until I took a psychology class in college that I came across the theory of extroversion and introversion and began to better understand myself and others. Reading over the research and findings, I felt that I had found the Holy Grail. My perception of myself began to change. I was able to shed some of the judgment and shame that I had acquired over the years. As I better understood my own introverted nature, my self-esteem and confidence improved.
Schools and after-school and weekend activities keep children constantly busy and active. Introverted children are naturally reserved and need time alone to recharge their batteries, yet they are often expected to be as interactive as extroverts. They can feel the differences between themselves and others and know they are not like other kids. Pushing themselves to be more outgoing and social can feel awkward and stressful. This can create a feeling of angst and even shame. Introverted children can be as bright, cheerful, and friendly as extroverted children, but they need time alone to daydream, ponder, and reflect.
If you were a misunderstood introverted child, you may still be uncomfortable with your need and desire for solitude and time away from activity and interaction. There is nothing wrong with you. It is essential that you trust and listen to your needs. Your authentic self will emerge and blossom in the quiet and solitude. You will be healthier, happier, and a better, friend, parent, coworker, and partner when you listen to and give yourself the quiet and alone time that you need.
I accept and honor both my need for alone time
and my need for interaction with others.
21. Little Thinkers and Feelers
In addition to extroversion and introversion, Carl Jung theorized that we come into the world with a predetermined preference for decision making. This is the thinking and feeling continuum.
A child with a predominant feeling function tends to be sensitive, empathic, and naturally emotionally intelligent and attuned to the emotional climate of their home. If there is an extreme amount of stress, anxiety, tension, or worry in the home, the child will feel it but not necessarily understand it. Because children have not yet developed psychological maturity, they are egocentric. They believe that everything that happens and everything they feel has a direct link to them. They mistakenly assume that they are the source and cause of all that they feel and experience. Not able to comprehend and put a name to the emotions and feelings that they absorb, they often act out and react to the emotional climate of their environment. Easily overwhelmed by the emotions and feelings that they unknowingly absorb, emotionally sensitive children can get labeled as difficult, rebellious, anxious, or unruly. They may have nightmares, crying fits, an upset stomach, or headaches. Children who respond to the world through the feeling preference are often vulnerable and easily hurt.
If your feeling nature was understood and nurtured as a child, you are likely empathetic, emotionally intelligent, and caring. You may be a source of love and comfort for your friends and family and the one whom others go to when they need help, nurturing, and understanding. If you did not have the benefit of an emotionally loving and nurturing environment as a child, you may feel that your emotional sensitivity is more of a curse than a blessing. You may need to be especially kind and compassionate toward yourself and heal old emotional wounds. You can begin the process by making the intent to open your heart and feel and release any emotional pain and judgments about your emotional sensitivity.
It is never too late to experience the gift of your emotional and sensitive nature. Your emotions empower you to tune into a higher form of love and healing. Your authentic self is naturally attuned to and can absorb the lofty vibrations of healing love energy. You will find that when you stay connected to your inner self, you are strengthened and comforted by a higher form of love.
On the opposite end of the continuum is the thinking preference. Children with a dominant thinking function in some ways have an easier time being understood and making sense of the world, yet they can also experience some unique challenges. Thinking children want to understand and make sense of everything. They are inquisitive, curious, and often intelligent and natural problem solvers. They can also be blunt and honest about what they perceive, often to the shock and embarrassment of their parents.
For instance, a friend of mine, Janet, told me a classic story of an encounter she had with a thinking child. While waiting for the dance class of her four-year-old granddaughter, Beth, to end, she was approached by another four-year-old. This little girl looked up at Janet and asked her who she was.
“I am Beth’s grandmother,” Janet said.
With a quizzical look on her face, the little girl stared at her for an uncomfortable few minutes. Finally she walked back to her mother, who was a few feet away. She pointed to Janet and asked her mother, “Why does my grandmother have lines on her face?” Then she added, “My grandmother looks old.”
For children with a strong thinking preference, there is usually no judgment involved in their observations. They simply want to know why things are the way they are and seek to understand.
