How to Find Yourself
Finding the real you is an enlightening experience. You become self-sufficient and do things for yourself, for once. You are no longer needy and become utterly grateful for all the things people have done for you in the past. Finding yourself is a time of harmony because you develop the philosophy or belief system that will carry you throughout the rest of your life. How do you know you have found yourself? It is when you are able to help others find themselves. Finding yourself is not easy, but here are a few tips for how to start the process.
1 Create your own life timeline. Write down all of your major goals in your life that you feel you want to achieve. In turn, write down the events in your life that have already happened that you believe have affected you. When life hits with problems or misfortunes it shapes our belief system and makes us think differently. When you believe in something or see beauty in something, you should do it no matter what anyone else thinks. If you have found something that is worthy of your best efforts, sacrifice, and tears, then you have found the most important pursuit of your life.
- This isn't an exercise in wallowing. It's about clarification and identification of issues. These issues might be keeping you from reaching your present potential and letting your true sense of self blossom.
- Spend a little time writing with clarity about the past in your timeline. A timeline is an incredibly objective method for marking down past occurrences in your life that you consider to be major. You can look at them as formation blocks and as changing experiences along your timeline without imbuing them with too much emotion (as would occur within a diary account). Keep it simple, real, and condensed to the major effect or lesson learned from each past incident.
- When analyzing negative past experiences, look to the positive learning message in it and don't dwell on the mistakes or the negatives. Everyone has these blips in their timeline but pretending they are either worse than they were or non-existent won't do you any favors. Instead, recognize that if it had not been for those past experiences you would not be where or who you are today.
2 Prepare to begin again with a clean slate. Develop your own moral conduct and practice sticking to it. Remove vice from your life; vices are any actions or habits that tie up your true self and let you escape having to think about the harder questions.
- Stop smoking, over-eating, and abusive drinking. These are examples of lapses or habits that will prevent you from functioning at your peak. They also let you "off the hook" by sidestepping the analysis of why you use these crutches instead of finding better ways to brighten your life.
- This step may take some major rehabilitation for some individuals but putting it into the too-hard basket won't make it go away. Remember, you can't drive your life forward if you are always gazing through your rear-view mirror!
3 Let go of the need to be loved by all. Accept that some people will think poorly of you no matter what you do. It's important to forget about what everyone else thinks because you cannot please everyone. And while you might not want to disappoint the people close to you, they should want you to be happy. As long as you continue to exist just to fulfill other people's ideas of who you should be, you'll never know who you really are. This thought is aptly summed up by Raymond Hull: "He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away."
- Realize that some people will become jealous, afraid, or overwhelmed when a person changes their usual habits and grows more mature and self-loving. It's a threat to the relationship you've always had, and it forces them to take a cold, hard look at themselves, which they may not want to do. Give these people space and compassion; they may come around in time. If they don't, leave them be. You don't need them to be you.
4 Learn to rely on yourself. Confidence and reliance are at the heart of finding yourself. If you don't have a solid sense of self-worth, you'll listen to what others have to say all the time and to be swayed by their insistence on what is wrong, right, and appropriate. Learn to believe in yourself and trust your own feelings.
- If you have been victimized in the past, confront these issues. They're not going to go away on their own. They might be coloring your approach to daily life, causing you to live up to other people's expectations instead of your own.
- Start trusting your own judgment and decision-making processes. Sure, you're going to make mistakes from time to time, but so does everyone else. It's through mistakes that you'll find yourself growing, learning, and reaching into your real sense of self.
- Start taking responsibility for budgeting, household matters, and planning about the future. People who lack a sense of self tend to disregard the "details" of life with a carefree attitude, believing that things will all sort themselves out. But things don't always sort themselves out. Taking responsibility pulls you back from the precipice and lets you be self-reliant and self-determined, no longer carried along by the waves of fate
5 Sort out your career path. If you're meandering all over the place looking for the right "fit," chances are that you're not happy inside. You could be using the job-changing as an excuse for not fully realizing your true potential. Finding yourself by really taking an interest in what you love to do. If money weren't an issue, what would you spend your days doing? Is there any way you can monetize this activity/skill?
- Spend some time free-associating. Think about what you like and don't like; think beyond those things to other ideas that simply pop into your mind while you're associating. Keep a record of these things. Then, come back to the career question and look at the free associations. What type of career seems to gel most with the things that excited, moved, and really energized you from the free-association exercise? As Alain de Botton says, this exercise is about looking for "beeps of joy" amid the cacophony of must-dos, shoulds, and expectations.
- Bear in mind, however, that work may not be where your "calling" is. If that is the case, you'll need to work out a work-life balance that lets you pursue your "true self" more outside of the workplace, even if this means more hours and less income. It is all possible, especially if it's in the pursuit of finding and sustaining your true sense of self.
