Y is for Finding Yourself, Accepting Yourself And Forgetting Yourself

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Many psychological approaches focus on helping a person to understand who they are, but these highlight an interesting paradox. Sometimes:

You are most yourself when you forget yourself.

People often reveal their true strengths when completely immersing themselves in an activity. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said a person who experiences a sense of flow may find that:

Their concern for self disappears, but paradoxically their sense of self emerges stronger.

Looking back on your life, when has this happened for you? Here is the answer one person gave.

I had this experience when doing voluntary work caring for older people in a residential unit.

I worked there over the Christmas holidays whilst at college. Taking them to the toilet, caring for their daily needs and listening to the life stories was illuminating.

Something happened while I was at the unit. Although I was supposed to be giving to the people, they also gave to me.

Being there gave me a sense of perspective and influenced the path I took in my career.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you forgot yourself by becoming immersed in an activity and yet emerged feeling more real.

Describe the specific things you did to forget yourself and become fully immersed in the activity.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of forgetting yourself and becoming fully immersed in the activity.

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There are many approaches to doing your best in life. One approach involves finding yourself, accepting yourself and forgetting yourself. Let’s explore these stages.

Finding Yourself

Individuals may begin this journey by asking some of the eternal questions:

What is my purpose? Who am I? What do I want to do in my life? How can I help other people? What can I give to the world? How can I find peace?

Different people explore these themes in different ways. They may read, travel, explore spiritual paths, do soul searching, try different jobs, help other people or whatever.

People gather experiences. They enjoy successes, suffer setbacks and learn from both. Sometimes this means moving on to the next stage.

Accepting Yourself

At a certain point a person may take stock. They may do this voluntarily or it may be caused by a certain life event, such as an illness or shock. Vulnerability can be a great teacher, so they may then ask:

What do I want to do with the rest of my life? What do I want to give to other people?

Looking back, when have I felt most alive? What have been the most satisfying experiences?

What are my strengths? Who are the kinds of people I like working with? How can I do satisfying work that helps other people?

Looking back at the things they have found stimulating, some people see recurring patterns. This enables them to find their vocation. They then express this vocation through different vehicles on the way towards doing valuable work.

Age also brings acceptance. A person may say:

I want to build on who I am, rather than worry about who I am not.

Looking ahead, I want to enjoy life and encourage other people. I want to become the best kind of person I can be.

This is a precursor to the next stage.

Forgetting Yourself

People often do their best work when they forget themselves. Something else takes over. They aim to follow their vocation or serve something greater than themselves.

The carer becomes immersed in caring for the patient. The singer becomes immersed in serving the song. The gardener becomes immersed in planting seeds.

One person explained the magical feeling that results. They said:

It is as if I don’t exist. I normally refrain from using what some might call flaky language, but it is as if the work and I become one.

Drawing on what the Greeks said, I am following the Muse. I am simply doing my best to bring the work into being.

Some people find their sense of purpose grows stronger as they grow older. They focus on what they want to pass on to future generations.

Some people become concerned if they do not enjoy a sense of purpose, but this can lead to an interesting paradox. People can find it helpful to get into the habit of doing the things that give them positive energy.

They may enjoy being with their grandchildren, tackling stimulating projects, passing on knowledge or whatever. Doing these things sometimes leads to them finding a sense of purpose.

Looking to the future, can you think of an activity in which you want to forget yourself? If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to forget yourself and become completely immersed in the activity.

Describe the specific things you can do to forget yourself and become completely immersed in the activity.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of forgetting yourself and becoming completely immersed in the activity.

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