When you think of “finding yourself,” you might imagine doing so in a seaside cave, where you contemplate your way to inner truth in solitude. Yet, most of us can’t break away from our busy lives to indulge in that kind of personal deep dive. Fortunately, there are day-to-day ways to get acquainted with your true nature.
Ironically, you can get to know your Self better in the company of others. Try taking a new perspective as you interact with your people. Rather than throwing all your focus on them, metaphorically keep one eye on your subject and the other eye on your Self.
Whether you enjoy the company you keep or find yourself planning a quick exit, any person has the potential to be your teacher. To some degree, they’re showing you who they are, but at the same time, they’re holding up a mirror for you. Have the courage and curiosity to look at what’s being reflected.
At any given time, you may find yourself with someone who has attributes you admire, those you detest, or some combination of both. They might even exhibit some traits you both love and hate, depending on the context. Whether positive, negative, or neutral, notice what moves you about a person the most. Then, when appropriate, pursue an internal line of questioning. Playfully investigate:
- What attracts me about her/him? Do I have the same trait(s)? Are the aspects I admire in the other allowed to flourish in me? Or are they dormant? Might I need to explore that side of myself? (i.e. the responsible one, the outspoken one, the adventurous one…).
- What repels me about this individual? Are there characteristics I don’t like in them that I have as well? How can I improve on this aspect of myself? (i.e. the bossy one, the indecisive one, the judgmental one…).
- Is this person enacting a familiar dynamic from an early formative relationship? (i.e. “My boss treats me the same way my father did. He’s a total bully.”) What’s the lesson you must learn? How might you change the pattern? Can you begin to act consciously, rather than automatically?
- What does this person bring out in me? Do I like who I am with her/him? Am I at my best or worst when we’re together?
- Conversely, what do I bring out in him/her? What about me prompts these parts of him/her to prevail in my company?
- How do I feel internally when we’re together? (i.e. Comfortable? Safe? Seen…? Restless? Diminished? Fearful…?)
- What’s the energetic balance between us? Are we constantly in a power struggle? Or do we make an easy paring? Do I keep my center in his/her company?
- Is this relationship one where I find myself? Or lose myself? (i.e. Am I free to be myself or do I become what fits for him/her?)
These are just examples of what you might ask that could lead to valuable insights about your Self. What’s learned in relation to others cannot be learned any other way. So go ahead—be together, even as you endeavor to “Know thyself,” as Socrates professed. With a little inner probing, you’ll receive many priceless gifts, including self-awareness and personal growth.