Thinking children can be shamed and punished for their perceptions and their honesty in sharing them. Instead of teaching children how to communicate effectively in ways that will empower them to understand other people’s feelings and not alienate them from others, children often get the message to be quiet and keep their thoughts to themselves. Unfortunately, in a child’s egocentric mind, this message can get further translated as my thoughts are bad and I cannot express them. They may even hear a more dangerous judgment, such as I am bad. Over time, if this message is reinforced, it gets buried deep within the mind and becomes their truth.
If you were given the message not to express your thoughts as a child, you may have an unconscious resistance to sharing your true thoughts with others as an adult. You may fear that you will be rejected or misunderstood. Often we are not aware of why we withhold our true self with those we care about. Explore your thoughts, and do not judge or criticize what you think. Once you are aware of what you are thinking, you can choose if and how to express it.
I accept both my thinking and my feeling preferences.
22. Sensing and Intuition
Let your senses come alive. Close your eyes for a moment and listen. What do you hear? Open your eyes and look all around you. Notice the colors and patterns in your environment or go outside and look up at the sky. Take it all in. Breathe in. What do you smell? Hold something smooth, then something with texture. How does this feel? Taste your food. What spices and herbs pop out at you? You are a part of the rich tapestry of life.
Our innate preference for gathering information lies somewhere along the sensing and intuiting continuum. Those with a high sensing function perceive the world through their five senses. What they can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell is real. Sensing children are very much at home in the practical and material world. They tend to do well with routine, focus on detail, and are comfortable in predictable situations and experiences. As they grow older, they often continue in this uncomplicated and matter-of-fact way. They may excel at athletics and academics and be comfortable in social situations.
As they mature, those with a strong sensing function may experience a nagging feeling that something is missing. Because they are not always comfortable using their imagination and intuition, possibilities and potential may elude them. Although sensors tend to do well in the here and now, they have less of an aptitude for the nonphysical realm of essence.
The authentic self lives in both the physical and the nonphysical realms. Sensors may have a strong and positive appreciation of themselves as physical beings in a material world, yet the authentic self can also be elusive, ever changing, evolving, and difficult to grasp. If you approach and understand the world through your senses, take some time to explore your inner self. You may not know what you are looking for and you may wonder if you will recognize it when you find it. But there is a rich inner world that will respond to this invitation.
Do you sometimes know something without knowing how you know it? Do you ever feel others’ feelings as your own or know their thoughts? Intuition is on the opposite end of the spectrum from sensing. In the general population, only 25 percent of people use intuition as their primary means of interaction and perception, while 75 percent have a sensing preference.
I believe that all children are intuitive. However, not all children use their intuition as their main tool for understanding themselves, others, and their environment. Intuitive children feel, know, sense, and sometimes see what others do not. However, what they easily and intuitively know and perceive is often met with disbelief or denial by others.
It is normal and natural for intuitive children to spontaneously announce that Uncle Bob, who died a few years earlier, is in the house or that Dad is not really working late like he said he was. However, family and friends might not welcome and be especially pleased about these insights. Intuitive children often know how others feel and are confused when their insights are rejected or met with a blank stare. They may know when others are not being honest and when events are not going to go as planned. When a child has little or no support for what they perceive and when what people say and do conflicts with what their gut tells them is true, confusion and self-doubt can spin out of control. Many intuitive children learn to keep their insights to themselves. In some cases, they repress and deny their intuitive abilities and do their best to disregard their inner knowing.
If you were an intuitive child, you may still be uncomfortable or fearful of your intuition. It may even be so repressed that you are no longer able to use it in positive and helpful ways. If so, it is time to claim, reactivate, and ignite your intuition. Take the time to listen within. Trust your gut feelings and inner knowing and act on what you receive. Do not wait for someone else to verify what you know is right to you. Reconnect with this natural part of who you are.
I value both my sensing and my intuitive natures.
23. Celebrate Individuality
We all need to feel like we belong. Being part of something—a group or a religious or political belief system—gives us a sense of security and identity. The drive to belong is particularly strong when we are young, especially when we are teenagers. It is also in the teenage years that we become more aware of our individuality. The differences between ourselves and our family members and popular culture are magnified. We go in search of what appeals to us and reject what does not. We can develop strong opinions, interests, and judgments about others, types of entertainment, hobbies, school, and society in general.
