Over the holidays, my son Josh said something that I found humorous, but also profound. Josh was born with Down Syndrome and, where some might see this as a disadvantage, for me it has been life-changing in the best way. His view of the world is beautifully complex with a simplicity that escapes most of us. He said to me “When I grow up, I want to be on a football team.” And then he asked me if I think he can do that. I replied, telling him that I hope that he is able to do all of the things he wants for himself. After a moment he turns to me again, this time asking, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” I, of course, explained that I was already grown up. Then he asked, pointedly and with genuine curiosity, “So what are you?” What a perfect question.
We are in a brand new year. New energy, new opportunities, new possibilities, an entirely new YOU awaits to unfold. The new year is typically a time in which we all catch the collective energy of new beginnings and use this opportunity to begin new things. Goals, intentions, plans, promises. These things are wonderful and exciting, paving the wave for much growth and many blessings, but have you examined what type of growth and what kind of blessings you are drawing in? Before you get to manifesting this new you, I now ask of you what Josh asked of me: what are you?
Who are you? That may seem broad and existential but it’s a very important question to ask, especially if you’re going to craft an even newer version. A simple way of investigating You is by starting with what you like and don’t like about yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Take a moment now to create a list of each. In one column write down all the qualities within yourself that you are proud of and, in the other, all the qualities that you wish would disappear. Good.
Now switch them.
That’s right. Put all of your perceived strengths under the weakness column and all of the perceived weaknesses under the strength column. How does that feel? My guess is confusing, frustrating, uncomfortable… But imagine for a moment how one of your weaknesses could actually be positive and, conversely, how one of your strengths could be holding you back. For instance, I’m independent and competent. But those strengths keep me from asking for help. Thereby, often people think that I’m so strong that nothing hurts me. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
The point I’m making here is that when we approach the subject of our own strengths and weaknesses we are thinking in terms of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ but where do we get those definitions? The kabbalists teach that this world is called Olam Hafuch which means ‘an upside-down world’. The things that are important to us turn out to be really not that important. The things that are not important to us are usually important. The things that worry us should not worry us.
This upside-down-world is one of lies. I’m not referring only to the ways people deceive each other but also the ways in which we deceive ourselves. Where we do and say things that aren’t true, either factually or authentically. We fudge the facts a little to get out of a ticket, take our kids out of school ‘for a doctor’s appointment’ when it’s really a family event, or we tell most of the truth, while continuing to lie in the omission of facts that might not look so good on paper. Those are standard examples we all understand to be lies, but what about the harder-to-spot ones — our lies of authenticity. Hiding that our feelings are upset, saying ‘yes’ when we really mean ‘no’, keeping a job that we hate.
For many of us, the world of lies is what we were taught to consider as we went about building ourselves. Calling adults “sir” or “ma’am”, getting good grades to get into a good college to get that good job that your parents always dreamed of you having. Formulating your appearance based on what society deems appropriate. Keeping a good credit score. Driving a certain car. All of these things fall into a category of what our society and culture deem acceptable. The problem is that not only are all of these things based largely in the material world, they are also incredibly narrow. This means anything that is less OR more than what is acceptable is our shadow self.
The qualities we decide are ‘bad’ are simply those that, for whatever reason, don’t match up to societal standards. The ones that make us feel accepted are the ones we decide are strengths. The truth is, they are one in the same and are only delineated as a strength or weakness by us. This is what I meant when I asked what is your frame of reference for creating a new you? Who are you to begin with? And why?
This kind of inventory is challenging because many beliefs that have been long held, hidden away, will comes to light and begin to transform. This is rarely an easy process but one which brings many blessings. As you look to your goals for the New Year, ask yourself who they are for and why? Are these goals in service to your most authentic self or are they a list of should-wants? Approach this task without judgement and, instead, with curiosity. Kabbalah teaches that our purpose in this world is to change our nature by getting uncomfortable and getting curious. This exercise guarantees both.
How might your social anxiety be a strength? In what ways could your stellar organizing skills be hindering you? Get curious. Get uncomfortable. As you do so you will do exactly what you set out to do in the first place: uncover, discover, and create a very new you.
Thought into Action
Make your list! Examine your strengths and weaknesses without judgement. Is there positivity in one of your perceived weaknesses? Is one of your strengths keeping you set in your ways? If so, choose a few actions for each item that will help you to go against your nature.6