6 Immerse yourself in solitude. Give yourself some time and space to get away from the expectations, the conversations, the noise, the media, and the pressure. Take some time each day to go for a long walk and think. Plant yourself on a park bench and look. Take a long, thoughtful road trip. Whatever you do, move away from anything that distracts you from contemplating your life and where you want it to go. In solitude, you should feel independent and self-sufficient, not lonely, needy or afraid.
- Every person needs time alone, whether they're introverted or extroverted, single or in a relationship, young or old. Solitude is time for rejuvenation and self-talk, for utter peace and for realizing that purposeful "aloneness" is not a bad place to be but rather, a liberating part of your overall existence.
- If you are a creative person, you may find that alone-time will help stoke your creativity. While it's nice to collaborate with other people sometimes, it's hard to be truly creative when you're always surrounded by other people. Step back and tap into your creativity.
7 Ask yourself every question in the book. Ask yourself the questions that are difficult, that dare to look at the big pictures, such as:
- "If I had all the resources in the world — if I didn't need to make money — what would I be doing with my day to day life and why?" Perhaps you'd be painting, or writing, or farming, or exploring the Amazon rain forest. Don't hold back.
- "What do I want to look back on in my life and say that I never regretted?" Would you regret never having traveled abroad? Would you regret never having asked that person out, even if it meant risking rejection? Would you regret not spending enough time with your family when you could? This question can be really difficult.
"If I had to choose three words to describe the kind of person I'd love to be, what would those words be?" Adventurous? Loving? Open? Honest? Hilarious? Optimistic? Don't be afraid to choose words that are considered negative because that proves you're a real person, and not a lopsided combination of parts other people want to be known for.
- Sometimes the traits that you don't like become useful in emergency situations — like being bossy. Sometimes they are valuable to the job you're meant to perform — like being nitpicking.
- If you do have a truly negative trait, acknowledging it openly can give you the motivation to work on redirecting that energy to something positive. Try channelling that bad habit and into a hobby. Don't wash your clothes much? Try camping. Maybe you'll like it? Even pole dancing is becoming a hobby!
- "Who am I?" This question is not static. It should be one you continue to ask yourself throughout your life. A healthy person continues to reinvent themselves throughout their life. By asking this question regularly, it updates your understanding of who you are and how you change. Instead of answering who you think you ought to be, keep it focused on who you actually are, because in all likelihood that's a very good answer, warts and all.
8 Keep a written record of your answers to the questions in the last step. Beyond your time spent in solitude, it's easy for these purposeful thoughts to slip to the back of your mind and be forgotten. If you have them written down, then every time you reflect, you can review your notes and take it a step further, instead of answering the same questions all over again. Keep them in a notebook that's both easy to access and update wherever you happen to be; it will be a source of sustenance for you, by which you can continue to measure your growth through life.
9 Act upon your newly discovered knowledge. Do the things that you want to do! Pick up those watercolors. Write a short story. Plan a trip to Mombasa. Have dinner with a family member. Start cracking jokes. Open up. Tell the truth. Whatever it is that you've decided you want to be or do, start being and doing it now.
- You may shake your head and come up with excuses such as "no time", "no money", "family responsibilities", etc. Instead of using these as excuses, start planning around the hurdles in your life. You can free up time, find money, and get a break from duties if you make time how to plan and find the courage to ask for these things;
- Sometimes, the real you is too afraid to face the practicalities because it'd mean facing up to what you've limited yourself by. Start planning what you really want to do and investigating what needs to be done to get you to that point instead of flinging excuses at them, stopping the goals and dreams dead in their tracks.
10 Be ready for dead ends. Finding yourself is a journey, not a destination. A lot of it is trial and error. That's the price you pay in return for the satisfaction you receive: More often than not, you hit a bump in the road, and sometimes you fall flat on your face. Be prepared to understand and accept that this is a part of the process, and commit to getting right back up and starting over.
- It's not going to be easy – it never has been for anybody – but if you learn to see that as a chance to prove how much you want to find yourself, then you'll find fulfillment and security in your pursuit. When you are yourself, everyone will respect you more and treat you kindly. Best of all, you will always feel good about yourself and this will reflect out onto others, making them feel even more certain about your sense of self.
11 Serve others. Mahatma Gandhi once said that "the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others". All introspection and no reaching out to others can cause you to navel-gaze and shut yourself off from others. Service to other people and to the community is the ultimate way to find purpose and a sense of your place in the world.
- When you get to see how hard life can be for those in greater need than you, it's often a wake-up call that puts your own worries, concerns, and issues into perspective. It helps you to see what you do have and the opportunities you've been able to seize through life. That can fuel a great sense of self because suddenly everything can fall into place for you and you realize what matters most. Try it. You'll like it.