I used to think that knowing yourself meant never crying. And surely knowing yourself meant
always being calm, confident, and content, and never changing your mind. No weepy calls home
would ever be made. No friendships would ever dissolve. No big unanswered questions would ever
linger like oil on Interstate-5 after a summer rain. I thought such weaknesses would (should?)
be absent from the life of someone who knew herself. I still think this way sometimes. I wonder
how I can have moments of insight— life is a journey, don’t sweat the small stuff— one
day and totally forget them the next day. Recently, however, I have started to accept that
that the practice of knowing myself can be based on a foundation other than self-criticism.

A few weeks ago someone told me that they didn’t understand my relationship with my
mom, my twin, and my home. It was a crucial moment for me, and although, as is often the case,
the insight I gained was accompanied by some hurt, I am grateful to this person. My family
unit is indeed a little hard to understand. My mom is a true and interesting friend and reservoir
of support, but I feel a loyalty and duty to her that is not uncomplicated. My brother makes
me feel so happy and whole that sometimes I feel all my other relationships are doomed to be
unfulfilling in comparison. Being close with my mom and my brother is critically important
to me. It is going to be a part of my future and I am thankful that this is the case. What
I realized is that I feel no need to apologize for my attachments or be modest about the love
I get from my family. Yet my ongoing exploration of self and my dreams for the future are complicated
by the reality that my most fundamental feeling of self is intertwined with these two other
people. And to have someone call that out triggered complicated reactions in me.

It made me think about how I fundamentally approach choices and challenges in my life. Before
I think in timelines, five years, ten years, fifty years or landmarks, love, career, children,
I want to let thrive the elements of my personality that get brow-beat by my tendency to let
anxious thoughts and pressures (real or imaginary) paralyze me. At this point in life, as I
play with thoughts of my future I am absorbed by trying to practice a new way of knowing myself.
My path to success will be easier if I can be myself without feeling the pressure of what other
people need me to be, or think I should be. This does mean I want to cut myself from how I
affect other people, it just means I want to change my perspective.

I have a friend from home who recently told me that to this day she still says to herself,
in times of crisis, “what would Kate do?” This compliment embodies both a dimension
of my vision of success for myself and an example of how I need to change the way I process
thoughts about myself. I’m not particularly close with this friend anymore, but I am
extremely proud that I had a positive and lasting impact on her. I want to continue to live
my life in a way that my love for myself, my values, and my outlook, benefit not only me and
my personal goals but those around me. I want to be someone that people rely on, confide in,
and remember. But I want to be able to hear compliments and celebrate good things about myself
without giving in to the accompanying pressures. The feeling that I’m eventually going
to let someone down. The fear that someone is going to find out I’m not as smart and
charming as I seem. Those are thoughts that I’d like to weed out. When someone gives
me a compliment, or says they don’t understand something about me, I want to remember
that the most important thing is how I feel about myself. It seems fundamental, simple, but
it is much harder than it seems. I want to navigate success by just shifting the way I think
about choices and events in my life.