Self Discovery



So where to begin when posed the question, “Who were you when you married your husband?” Truthfully, I don’t think I had a clue. At 26, I had many pairs of nice shoes, a plum job in magazine publishing, exciting career prospects, European passport stamps and gorgeous girlfriends, but I was also incredibly restless. I had a lot of questions.

My whole identity was wrapped up in intangibles; in a sort of fictionalised conception of who I was meant to be, because when you have no clue about you, you’re more than prepared to adopt whatever label or tag it is the world deems you worthy of, create a persona that seems to fit the bill, go out of your way to please people you really don’t have to, or float through life without any idea of why you are here.

“Since the false self is fabricated on secondary things we idolise, like reputation, success, status, family and jobs, it is always vulnerable,” writes Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. “Things that can be here today and gone tomorrow provide a precarious mooring for the soul. Our truest identity can never be something we accomplish, earn or prove on our own.”

Subsequently, leading up to and after I walked down the aisle to Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles”, I filled approximately 25 journals with scribblings articulating inner wrestlings over everything from body image, to my parents’ divorce, to God (where were you all those years ago?). I listened to the Alabaster Box song “There’s Hope” and Queen Latifah’s “Fix Me, Jesus” a lot at that time.

“But I found myself—a deep, settled knowingness—only in order to lose myself again … for the right reasons. Letting go of our “selves” is what marriage is all about. It’s what you sign up for when you say ‘I do’.”

This doesn’t mean losing yourself in the sense that your new name (if you so choose) becomes you and you are now Mr or Mrs and not yourself anymore. But it does mean letting some of the things you’ve accumulated in life, such as grievances, ambitions and dreams, fall away if necessary.

This might include acknowledging an online shopping habit that may impinge on your financial security, or that your jealousy issues or lack of personal hygiene could be a bit socially isolating, deleting the ex-boyfriends from your Facebook world, or agreeing to put writing that book on hold because there are house renovations to complete.

It’s about you TWO and not just you anymore. And that can be really uncomfortable because the indignant, self-righteous, self-gratifying part of yourself is always trying to get the better you (think Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) and, therefore, throw your marriage offside.

Complementarianism, which is the marital creed I subscribe to, requires a definite sense of self in order to be accomplished within a marriage. You cannot be complementary if you have no idea what it is that you bring to the table, and nor can your partner. You both have to have an awareness of the strengths, weaknesses, skills, habits, personality quirks and past and present relationships you bring to the marriage, before you can negotiate how they can best work together to achieve things you simply could not do alone.

You are perfected in your unity and your individuality. Would Hugh Jackman be the super guy he is without Deborra-Lee Furness? Chris Hemsworth without Elsa Pataky? Hamish Blake without Zoe Foster Blake? Or conversely? Discovery of each other is such a privilege and wonder—we get to see the nooks and crannies of each other’s feelings, emotions, thoughts and actions, and to explore them with an intimacy that no-one else will enjoy.

How wonderful to think that you will know this person better than anyone else on earth; and that they will know you in this way, too, and help you to become the best version of you?! In fact, through their unique point of view, your spouse may get to know you better than you do.

I am always startled by my husband’s ability to nail my flaws and anticipate my reactions, and show them up for what they are before they have a chance to cause conflict. It is often incredibly uncomfortable, and I may sulk occasionally, but he, in turn, is constantly humbled by my unique ability to downplay his obvious strengths (good looks, strong mind, resilience) while buffering his weaknesses.

“To take an objective view of yourself, to reconcile the ideas manufactured by the world that don’t suit you nor match your values … with these come freedom.”

A life lived in harmony with one’s fellow human beings (starting with your spouse) starts here; in the knowledge and unconditional love of self but the willingness to override selfish desires for the greater good. It is equally applicable at home as it is in the community or workplace or the realms of politics, economics and humanitarianism.

As Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” So do the work. Plough deep into your past and make friends with your mistakes and forgive the wrongs done against you, too. And, importantly, don’t for a second think that you are not worthy of your unique personality, hopes and dreams.

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image,” wrote Thomas Merton in No Man Is an Island.
“If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

Some simple take-home ideas to cut n paste …
– Take care of yourself;
– Speak up honestly about your needs;
– Acknowledge and admit your weaknesses and mistakes;
– Celebrate your gifts, talents and unique personality;
– Acknowledge them, but don’t let your vulnerabilities become your creed;
– And seek out ways to meet others’ needs; to bless the world with all you’ve been given (singly and as a couple); and be the best you that you can be.

Self-work is like a really good wardrobe cleanse; ditch the stuff that doesn’t suit, file away the precious, but keep the good stuff—the things that make you feel wonderful and so very “you”—at the forefront for everyday use and for everyone around you to enjoy. Because we truly become ourselves in relation to others; in fact, you will become the best version of yourself because your partner is doing the self-work with you.


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