Because the process of self-discovery should be our highest priority
By Emily Hudson
There is such an emphasis on becoming a career in our society. From a very young age, the idea that our chosen career path will define who we are is planted in our minds. We are most often asked, “What do you want to BE when you grow up,” instead of, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?” Our elders hint at the fact that our career path will define our true selves – that we will be our jobs. Yikes!
A dear friend of mine, UCLA Psychology student Zsolt Portik, recently wrote a story that hit me hard. Finally, someone put an important type of transformation into words, the awakening that becoming your self is far more important than becoming your career.
“What are you studying here? What do you wanna become, fool?”
“I’m just here to study myself. I don’t want to become something.”
She came closer and said, “This is strange to hear… Everybody I asked who comes to this school wants to become something, like a lawyer, professor or movie director.”
“Well, I don’t think you can ever truly become those people unless you can become yourself first. So I only work on myself here.”
“Hmmm, so what then what do you want to become then after you become yourself, my new human friend?”
“Well… if I am successful in really becoming myself, then I will become everything…”
This enlightening story begs the question, how do we go about becoming our selves, when our whole lives we are told to become our jobs?
Stop comparing your life to the lives of others.
It is so easy to get caught up in the social media comparison game. I recently read this powerful article on MindBodyGreen, which spoke to the importance of recognizing that we rarely see what goes on behind the scenes in the lives of others.
The article was a nice reminder that the emphasis placed on “keeping up with the Joneses” can lead to the pursuit of an unfulfilling career, staying in the wrong relationships, and wishing our lives away. The benchmarking outlook creates the illusion that our self worth can be measured by the supposed success of other people. As the author wisely stated, “The grass is NOT always greener. Sometimes it’s brown. And needs watering.”
Study yourself in your free time.
What do you fill your days with when the world is your oyster? Do you find pleasure in reading, writing, yoga, photography, football, or gaming? Simply begin to study that piece of yourself that chooses activities – it is likely that those chosen tasks are the most fulfilling to you. Then, pursue the idea that those activities can be integrated into your life in a much larger way. Forget the career you feel like you’re “supposed to” have. We are more likely to become our true selves when we are doing the things that are fulfilling to our souls.
Separate yourself from the roles you play in life.
You are not a daughter, mother, girlfriend, boyfriend, uncle, friend, etc… Those roles may play a major role in the shaping of your self, but they do not define you.
Some time ago, I realized I didn’t know who I was if I didn’t have those roles telling me who to be. That was a scary realization, but it helped me to see that knowing my self helped me to play my roles in a more positive way. I could be a better friend if I was a better friend to my self. I could be a better girlfriend if I understood my values, a more loving daughter if I truly loved my self, and a more successful writer if I believed in my own abilities. Aristotle said it best – “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
Find out whether you’re an introvert, extrovert, or a little of both.
I’ve always known myself to be an extroverted person. When I began to really analyze myself, I found that I feel most balanced when I take some time alone too. I now know that I thrive when most of my time is spent interacting with other people, but if I don’t allow myself about 20% introverted time, the world feels like it’s crumbling down around me. There is so much beauty in discovering what makes your life feel balanced, as balance is another major piece of the self-discovery puzzle.
Don’t be afraid of alone time.
Urge yourself to spend time alone, even if it feels uncomfortable. After all, it can be a scary thing to get to know your self. Doing so requires overcoming the obstacles the mind conjures up, perhaps facing demons of the past, and evaluating relationships you have in your life and whether they serve you (this may mean evaluating the relationship you have with your self, too).
Are you your self’s best friend? Do you treat your self with respect? Alone time is the best way to cultivate a positive relationship with your self. This positive relationship is an integral factor in becoming who you are, and being 100% comfortable with whoever that person is.