Have you ever felt like you were living a life that wasn't truly yours? That you were conforming to societal expectations or the expectations of those around you, rather than following your own passions and desires? If so, you're not alone. In fact, this struggle to be true to oneself is something that many people face at some point in their lives.
As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in Women Who Run With Wolves, "To be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves." It's a tormenting tension that can be difficult to bear. On one hand, we want to be accepted and belong to a community. On the other hand, we also want to be true to ourselves and live a life that is authentic and fulfilling.
So, how do we navigate this tension and find out who we truly are? Here are a few suggestions:
Take some time for self-reflection. This can be as simple as setting aside a few minutes each day to sit in quiet contemplation or keeping a journal where you can write about your thoughts and feelings. As you reflect, pay attention to what truly excites and energizes you. What are your values and beliefs? What are your passions and interests? What skills do you already have? What do you offer that the world needs? Answering these questions can help you get a better sense of who you are and what you want from life.
Experiment with different activities and hobbies. Sometimes we discover who we are by trying new things and seeing what resonates with us. So, don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. A supervisor of mine always reminded me "your comfort zone always follows you." So be comfortable with the fear of the newness and step out anyway. Whether it's a new hobby, a different type of exercise, or even a new style of clothing, experimenting can help you get a better sense of what you enjoy and what you don't.
Seek out mentors or role models. It can be helpful to have someone to look up to and learn from as you navigate the process of finding yourself. Look for people who inspire you and who embody the qualities that you admire. They can offer guidance and support as you discover your own path.
Practice self-compassion. It's easy to get caught up in negative self-talk and self-doubt as we try to figure out who we are. But it's important to remember that it's okay to make mistakes and that it's a normal part of the process. Judgement is insidious, it burrows into our psyche and adds suffering to our lives. Instead notice when you're judging, take a deep breath, and realize you don't have to. So, try to be kind and understanding with yourself as you explore and learn.
Ultimately, finding out who you truly are is a journey, and it may take time and effort. But it's a journey that is well worth taking. By being true to yourself, you'll be able to live a more authentic and fulfilling life, and that is something that is truly priceless.