Knowing Myself Through Un-knowing
My birthday is today Friday, February 3rd.
Birthdays always seem to get me thinking about where my life is headed, and they motivate me to pause and check myself. What I realized today, about turning 38, is that I have spent most of those 38 years trying to “find myself” and all the while I was right here.
It sounds odd, I suppose. I mean, how can someone go through their life not knowing themselves? What does it even mean to “find yourself?” How do you know when you’ve “found yourself?”
Is it like finding money in the pocket of your old coat, or more like finding the lost Covenant of the Ark? What does it even feel like to know yourself? My head has been spinning with all of these questions until I finally told my brain to shut-up and turned to Where’s My Guru, hoping for a nugget of wisdom to chew on.
In a nut shell, JP explains that a major part of life is the discovering of who you are not, in order to discover who you are. It’s the not-knowing which leads to true knowing. To put it another way… Not knowing ourselves opens us up to questioning which leads to growth. If we all “knew ourselves” there would be nothing left to learn and life would kind of be pointless. It’s in the living of life, the discovering our likes and dislikes, uncovering our fears and our pleasures, and simply (or not-so-simply), being present during our journey through life.
After I sat with this new way of looking at things I felt a bit lighter. I didn’t feel so driven to discover how to be “authentic.” I simply am and that is ok. As JP pointed out in his video, instead of feeling upset by feeling uncertain of who I am, and feeling a need to pick an identity, I can sit in the knowing that I am someone who doesn’t know who I am and that is totally ok. From this stance I can take a look at the stories I tell myself and let go of that which no longer fits or serves me.
There is a great deal of freedom in changing the focus from “who am I” to “who am I not”.
I know, through life experience, who I am not. I know what traits, and ways of being, make me run for the hills. Knowing this about myself opens me up to discovering who I am. It’s in the unlearning of behaviors, the untangling of facades, and the stepping out from my hiding place that allows me to flourish.
I am discovering that, by spending so much time trying to “find myself”, I left myself behind. Going forward I will allow the discomfort of uncertainty to sit with me. I will step out into the light of truth and out of the shadow of delusion. There is no need for me to fully know myself in this moment. I am excited by the sense of curiosity I feel growing within me to see what comes next. There is a sense of adventure rather than dread. The pressure of feeling I must be someone or else I am no one has dropped away. The constriction of trying to force myself into mold after mold has loosened.
I am me and I’m not entirely sure who that is or what that means, and I’m totally ok with this way of being in the world. Not knowing myself allows me to be completely open to all that is. Someday I may meet myself. For now, I am going to enjoy the journey and make friends with uncertainty.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment.