I wanted to dedicate this post to extending a thought that I briefly touched on in Thursday's entry -- the idea of having a strong sense of self, or rather realizing who you are.
When I think of a strong sense of self, I think of emotional maturity -- the ability to understand and control your emotions and to take full responsibility for your actions.

To me, these are signs that you have a strong sense of self:

1. You are able to make your own decisions and follow your own advice.
A person with a strong sense of self is able to make their own decisions. They don't feel the urge to share every little detail of all the problems in their life in hopes that they'll be advised, reassured, or consoled by others. They are able to use logic and intuition to work through adverse circumstances.

2. You act authentically, not how you think you should act.
Having a strong sense of self involves being authentic and leaving a strong sense of ego behind. These individuals are unafraid to abandon all of the "norms" that society has placed upon them. They feel what they want to feel. They won't be sad about something because they think that's what they should be feeling. They know that every time they make an effort to respond or react in a way that is "unnatural" it just adds another facade or act that must be maintained -- which ultimately takes more effort than what it's worth. 

3. You keep promises to yourself.
It is impossible to maintain a strong sense of self if you are constantly breaking promises to yourself. Every time you break your own promises, no matter how insignificant it may seem, you start to lose trust in yourself, and hence you lose confidence in your abilities to accomplish greater things.

4. You know enough about yourself to decide how true an insult is.
When you have a strong sense of self you realize that you do not always have to react to criticism with hurt or defensiveness. You are the only one who interprets everything that is thrown your way as something belittling. Individuals who have a strong sense of self are more aware and accepting of the way they are. Nothing that you tell them will be much of a surprise, and they are able to react with emotional maturity. You do not depend on other people's words to define who you are and leave the highs of feeling complimented and the lows of being criticized. 
"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is perspective, not the truth." - Marcus Aurelius

5. You take full responsibility for your life.
When you have a strong sense of self, you give up blaming other people and start looking at your own motives and actions. You see failures not as failures but as opportunity for growth. I once read that failures make excuses, and by making excuses rather than addressing them head on you are not taking responsibility.

6. You can set boundaries on other people's demands.
Individuals who have a strong sense of self are okay with saying no. You can look objectively at requests, make your decisions, and set boundaries kindly without being afraid of letting other people down. You see your time as a valuable resource and you don't give it away carelessly. 

7. You have your own hobbies and interests that you pursue outside of your friendships/relationships.
People with a strong sense of self are brave enough to pursue hobbies that their partner or close friends are not a part of. These individuals are the most interesting people because they place equal importance in exploring themselves. They don't always stick to what is familiar and comfortable to them. They are happy and busy people that don't depend on another person's involvement in order to pursue something that may interest them.
"I think it's very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not defined by another person." - Oscar Wilde

8. You notice when you are wrong, and you are able to verbalize it with grace.
When you are wrong it is easy to get defensive and deny responsibility, or become overwhelmed with shame for our lack of ignorance or imperfection. Admitting when you are wrong takes humility, self-compassion, and courage.

9. You know how to self-soothe.
I think this is so important, as the ability to self-soothe will take you far.
In moments of conflict or emotional strife our natural response is to turn to others console you, help you understand, and and accept responsibility of the matter and implement changes.
In that moment when the storm is coming, you must become the calm. You must learn to respond and not react.
Having a strong sense of self does not exclude these individuals from experiencing conflict or emotional discomfort. Rather, their reactions to these situations are different -- they know how to console and quiet themselves. They don't try to control what is happening, they just control themselves. They don't depend on another person's reactions (or lack thereof) to feel better about themselves. They know specific things that help restore them to their natural balance -- taking time for themselves, meditation, or going for a long walk. 
In moments where you want to become more submissive or dominant -- don't. Just become more conscious.

And there you have it. Nine things that I feel define a strong sense of self and emotional maturity. They are nine truths that I strive live by that have significantly improved my overall happiness.

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