Wouldn’t it be great if there was a definitive set of steps that, if you follow, will lead to you being your true and happiest self? Let’s face it, there is no bullet-proof method for something so intangible, especially because we are all on our own unique journey. But, you aren’t doomed. I know too well the suffocating desire to fit in that accidently suppresses your true identity. Experiencing peaks and valleys of self-doubt and insecurity was a path I used to accept. With a change of perspective and boundless self-exploration, I’m now at a beautiful place in my life where I’m confident in who I am as an individual.
There are fundamental understandings that can help you get here. If you’re someone who feels lost, confused, stuck, or just needs a hug and a push in the right direction, then welcome.
1. Don’t be afraid to get messy.
There is no yellow brick road, my friend. And that’s great because it means you get to create your own path. And that’s great because you’re going to screw up, a lot. Hearing that you may instinctively hate the idea of this, but I urge you to see the good in the seemingly “bad.” Making a mess means you got out there and did something. It means you weren’t afraid – or that you were afraid and you did it anyway. You cared more about your curiosity than you did about your fear. What a beautiful and empowering space to live in. Yes, there may be initial disappointment or a rush of negativity, but when you can hurdle yourself through it, not past it, and recognize the beauty in the ugly, that’s where your inner-compass starts to strengthen.
Action tip: Think about something you’ve always wanted to do – big or small – but have been too afraid to pursue or something you’ve been pushing off for “later” (which never comes). Then, do it.
2. No matter how easy it is to resort to hermit crab ways, put yourself out there.
Don’t get me wrong, we all deserve our lazy “I’m-laying-in-bed-with-ice-cream-and-binging-Netflix” days, but don’t get cozy for too long. Getting out of your house and doing something planned or spontaneous is where you start to uncover your truth. Finding yourself requires reaching the line and crossing it. It’s foolish to think that you will uncover your unknown by repeating the same behaviors. I used to hope things would get better without actually doing anything about it. It wasn’t until I made a conscious effort to create new experiences, big or small, that I stopped standing still. Be courageous enough to dive into the depths of your soul, or if we’re just getting started, dip your toes into the water.
Action tip: Explore something you haven’t seen (a town, a park, a coffee shop), pick up a book you’ve never read, spark a conversation with a stranger, try a new hobby, get involved in your community, check out your local farmers market. If you’re willing, do it alone. When you’re with others, sometimes you unknowingly shift yourself – this isn’t a terrible thing – but it can mean you are not being your authentic self.
3. If you’re uncomfortable that’s a good thing.
When you try something new or do something by yourself, a discomfort is more than likely lurking in your shadow. Don’t ignore that discomfort. Acknowledge it and recognize that you are doing something brave – no matter how little it seems – and let it drive you. Being uncomfortable means you are stepping into unchartered territory, which inevitably means you will learn something about yourself. Believe it or not, discomfort isn’t a perpetual state of being and once it dissipates, the unparalleled sensation of pride and happiness that replaces it is priceless.
Action tip: Challenge yourself to do something you would normally dismiss with the typical excuse of “I wish I could do that, but I just can’t. It’s not a “me” thing.” Move past your self-proclaimed limitations and do what you want. When it gets hard remember, being uncomfortable is the only way to get comfortable.
4. Fill your circle with people who inspire you.
Your environment is a huge influencer in who you are and how you act. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of creating an environment you thrive in. If you feel someone is holding you back, let them go. It doesn’t make you a cruel self-absorbed witch; it means you care enough to erase toxicity from your life. You may find that a person you’ve considered a close friend for years causes tension in your mind and body. Move on.
As you grow older, you have less room in your life. I’ve been inclined to cling to those I’ve grown to love and it felt impossible to accept that things change and I need to let go. But once I shed the unhealthy “relationships” that tortured my mind, it created a welcoming space for the people who lift me up and encourage me to be me. Focusing your energy on the right people is the foundation of your roots. Without a healthy feeling of belonging and connection, it’ll be an endless search to self-discovery.
Disclaimer: Don’t depend on the amazing people in your life to be the sole source of happiness. Provide as much value to them and yourself as they do to you.
Action tip: Keep in contact with those who inspire you. Reach out to them and don’t let your unconventional fear of “bothering” them or what they “might” be thinking stop you. If you feel like you don’t have anyone inspiring in your life, join a group in your community with like-minded interests. It’s never too late to cultivate new connections.
5. Live passionately on a daily basis.
Life-purpose is often synonymous with finding yourself and without passion it can leave you feeling lost. Identifying your true passions can be a struggle that leads you to believe you don’t even know yourself. If you’re existing in a weird limbo from a lack of passion, it’s time to do something about it. Set out on an internal exploration to understand what drives you to intentionally wake up excited each morning. It’s equally as important to understand that passion doesn’t only hold hands with your life-purpose. It’s everyday of your life. When you recognize passion in daily moments, it allows you to identify what matters to you and live intentionally. My passions were right in front of my eyes, but I did them a disservice by not recognizing them as what they were. I accidently dismissed them and buried my potential to know myself.
Action tips: Keep a gratitude journal, write intentions for your day, or volunteer for a cause you care about. Be present in moments where you’re usually multi-tasking. Take one of those online articles titled “52 questions to ask your partner to get to know them better” and ask yourself those questions. (If you’re thinking it’s uncomfortable, revisit Understanding #3)
6. Go easy on yourself.
Don’t let the silly little sickness that comparison is steal your thunder. You are traveling your own track and things are going to be different for you than it is for the person to your right or left. Don’t allow negative thoughts to overpower your truth. It’s human nature to be hard on yourself, but it’s unfair to harp in the tangled mess of comparison or feeling of inadequacy. You won’t find what you’re looking for there; it will only hold you back from unleashing everything you have to offer the world. Trust me. I wasted too much of my life not loving myself.
I used to get trapped in the feeling of “not enoughness” which only encouraged my self-sabotaging mental chatter. It took me a while to realize that I deserve the same amount of love and kindness that I give to others.
Having a healthy relationship with yourself is what allows you to find yourself.
Action tip: When you have negative thoughts, try to find the root of what brought it on. Ask yourself if you can deal with the issue at hand now or if it has to wait until later. If the answer is later, you are wasting your energy.
Remember, this is a continuous process. If you think finding yourself is a destination where you’re finally happy, I challenge you to see a different perspective. Finding yourself is rarely something that “just happens.” You have to put in work. We are constantly evolving and changing, so it’s important to take action and discover who you are.
Take the tips above, run wild, and add your own spin on them. This is a subjective process, so the understandings above may appear to be vague. The goal is to help you feel empowered to take the ideas and action tips in this article and brainstorm according to where you are at in life today. In my experience, this took trial and error. But at this moment in time I can confidently say I feel more “me” than I’ve ever felt.
My mind no longer feels pressure or tension to alter my true words and actions to match or appease those around me. With this child-like spirit of being comfortable in my own skin and living life according to my values, I have a new sense of self-awareness. I look forward to continuing this unique exploration and I hope you do too. You deserve to discover yourself and uncover all the beautiful pieces of your puzzle.
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More About the Author
Marissa is a 23-year-old living in the suburbs of Philadelphia constantly looking for her next adventure. She currently works as a Content Specialist and volunteers as a Crisis Counselor for Crisis Text Line. Marissa believes everyone has an important story to tell and is an advocate for mental health, creative expression, and cultivating compassion. You can find her exploring a hiking trail, drinking too much tea, or impatiently waiting by platform 9 ¾ in an endless search for the Hogwarts Express.