Analyzing one’s self in the hopes of gaining a semblance of self-awareness is not for the meek or delusional. Peeling off the layers of muck and mire we use to protect our psyche is akin to restoring the floors of an old home. We know the original hardwood floors exist under the layers of linoleum, but as we start to peel them off, we realize it’s more work than anticipated and wonder if we can’t cover it with a laminate and pretend it’s real.
Sometimes, as we peel the layers up, we remember why we covered it in the first place. The ugliness, the stench, the stains; the need to cover it and forget it sometimes outweighs our desire to see the shiny, original luster of wood. Other times the tools we need to remove it break and we need to employ new ones. When we dig down to our authentic selves, it is hard, agonizing work. We cannot get to our original self without scraping away the detritus that we piled on over a long period of time.
It’s been a particularly hard week. I wanted to forget this quest of mine and go back to pretending my laminate facade was the original lustrous wood, but dammit! No one told me that once begun, you can’t stop. Life becomes uneven, steps have to be measured and gauged, half done is far worse than living with the original facade. I’ve caught glimpses of what lies beneath, and I want that. I want my authentic self, the one that shines even with nicks and dents. So amidst all of this week’s strife, I asked myself why I felt this burning desire for more. What was missing from my life that I craved this voyage?
Rather than finding answers, I found questions.
What do I value? What is important to me?
When people talk about me or describe me, what do I want them to say? Who do I want them to see? Am I being that person?
What’s stopping me from achieving my goals? What am I afraid of?
Why do I think if I fail the first time I try I couldn’t pick myself up and try again?
In five years’ time, when I look back, what do I want to have accomplished? What will I be most proud of? Will it be enough?
Are today’s decisions honoring my goals?
Am I facing the parts of me I don’t like?
Am I questioning the beliefs and attitudes that are keeping me stuck?
I cringed each time I thought of an answer to one of these questions, and I realized the most important part to this entire process is to love myself. My expectation of self perfection is holding me back. I am not perfect, but I need to love myself anyway. My authentic self, and I would dare to say everyone’s authentic self, is rooted in love. How can I find that self if I’m spending my time criticizing my shortcomings and failures?
Today I am envisioning myself in ripped up jeans, t-shirt and flannel. I hold a scraper in my hand and I’m gently prying up old pieces of linoleum. My knees ache and I have a few splinters, but I know I’m getting close. The further down I dig, the slower and more precise my movements become. I’m careful not to gouge. When an entire strip of old flooring comes up revealing the honeyed wood below, I ignore the cut it wrought, eager to take out my cloth and polish the floor, reveling in the warmth of its shine. I asked myself why I felt this burning desire for more, but as I strip away the muck and mire, I realize what I need is less.
Analyzing one’s self in the hopes of gaining a semblance of self-awareness is not for the meek or delusional. Stripping down to one’s authentic self, removing the layers of protection and cover up, and laying oneself open and vulnerable is never an easy task. It takes guts and fortitude to shine a light on the darkness, but when you do, your world glows.
Here’s to one more layer-