Last week I wrote about this Na’vi greeting from the movie Avatar. It’s “oel ngati kameie” and it means “I see you.” Not just, “I see you over there,” but “I understand your soul.” I’m still chewing on this, so I thought I’d write more about it. Many cultures have words like this, the essence of which means “the Divine in me acknowledges the Divine in you.” Namaste (Sanskrit) and aloha (Hawaiian) are just two examples.
How well do you see yourself? If you’re like most people, you probably have a few blind spots. I’ll bet you can list most of your negative traits pretty quickly. There are probably a couple of negative traits that you don’t want to admit to, however. When it comes to listing your positive traits, you will probably miss more than a few.
We’re willing to see the good in others, but we can be so hard on ourselves. This inability to really see yourself causes lots of heartache in life, especially in romantic relationships. Whenever there’s an aspect of your personality you don’t own, it will “own” you. The aspects of your personality you don’t own are collectively called the Shadow. They offer incredible healing potential when you’re willing to turn on a light and explore them. It can be challenging to do, but in my experience it’s definitely worth it. Owning your shadow will help you to love yourself more fully. Until you can love yourself more, you don’t have much chance of being deeply loved by another.
What can you do to see yourself more clearly? Here’s one tool (adapted from Debbie Ford’s The Secret of the Shadow). You’ll need at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted quiet time to complete this.
1. Sit quietly for a few minutes and think back to your childhood and early adulthood.
2. Make a list of 5-10 significant experiences you had that had a negative impact on you. The experience itself may not have been significant, but the impact was.
3. Make a list of 5-10 significant experiences that had a positive impact on you.
4. For each experience, write a sentence about what you made that experience mean about you. (i.e. When I was 5, my dad told me I was too big to play with my sister on the seesaw. I wandered off to play alone and was very sad. I made it mean I didn’t belong; I felt isolated and alone.)
5. From these early experiences, you created a story about who you are. How does this story play out in your life now? How did these experiences shape who you are and how you relate to others in relationship? Write down your insights and observations.
From our early negative experiences, we all decide that we are in some way unworthy and unlovable. It’s not true, but we play out that story repeatedly until we develop the courage to take a good look at it. When you shine some light on your story, you can change the ending. You can see yourself better, and eventually you will understand your soul.