The Foundations of Freedom = Knowing Who You Are


Written by Classmate

Saturday’s group topic was on Who am I 

Overall it was a pretty great group in my opinion. It was really interesting hearing everyone speak. 

This morning I found a weird quiz thing online, and was curious about my answers to the questions. But this one stumped me:

#10: What are three of your most important personal values, and how can standing by these beliefs benefit you in the future? 

I couldn’t seem to pick just 3 values! But I liked the challenge, so here are my 3:

  1. Kindness. Look I don’t think you can ever go wrong by choosing kindness. Kindness to yourself, kindness to others, kindness to animals, and kindness to nature. This is the act of being gentle with yourself, and with others. Having compassion. And doing all things with love. 
  2. Learning. I really value learning. I became a health-care-professional because I wanted to help people, as cliche as that sounds. But I also wanted to learn. And never stop learning. The body is a magical thing, and although we know so much about its fascinating inner workings, there’s so much more to figure out. I love new information. I love learning about people, about myself, about freedom, about the world. If I lost the ability to assimilate new learnings I’d be a very sad bunny. 
  3. Integrity. Integrity is all about what you do when nobody is looking. It’s when your actions match your beliefs. It’s when you live by your values. It’s when you’re true to your words, and lies don’t exist. It’s about honesty, openness, authenticity. It’s about morals, and ethics. It’s about standing for something, and holding your ground when external influences try to sway you. 

I tried to sneak a few other values under the headings of those 3. Hope you don’t mind… it was SO hard to pick just 3! 

Other values that would make the list if I was allowed list every value I have would be: sensitivity, simplicity, openness, support, success, cooperation, health, empathy, creativity, determination, tenacity, love, thoughtfulness, vitality, tolerance, stability, self reliance, humour, fun, generosity, calmness, balance, altruism, tolerance, achievement, efficiency, justice, equality, spontaneity, challenge, preparedness, contentment, excellence, joy, excitement, discipline and diversity. Ok I bet I have so many more personal values, but those will do for now.

Values guide us through life. Everything we do and say and think and promote, gives information about our value system. Values are like a compass. They help us navigate the world, and decide how to spend our time, and our energy. 

My value system completely went awry when I had ED. I valued hardship, extremes, deprivation, thinness, sickness, perfection, lies, comparisons, deceit, indirect communication, appearances, numbers, and hierarchy. There’s no point in denying it, because my behaviour gave away how I was thinking at that time. 

I think values are a really big part of the question of Who am I. So to understand who we are, we need to understand our values. NOT the ED values. They just take over the control tower for a while. They are temporary. I’m talking about the values of the REAL PERSON.

The rest of that question up there, asked me how standing by my personal values can benefit me in the future. Well, not to be difficult, but how can they not benefit me? Having life enriching values mean your life will be enriched. D’uh. It’ll lead to a full life. A life worth living. A free life.

The first time I was asked the Who am I question I felt numb. I felt lost. I felt confused. I had no idea. I probably asked the therapist back ‘who do you want me to be?’, because that’s what happens when you’re lost. You’ll be whoever other people want. You’ll borrow their opinions, like their favourites bands, do what they want you to do, go where they want you to go. 

A few years ago I had a nutrition session. And I can’t remember the details of the session, but I came away with a mantra. “I am a woman. I am a health-care-professional. And I am Irish”. Like everybody else, I was finding it really difficult to be in the real world, and not get affected by everyone else’s beliefs. I imagined those three things were three anchors into the sand. Like someone stuck three posts into the earth to hold me steady. COME AT ME! I felt more solid. More connected to who I was. And so I felt more able for the opinions of everyone around me. 

And that’s why I think it’s so important to know who you are. Because it means you can weather any storm. There’s a solidity. There’s a sureness. There’s a self-protection. 

In the beginning it might just be a handful of things, such as knowing you’re a female, Irish health-care-professional. But over time, you start to know more about yourself. 

And then when other people give you unsolicited advice, or call you into question, or say something undermining, or something intended to hurt you… you can shake it off. Other people’s doubts, insults, opinions, and expectations hold less power. They matter less. You matter more. 

When you know yourself, you feel free. Because you’re living an authentic life. The values and actions match up. You know what you like, and so you spend more time doing that. Which makes you feel lighter. 

When you know yourself, you know what’s best for you. You know whose company makes you feel lighter, and freer. You know whose company makes you feel heavy and miserable. You seek out kindred souls. You know your team-mates. You listen to your own voice, and can hear it above the drone of everyone else’s. 

You realise that you are always changing, and that’s ok- you allow it happen, because change is ALSO a part of who you are. You realise that your past has made you who you are, and you cherish it rather than reject it. You invest in yourself. You use your name more. You say it with pride, rather than shame. You don’t seek approval from others. Your happiness doesn’t depend on the opinions of others. 

You know your strengths, and you know your quirks. You value your opinions. You care about yourself. You put yourself in the picture more. Your self esteem is stable, and doesn’t rest on what other people think. 

You seek out experiences that fulfil you, and avoid those that are damaging. You know how to tap into your potential, and to make the most of your talents and innate abilities. 

I believe that knowing who you are is the foundation of freedom. It’s impossible to recover without getting to know yourself. 

There was a time I was terrified to find out who I was, because what if I hated her? But the more I learn about myself, the more I like myself. Because I am finding myself having more compassion for myself. It’s not that I think I’m amazing at everything, but more so that I realise we are all just variations of the same thing- human beings. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but some ways bring us lightness, and some bring us heaviness. It’s up to us to decide how we want to live.

My advice, if it’s ok to offer it, is to just be a little more open about who you are. Ask questions. Get curious. Don’t be afraid of what you’ll find. And don’t be afraid of your current values. Be really honest with yourself. If you still value self destruction, would you like to find new ways to live? New things to value? Be real about where you are, because it’ll allow you move to somewhere you’d rather be. We were all there once 🙂