For some young people, the process of discovering their individuality and identifying with a group is relatively easy. Allegiance to a certain sport or team or an interest in a specific type of music or band provides a sense of belonging and a safe haven. However, many young people fake interest in what is popular and repress their natural tendencies in order to feel as if they belong. Others struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation when they do not experience the kind of connection or affinity with others that they would like.
Overcompromising, denying, and not listening to our inner voice in order to be like others and fit in comes with a hefty price. Squashing our natural impulses leads to feeling empty and estranged from self. This inner void can be a crippling and soul-crushing suffering. In our society, these feelings among young people are epidemic. Drug use, addictions, crime, suicide, and violent rampages have their roots in those individuals who feel they have no place in mainstream society or feel as if they must compromise their true self to be seen and accepted. Being shut out, ostracized, shunned, or rejected by others and by ourselves leads to depression, isolation, and anger.
If you are strong enough to be yourself, flaunt it. Be unusual, different, and creative and wave your flag of individuality high. There are many who need to see it and know that they are not alone. We owe it to others, particularly young people, to be free and audacious enough to be ourselves. Be a happy and secure role model for those who need to know that they, too, can be who they are and make it in this world. Let them be part of your pack. Wave and smile at and compliment those who are bizarre and unusual. Let them know they belong.
I support others in being who they are.
24. Remember Who You Are
You are meant to be here at this time. There is no one quite like you. You have come here to create, love, forgive, and express the special magic of you. Unfortunately, not everyone is always going to understand and appreciate you. We all get beat up somewhat in this life. Be resilient and do not expect too much from the world. Your strength, love, and life force come from the light of the beyond.
Trust what comes your way. You came into this life with everything you need to experience joy and meaning. There are certain people you are meant to meet who will love, bless, and support you. There are relationships that you came here to explore, heal, and work through. There are friends, family members, partners, and lovers you are here to love, help, forgive, and bless on their journey. Remember that not everything that comes your way is meant to last a lifetime. Those challenging situations, conditions, and unexpected changes that seem to come and go at random are in keeping with the lessons that you have come here to experience.
Notice when you get stuck in emotions such as anger, confusion, or pain, and remember that you have a powerful heart. You are sustained from within. No matter what this world throws your way, know that you are a powerful being. Even if you cannot recall the brilliant light that shines from within, the spirit of the most holy resides within you. Physical life is temporary and provides you with the opportunity to experience the joy of being human. With the light of the stars guiding you and anchoring you to the heavens, open your heart and remember who you are. Be gentle in your love for yourself and others.
I remember that the strength and love
within my heart sustain me.
25. Challenging Childhood Messages
Is there a belief about yourself or about life that you received as a child that you are ready to let go of or change? Maybe you grew up believing that you were not very smart and that you lacked the intelligence to make it in this world. Did your family emphasize education and good grades? Did you feel that you measured up to their expectations? Perhaps you excelled in other interests and hobbies, but you grew up believing that they had little or no value. Maybe you believe that you are unattractive or that you are destined to be overweight. Perhaps, like many others, you grew up believing that you are meant to work in a certain field. Your abilities, education, and skills have been focused in an area that you do not enjoy. As hard as you try to make it work, you have no passion for what you are doing.
It takes time to know who you are and what works for you. Like many, you have derived a sense of self from your childhood environment. Well-meaning parents, teachers, and friends have guided you in forming your identity. Your beliefs about who you are and what is possible in your life may keep you confined and limited. Some of these messages feel true and right for you, but maybe not all of them. Because much of our sense of self was developed at such a young age, it may feel like there are certain qualities, characteristics, and personality attributes that we cannot change.
You can redefine who you are. Begin by examining areas in your life that you would like to change. Ask yourself what early childhood experiences may have helped to form your current beliefs and experiences. Feel in your heart what is true for you. Be honest with yourself. If there is a belief or an area of your life that does not ring true for you, make the decision to change it. Ask yourself what does feel right for you. Brainstorm new ideas and beliefs, try them on, and ask yourself how they feel. Can you see and feel yourself doing things differently or adopting a new belief? How does it feel in your heart and gut? What actions can you take to support what feels right for you? Take your time with this process. Be kind and encouraging in your efforts to do things differently. Reinforce your truth, and eventually it will integrate itself into your life and feel more natural.
