“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
We have all heard about how fully accepting who you are and then being brave enough to live your truth is the greatest and most important adventure in our lives. But the notion can feel abstract and unrealistic. It can be difficult to distinguish how to begin such a path or if the pursuit of discovering yourself will actually lend you clarity over your life purpose. To some, embarking on a personal journey of self-discovery may be viewed as a self-indulgent or self-gratifying odyssey. In reality, it is an unselfish process that lies at the core of our humanity.
As Marina Khidekel from Thrive Global puts it: “There’s often no turning back once you discover a pursuit that sustains you and fills you with purpose.”
Who am I really?
Four simple words. One big question.
It is not self-indulgent to ask yourself that question. It is actually the most profound question you could ever ask yourself if you want to be your most valuable person to the world, partner to your mate, parent to your children.
But you will need to be prepared to face the answer.
Just as important is summoning the courage to shed the layers in your life that no longer serve or reflect who you really are or want to be. This may include current circumstances, situations, or people who no longer connect and ring true with your life purpose.
Asking yourself the big question is a process of going deep, breaking it down, and trusting your intuition, yet it also involves an extraordinary act of rebuilding — recognizing who you want to become and passionately going about fulfilling your own unique destiny, whatever that might be.
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver
Trust me, I know it sounds positively daunting and perhaps a little scary to find and face yourself. So many of us walk through the world not knowing who we really are or spend too much energy giving power to the inner-critic that warps our ideas about ourselves. We mistakenly think that to self-understand is to be selfish, when what we really should be contemplating is if we can afford not to understand ourselves.
Years ago, I stood at the threshold of that big question. The answer eluded me at the time. I felt lost and frightened. I wasn’t sure how to begin such a momentous task or who or what I might discover during the process, but that wasn’t what scared me the most. It was the prospect of not asking the question and discovering the answer that I most feared.
I found out that to find myself was a matter of finding my personal power. But first I had to be able to recognize it. I couldn’t achieve that recognition if I wasn’t willing to be open and vulnerable to my life experiences — past, present, and future.
With these three principles in mind, the following points highlight a few of the most universally useful steps toward the adventurous path of finding yourself and your unique destiny.
Finding Yourself in The Past
Your life experiences become a part of who you are but they don’t have to define you. It is a choice to hold onto a painful past, as is the choice to allow decrepit pain to become your defense mechanism as an excuse for your behavior, or why things don’t go your way.
Is the past the reason why you choose to shut down the breadth of your heart? Or why you think you’re not good enough?
That’s the chip on your shoulder. The self-doubt urging you to feed on blame. The past-veil blinding you of your own magnificence.
“In order to uncover who we are and why we act the way we do; we have to know our own story. Being brave and willing to explore our past is an important stepping stone on the road to understanding ourselves and becoming who we want to be.”
We all have a past that we cannot escape. Guilt. Regret. Lost time and moments we can never recreate. Each of us faces our own internal battles. But it is impossible to move forward with our lives without making sense of, forgiving, and coming to peace with past hurts.
You will need to surrender to the past for just a bit.
You will need to break down your internal walls to feel and sit with the pain, anger, resentment, guilt, loss, or sadness. You will need to cry like a child; fall to your knees and shake uncontrollably. You will need to open your heart to past wounds and find acceptance as you move through the pain.
Then, you will pick yourself up and begin the process of rebuilding — you will start to gain brand new insights, ways of being, appreciate the lessons, and grow from the pain. You will experience the power and soul-purging ramifications that forgiveness brings. You will look toward the future with a renewed sense of hope as your world begins to change from the inside out. You will let go of stale and unhealthy relationships and begin new ones. You will be ready for greater love and a deeper connection. You will find invigorating inspiration, try different things, and push your comfort zone. You will feel more creative and seek more meaning in life. You will understand the essence of gratitude because you’ve faced the emotional burn and made it through to the other side.
You will learn to trust yourself.
When we reflect on past experiences and are willing to face the memories that arise, we gain invaluable insights into our own behavior. We can then start to consciously separate from the more harmful influences to actively alter our behavior to reflect how we really think and feel and how we choose to be in the world.
Finding Yourself in The Present
Rewrite your story. This is the part where you begin to differentiate yourself from destructive familial, interpersonal, and societal influences to develop a sense of yourself as an individual.
If you want to truly find yourself and fulfill your unique destiny, you will need to break away from harmful internalized thought processes, perceived negative personality traits, and unhealthy defensive patterns of behavior ingested from your upbringing. You will need to develop your own beliefs, values, and ideals rather than accepting the ones you grew up with.
“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”
— Viktor E. Frankl
You will begin to question everything and believe nothing. You will think deep and open your heart to its full potential. You will recognize lies, shred false influences, and connect with your inner-self for direction. You will reject inauthenticity, self-serving, and mean people. You will surround yourself with positive, light and loving people. You will find clarity through the fog. You will tremble and rejoice as you sense renewed energy and revelation pouring into your being. You will feel yourself shifting and separating from the “norm” and realize yourself as someone different.
Then, you will begin to form your own truths. You will resonate, love, and believe in something greater than yourself. You will know that everything you need is within you. You will appreciate the present, accept your flaws, recognize your demons, and believe in yourself more than ever before. You will falter, cry, and question again. You will look at the stars and burst with an appreciation for all of life. You will feel as a connected part to the whole, and learn to love yourself enough to be gentle and kind on yourself.
You will find yourself from the inside and you will begin to discover your true purpose.
Rewriting your life story is about knowing what you want, and knowing what you want is fundamental to finding yourself. It sounds simple, but most of us can become defensive against feelings of wanting and new desires because we don’t want to risk getting hurt or disappointed.
We don’t want to put ourselves out there.
Wanting makes you feel alive and, therefore, vulnerable in the world. But to truly live means you can truly lose. It’s a part of life. The thing is, though, knowing what you want challenges you to take power over your own life to essentially accept yourself as a powerful player in your own destiny.
Doesn’t that sound like a great place to be?
Believing that you can rewrite your story to create the world you experience and then taking action to manifest your desires is the first and probably the most difficult step you can undertake toward investing in yourself, your dreams, and your future.
But it is a journey well worth the investment.
Finding Yourself in The Future
Think from the end.
Every now and then, I visualize myself at the end of it all — aged, aching, a little tired, and thinking back over my life journey. What does it look like to my elder-self?
Did I find courage, great love, forgiveness, honesty, and charity? Did I find me?
I refuse to get to that place and just exist in the world following a half-lived life. I refuse to forgo a moment of my wild and precious life to unfollowed wants, dreams, and desires.
Finding yourself and fulfilling your unique destiny isn’t an easy process and it isn’t all about just bringing you happiness. It’s about claiming your significance in the world, realizing that the past, present, and future are intimately connected and reacquainting with your own connection to something larger than yourself.
It is finding your deepest self and being brave enough to honor that person. But seeing your truth isn’t enough. You’ve got to live, breathe, and own your truth to fully realize your personal power; and that process is unending.
As I dive deeper into myself and into the future, I’ll continue to flow along the journey of self-discovery and keep striving to enrich my life so that when I reach that croaky old person nearer to the end, I can look back and like what I see. Provided I make it that far, of course.
Do what lights you up on the inside. Be brave. Ask the big question and invite transformation. And may love expand your heart every step of the way.
Also published by Publishous on Medium