In this season of giving, there is one gift we all need to give ourselves. We need to know ourselves. And we need to be able to see all of ourselves, not just what we want or hope to see.
If we have a few more pounds than we'd like to have, it is easy to look in a small mirror, smile at ourselves, and pretend our bodies have perhaps a better form than a longer mirror would reflect. But we need to look in a full-length mirror when we examine what is inside.
Just who am I? It's a very important question. No one needs to know the answer more than I do.
It took me a long time to know myself and I'm still learning. I grew up thinking I was a nice person, basically a good person. And once I lived through adolescence, I began to be more self- confident. It is a good thing to have a healthy self-image for starters. We can't stop there.
Early on I realized there were skills I lacked, such as sewing.
My sister could make an evening gown and matching coat. I had trouble with basic hems. But, I knew I could play the piano and write. It was a fine realization and put me on the right track. No one could do everything was the lesson learned. We all have our own skills and they vary from person to person.
It is easier, by the way, to realize one can't sew than it is to realize more important flaws. It took me longer to begin to examine myself - much longer. I credit my best friend Elaine Thompson with jump-starting that process. One day, while eating lunch decades ago, she said flat out, 'You are being selfish.' I was stunned. Moi? Selfish? I couldn't believe she had found such a flaw in me.
That was the very day Elaine became my best friend. I value honesty above all else and here was a very honest person who cared enough about me to be that honest and straight-forward. To this day, I can do any reality check with Elaine and know, know, she will mince no words. Lucky me.
There is nothing sadder than not knowing ourselves. What energy it takes to deceive ourselves. I think other people probably see us more clearly than we see ourselves so we have nothing to lose by knowing what they know. In fact, don't we all admire the person who is able to admit to being imperfect in specific ways?
Those who care enough about us to give us honest reflections of who we really are - whether family members, co-workers, or friends, are precious indeed. We need to listen to those who offer us constructive criticism even more than we listen to their praise. Chances are we have heaped praise upon ourselves. As nice as it is to receive praise, we also need to hunger for the gift of knowing what we can do to become our highest selves.
Once we decide to find out and accept who we are, we can begin to fine tune. Then we can answer the questions, Who do I want to be? What do I want to be? People can spend years running away from friends, family, spouses, jobs, etc. until the day they become willing to seek the answer to, Who am I?
I was brought up in a religion that taught me to accept forgiveness for myself. All I needed was to be sorry and my God forgave me. What a gift that was and is. I think that helped me know it was okay to be me and to seek out shortcomings because, once identified, they could be gone.
God forgives all of us. We need but ask.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.
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