I challenge childhood messages that are no longer true for me.
26. Early Spiritual Awareness
I was baptized at a young age in a Baptist church and went to Sunday school every week. We sang songs about Jesus and the Bible and watched with rapt attention as our Sunday school teacher moved felt figures of Jesus and Moses across a whiteboard in the front of the class.
Although I was well schooled in the Bible, I didn’t have a sense of God in a spiritual way. Instead, it was in the woods near my house where I felt the undeniable presence of a greater power. Among the trees and streams and shining down from the clouds in the sky, I felt a presence and a warmth in my heart. Unlike church and Sunday school, which required a lot of sitting still, listening, and repeating words that I did not understand, nature does not require conformity. It took me many years to fully understand that what I was experiencing was spiritual, holy, and good and that everyone has access to it. It took me even longer to accept that this was what those in church called God.
When we are young, we have a natural and authentic connection to spirituality that has nothing to do with judgment, sin, and salvation. Before we have a name for it, many of us feel and experience a spiritual presence. Over time, we discount or forget this heartfelt knowing and connection or believe it to be just in our imagination. For many people, it becomes the avenue through which they experience a transcendent connection with a higher love and presence.
What are your early memories of religion or spirituality? Reignite the innocence and spiritual awareness of your early years. What in your heart do you know is true for you? Let your imagination take flight and trust your spiritual awareness.
I explore my spirituality.
27. You Are Not a Label
If you were labeled with an emotional or mental disorder as a child, know that you were born perfect and you are still a perfect being. Some of the most common developmental and learning disabilities diagnosed in children and young adults are autism, attachment disorder, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder. In addition to personality disorders, eating and social anxiety disorders are being more frequently diagnosed in younger children.
For many reasons, it is advantageous to receive an accurate diagnosis for a child who is struggling and in need of support. Getting treatment and medication and receiving tutoring and therapy can make the difference between suffering and healing for many young people. Unfortunately, it can also instill a sense of shame and embarrassment or a feeling of being faulty, defective, bad, or broken. Despite our belief that there are “normal” children and there are those who lie outside the parameters of the typical and average, all children are unique and come into this life with both challenges and special gifts and talents. It is our responsibility to discover what they are.
If you felt defective in some way as a child because of a medical label or disability, you may still consciously or unconsciously feel deficient and different. Imagine that you can peel off this artificial layer of who and what you were labeled. Perhaps a disability or disorder has in the past served or is currently serving a spiritual, mental, physical, or emotional purpose. But remember that your disability or disorder is not you. You are not your brain, your physical body, your emotions, your thoughts, your nervous system, or your physiology. You are the beautiful spark of light that shines through all of these and is present in all that you experience. Have compassion for your young self, who had to endure a system, culture, and way of being that was not fully able to understand and accommodate the truth of who you are. Honor your path. There are many ways to be in this world. Break the mold and just be you.
I let go of any labels that were given to me as a child.
28. Allow Your Past to Bless You
All of the struggles, pressures, challenges, and pain that you have been through have been divinely orchestrated for your highest good. All of the joy, love, compassion, and comfort that you have thus far experienced in your life is here to bless you. Your soul is a master builder carving out the unique masterpiece of you.
Allow all that you have experienced in the past to be a source of positivity. The family you are born into, the early school and social environment you did your best to get through, and your struggles to be yourself may not have been easy. Yet nothing that you have experienced is more powerful than what is within you. Challenges can activate our inner power and push the strength within to flow powerfully into every area of our lives.
Celebrate all that has led you to where you are right now. The tears and laughter, happiness and sorrow, gain and loss and pain and healing that you have experienced can be sources of strength. Celebrate your desire to learn, grow, and be you. Listen to the persistent call from within that motivates and inspires you to continue the adventure of self-discovery. All of this forms the roots from which the authentic you blossoms.
My past is a blessing.