"If I didn't know me, I wouldn't believe in me. I know myself. And if you know yourself, no one else can tell you who you are."
- Israel Adesayna, UFC 287 Post-Fight Press Conference
This past Wednesday was the Jewish Holiday of Passover, or Pesach. My favorite tradition is, as part of the Passover meal, to contemplate freedom.
Where and how does slavery still exist in the world? How do we participate in it? What might we do differently?
Where am I not free within myself? How do I participate in my own oppression? What might I do differently?
In Sedona 2021, Matias de Stefano was asked the question "How do I become free from my own limitations?"
He replied (paraphrased!): "Do the things that you would not do. Go skydiving. Try strange food and new music. Befriend strangers. Read books or join a softball league. What is out of character? What is NOT you? Give up every idea of preference, every identity of who you are, until you realize you do not know yourself. And that is a place to start."
For most of my life, the idea of being misunderstood was physically terrifying. I could not allow anyone to be mad at me, to think ill of me, to place me in any category of "selfish" "thoughtless" "cruel" "stupid"... I would chase after people to make sure they understood my goodness. At best I would send appalling co-depedent texts and long emails; at worst I would argue and cry and justify, seeking to eradicate any "wrong" opinion.
I was enslaved by my need to appear "good." Not to BE good, but to make sure everyone knew I was as good as possible. I was terrified of mistakes because I believed they were evidence of my inherent wrongness or badness. I was desperate to manage the opinions of others because I did not know or trust myself; I was asking the world to do a job that is mine alone to hold.
I now (mostly) laugh at my humanness, my errors; I know that they are just lesson or a slip up; they are part of navigating the world and that my goodness is innate.
I do not need anyone to believe I am good, generous or kind hearted to know that I am those things.
I have discovered the greatest freedom in allowing myself to be misunderstood and disliked, and in that, I have discovered something I did not understand before:
Who other people believe I am has nothing to do with me.
My existence is merely another piece of a pattern in the weaving of another person's tapestry. Their understanding of my self is a reflection of the patterns of their own life.
In Israel Adesayna's press conference, he speaks of his adversary with reverence. He notes: "In his story, I am the adversary. But this isn't his story, it's mine."
I have lost interest in the debate over who I AM.
I am able to witness that for some, I'm the adversary in their story. This is absolutely true to the teller of the stories and all of the judgements tell me more about the story of the teller than they do about myself. And in turn, I can know that the adversaries in my story are the heroes of their own, and release my need to control their stories just as I would not wish to have anyone narrate mine. I am content to allow myself to be any character in another's story - because I am the main character in my own.
There is no fruitful outcome in defending or justifying who I AM with a person immersed in their own narrative. There is no logic or rule of law that can bring me to a different conclusion; I am the expert on myself, I know myself, I love myself.
The temptation to correct people was thinly veiled oppression, and I was the oppressor. In freeing myself from my own oppression I have given more freedom to those around me.
Contemplating freedom in this way has led me to another truth - perhaps it is universal; perhaps it is only mine. This is that my freedom is limited only by my ability to trust myself, and to trust ... God/Universe/Source
I trust myself to take care of myself, and hold my own boundaries. I know what YES and NO are, and I can hold them. And if I cannot hold them alone, I trust that I will have help.
I trust my life. I trust the universe to take care of me; I trust that there is always another path (and I trust myself to see it, eventually) or if the way is hard, I trust that I can make it through.
How might you come to know, love and trust yourself? I can only share what has worked for me.
I have come to knowing myself and trusting myself by testing myself. By being willing to be wrong about myself, the world, and others. And by being willing to be misunderstood. In reveling in being the main character of my own story, I no longer need to control the character I play for others. They are free to create their own story as they need and desire.
I don't know if what I've written will help you. Or if it needs to. Maybe I'll be the new antagonist in someone else's story!
What I do know is that I wrote this from my heart, with delight.
Hitting "send" on newsletter days has become its own, small ceremony of faith. I trust that a newsletter that doesn't land won't ruin my life or my faith in or love of myself. Each piece of writing is an experiment, and I delight in not knowing, in pressing "send", and allowing you all, and the universe, to show me what happens when I let go of relentless perfectionism of how I am perceived.
I know myself. I love myself. I trust myself. It brings me great joy to think that maybe, you do too.
Link to Israel Adesayna Press Conference