Why We Avoid Getting to Know Ourselves Better
No one wants to be alone. So that’s why we break off one relationship and dive headfirst into another. In coupledom, we hope to avoid the awkward state of being by ourselves with nothing but the truth to entertain us–the truth that we’re not really comfortable with who we are alone.
For so long we’ve been convinced that our happiness will come from outside of us, via a special relationship, the right career, notoriety or fame, living in the right place, a husband, children, etc. that we ‘ve lost complete faith in our abilities to make ourselves happy. And so our insidious secret plan is that once we find the right situation, we can (once and for all) let go of our “old self,” the one we don’t really like or approve of and replace it with a better self.
That’s why we’re constantly seeking a perfect version of ourselves, one that will manifest when conditions are aligned. It’s a nice idea, but I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t work. You can lose yourself temporarily in another person or a situation, but eventually, the drive to truly know and unapologetically be oneself will re-emerge.
Each of us carries within us a deep desire to see ourselves with a loving parent’s eye, to see the totality of our being and love it dearly, no matter what. Each of us longs to drop the armor and facade of an imagined perfect self and just be. We pray for permission to think, act, and feel in true harmony with our hearts.
We suffer the struggle of pretending.
Our actions in and out of relationships speak to the discomfort we experience exploring who we are at deeper levels. We tend to prefer surface-level identifications. I don’t know if it’s a universal experience of young adults, but when I was 20, I built a persona I wanted to show people. I thought it would guarantee me inclusion into the social scene I wanted to be part of. I was concerned with the way I looked, the things I owned and the people I called friends. In my mind, these made up me and my personality.
Later as I got older, I called it “the curse,” because pretending was a bad habit and very hard to get rid of. My strategy of shapeshifting and approval seeking solidified itself in my psyche. It took a great deal of excavating and intentional healing to get rid of it because who was I without it? Under the curse, we unconsciously manage what we allow others to see. Our fears of not being good enough make us want to prove ourselves worthy through looks, achievements, or money. We’d rather let the world determine our worth than rely on what little we know.
We resort to explaining ourselves, making excuses, proving, defending, apologizing, all attempts to control how others perceive us. And all of these machinations make it impossible to get the one thing we really want and need…unconditional love and acceptance.
We imagine others are constantly judging us but that’s rarely the case. In reality, we’ve already condemned ourselves for the things we fear others are judging us for. In fact, there’s no other way for judgment to affect us unless we harbor implicit agreement.
We resist being alone to avoid going deeper into the truth of our self-judgments. These are the things we don’t want to know or admit about ourselves.
We’re afraid that all we’ve been told as children about who we are in terms of being bad or wrong or stupid or slow or lazy…might in fact be true. And if that’s the case we’ll never escape the lifelong struggle to prove them wrong.
We’re afraid to look within for fear we’ll meet that unworthy, ugly, stupid, incompetent person and if we come face to face with that reality, then what? How can we ever love what we despise? How can anyone else?
We’re convinced that we must hide our authentic being because it isn’t acceptable. In its place, we strategically create a curated sense of self and then feel guilty about it. Deep down we sense that we’re betraying ourselves in some way. Perhaps we’ve been hiding so long that we don’t realize that we’re suppressing the best of who we are.
If we examine our thoughts and feelings too closely we’re bound to see the obvious contradictions, confusion, and fears that we think are abnormal and wrong. When in reality every human on this planet shares the same complexity of emotions. We’re all a little mixed up, a little scared. We just don’t like showing it.
We avoid getting to know ourselves better because we suspect that if we do, we’ll be forced to give up the game we’re playing and we still aren’t convinced that it won’t work. Perhaps there’s a level of responsibility we’re not yet willing to accept. Maybe we think living authentically might be the hardest, scariest thing we’ve ever done. Maybe, or maybe not.
If you want to take up the challenge, journal on this one: My greatest fear is that I am…