The answer to that question sometimes surprises me, often baffles me but always sheds some light on who I think I am and who I want to be.
Here are five things I have found that make relationships and life in general so much easier to live. I'm not saying I always remember to do these things, but I try. And when I do, I feel oh so much better about myself and about life in general.
1. Be authentic. My grandmother always said it was so much easier to tell the truth because then you don't have to remember everything you said. Lies are much harder to track. If I come from my heart I find I don't have to keep embroidering and backtracking. Be real. It really is the best policy. The truth will indeed set you free. (I don't usually quote Bible verse, but this comes from John 8:32)
2. Don’t Equivocate. I know I have done this in the past and tend to do it even now when I fear the truth will hurt someone's feelings or something just plain makes me uncomfortable. Ambiguity is not good if you want to have good, clear communication. I am finding more and more that being direct is much better. But before I speak, I try to remember to ask myself, "Is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?" (Siddhartha) I even try to ask it about the things I think about myself, not always easy to remember to do.
3. Get It Out of Your System. Mornings to do something called Morning Pages. This is a spiritual practice advocated by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way and several other books on how to know yourself and what you want out of life. It is three pages of a sort of mind dump that you most optimally should do up waking. I try to do it before I even get out of bed. It is a place to dump all the negativity and ruminations that you might wake up with. It is letting your anger and frustrations out, your whiney rants, your blames and resentments flow out onto the pages that only you will ever see. If is important not to share these pages with anyone. In fact, you should not even read them yourself until time has past and then only to see what may have changed over time. When I consistently practice this, I find my day goes better and remarkably the inner critical voice fades far into the background.
4. Know Yourself. I like to take myself out now and then. I like to go to the movies, to the beach, on a drive in the mountains all alone. It gives me time to think. And as I think, I think about what I am thinking and take notes (at least mentally). I like to sit alone sometimes and just watch the world go by. As I do, I observe myself and how I comfortable I am. Do I blend in or do I feel like a stick out? Usually I find no one pays any attention to me if I don't want them to. I can go for a walk, to the park, to a museum, the gym by myself. While I am doing any of these things, it is as if I am on a date with myself. I find I have opinions and feelings about the experiences and the things I encounter I probably would not have been aware of had I been with someone else. I get to know myself.
You can also get to know yourself be observing yourself. I do this when I am with other people or in a group by taking even just a second to step outside myself and observing how I am in the situation. How do I feel? How am I positioned? Am I comfortable or ill at ease? Do I like what I am doing or do I resent it? Do I want to be with the people I am with or be somewhere else? If I answer these questions honestly for myself, I definitely find I get to know myself...like it or not. And if I don't like it, I can then do something to change myself or the situation...or both.
5. Relax. Your are who you are and if you practice at being yourself, you will be yourself...if you just relax. Life is not a contest. I remind myself I am the best me I can me and I can improve that as I go. I have been working on being myself for many years and suddenly it has hit me. I am myself already. Whom else would I be? So I relax and practice the first four items on this list, do number five and realize that everything's going to be okay if I just remember breathe deep, hold my own hand, and relax.
Final Note: I am not perfect at any of this. I am writing this for myself as much as anyone else. But I think it helps to create lists. Lists help me organize my thoughts. My thoughts then become things and those things are what becomes me. I am someone working on being the best me I can be.