How Well Do You Know Yourself?

Quote of the Week

“I’ve always felt it was not up to anyone else to make me give my best.”
— Akeem Olajuwon

How Well Do You Know Yourself?

by Nancy Gerber

Whenever we’re nervous about meeting someone new, or facing a challenging situation, we often hear the encouraging phrase, “Just be yourself!” It’s a common belief that being ourselves is easy. Actually, it’s one of the most difficult things in the world.

We usually act on beliefs and values that originate with family; others come from educational experiences, jobs, friends, religious institutions, the media or social groups. Most of the time, we’ve absorbed these viewpoints unconsciously during our life experiences, and make decisions and take actions without a real awareness of the underlying principles that motivate these choices and behaviors. How can we know who we are without examining these building blocks and deliberately choosing the ones that make sense for us?

There are so many influences and needs that distract us from staying on course and remaining true to ourselves. If we’re lonely, we may compromise just to have some company. If the bills have piled up, it’s so tempting to broaden our boundaries a little to embrace a wider range of earning activities. The ever increasing overload of ideas and information muddies the waters even further.

And, even when we have a pretty clear understanding of who we are and what we believe and value, our own self-defeating habits and attitudes get in the way. I shared with a dear old friend today, someone I have known for over thirty years, that I’ve become aware that I’m holding back in an important aspect of my life, that I’ve been resisting stepping up to my potential in this area for a very long time. “You, holding back?” my friend laughed. “I find that hard to believe.” I realized that he has always experienced me as someone who generally plays full out, takes risks and faces up to most challenges.

This really brought home how out of sync I am in this area, in spite of my best intentions and strong desires.

What I’ve begun to do is look at the most common behaviors that are characteristic of who I am generally, and think about how I can implement them in this challenging portion of my life. At the top of a page, I’ve written: “I’m a person who….”, and have begun to jot down phrases such as, “meets challenges head on”, “confronts the truth and corrects mistakes” and “welcomes and embraces change”. Keeping this list of my chosen values and behaviors visible daily will remind me of my true identity and help me move forward.

Copyright 2008 by Nancy Birnbaum-Gerber. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Nancy Gerber, Professional Certified Coach and President of Stepping Stones can be reached at

Coaching Call to Action

What kind of person are you? Catch yourself being yourself and make your own list. What parts of yourself surprise you?