Sometimes, with the expectations placed on us today, we lose track of ourselves. We often have trouble finding ourselves to begin with. Our world can be fast-paced and unforgiving, and we can be forced to sacrifice parts of ourselves along the way to stay relevant.
What does this mean for those of us that lose ourselves? Those of us that never find ourselves, wandering through our adult lives without direction? Feeling like you’ve lost yourself is more common than you might think, and it’s not a hard situation to remedy if you’re willing to get creative.
In this article, we aim to teach you how to find or reform the self that you may have lost. We’ve listed some of the best ways to get in touch with your inner self below, and we’ll do our best to teach you why it’s important, as well.
Look to Your Past
Everyone has their own story. For better or worse, our past always defines our future. This is an important thing to keep in mind when moving forward. No matter how much you might wish to keep your past in the past, it’s something that defines you. To find yourself, you will inevitably have to do some deep digging into your history and your feelings about it.
We’ve all likely met someone who would rather their past be forgotten. It’s completely understandable to feel this way, but it will keep you from moving forward. It’s okay to try not to think about your past – especially if it’s been a bit ugly at times – but we cannot stress enough how important it is to accept your past and deal with what comes next.
Depending on whether what happened in your past was your fault or the fault of someone else, you may have to face consequences of your or someone else’s actions. These consequences can have a habit of resurfacing at inopportune times, too. It’s important to accept that these consequences will be a fact of life, and will define you in a way. However, they do not control you.
If your past was good, then that’s all the better! A supportive, healthy history encourages your development into an admirable, moral person. However, that doesn’t mean someone with a questionable past can’t develop in the same way. There will just be more of a challenge involved.
If your early life experiences were not ideal, take the time to evaluate them carefully, even if it’s painful. According to PsychAlive, your early life experiences are proven to influence the way you develop into an adult. Many of the habits that your parents teach you – good and bad – will become yours somewhere down the line, too.
If your early life was pleasant and nurturing, be thankful for that, and be even more grateful for the good habits that your friends and parents taught you. If your early life was not ideal, don’t hold it against your parents and friends, but take the time to carefully evaluate what you gained or lost from those formative years. Be careful to isolate bad habits and attitudes you may have inherited, and try to purge them from yourself if you can.
This section piggybacks heavily on the last one, in that accepting your past is an integral part of accepting your current self. However, that’s not all there is to it, either. Embracing yourself involves several different things, with accepting your past being only the begging.
Once you’ve accepted your past and your formative experiences, you should move on to your present. During our adolescent years, we try desperately to fit into preconceived notions of what’s acceptable and cool. Sometimes, these expectations can even follow us into our adult lives. However, this is no way to live – it’s supremely unhealthy, both mentally and physically.
In the present, we task you with finding what you’ve been designed to be, not who others want you to be. As you grow, your self is molded and shaped by your experiences, those you meet, and the media that you consume. If you want to be kinder, that’s an admirable, worthwhile goal. However, don’t extend this too far, as teens are wont to do to be “popular” or “accepted.”
The happiest people are those who aren’t afraid to go against the flow. Additionally, there’s a trade secret here: many people want to be loved and accepted, but they don’t realize that people tend to follow those who aren’t afraid to act on their own will. If you want people to like you, it’s far more productive to throw caution to the wind and become who you truly are, rather than suppressing your true self in hopes of approval. People will, by default, like you better if you’re genuine rather than fake.
A beautiful, authentic light shines out from within you when you embrace your true self. Anything less stifles this light. However, this is sometimes easier said than done. Some people are born feeling free and in control of their identity. Some people have an “Aha!” moment during their lives and see the light. However, for most of us, it takes some time and effort to learn to embrace our true selves.
Thought Catalog lists five tips that can help you embrace yourself and start acting like your own person. Check them out below.
- Establish your identity: find out what you like, dislike, enjoy, and hate. What do you stand for? What have you done? Who are you? Try writing down and answering questions like this to start establishing yourself.
- Change your self-talk: that negative voice in your head that puts you down is not you. The less you listen to it, the more it will fade, and the more your authentic, confident self will blossom.
- Align yourself: make time to do the things that you enjoy (and that you’re good at). If you like to write, set aside time in your day to do so. On the flipside, if you love nature, make time for frequent camping or hiking trips.
- Let go of expectations: reject others’ expectations of you, regardless of where they come from. Goals and dreams are a different matter that we will go over more later, but if someone’s expectations of you don’t align with your own, whether they be from a friend, family member, or stranger, you should purge them from your mind and your life.
- Do things that scare you: As a human being, you are a constantly evolving creature. Even those of us who are well-seated in who they are continually growing and changing. Remember that there will always be more to discover about yourself. You don’t need to figure everything out all at once, but expanding your horizons and trying new things will accelerate this growth.
Make Sense of Your Dreams
Your hopes and dreams are an important part of who you are. Knowing what you want out of life, even if it seems very far off, plays a significant role in your future plans, needs, and desires. You should always plan to build your life around what you’d most like to achieve, and although these wants can change over a lifetime, being unprepared and uprooting yourself later can be even more of a hassle. It’s best to be as prepared as you can initially.
Sometimes, figuring out what these wants and dreams are may take a bit of doing. This can be especially true for those that have suppressed their true self throughout their whole lives, or those that were pressured into a lifestyle early by friends or family. To these people, isolating and following their dreams can feel wrong, or even like a betrayal to those who raised them.
It’s never wrong to pursue happiness for yourself – in the USA, it’s one of our inalienable rights, protected even by the government. If you do not seek what you truly want, you will never feel alive. Looking forward to the days ahead of you plays an enormous role in feeling excited and seizing the day.
Take stock of all the dreams that you have, and make sure to keep a lookout for when new ones develop. Some goals may need to be delegated to future years, while some might be achievable now or very soon. Get a head start on everything that you can! This will make it easier to achieve your bigger goals down the line, and it will make you feel more committed to them, too.
Above all else, isolating and pursuing your dreams will help you define what’s most important to you, and what’s most important to you defines who you are as a person.
However, the negative voice in your mind will interfere with you here, and sometimes those around you will, too. You may sometimes hear, “That’s far too difficult; you can’t do that,” “That takes much too long to be a reasonable goal,” or even something like “You can’t make it as an artist; best pursue a career in the medical industry instead.”
No one outside of yourself has any right to hold you back from your dreams. It’s all up to you. If you hold yourself back, that’s on you, however.
Believe in Yourself
This connects with our last section: to achieve your deepest-held dreams and goals, you need to believe that you can reach them. If you have no belief in yourself, you will not be able to put in the effort necessary to make your dreams a reality. You will end up unhappy and lost, just as many who lose themselves along the way do.
Nothing is holding you back from your dreams but yourself! However, saying this and genuinely believing it are two different things. Some of us who are shy, unconfident, or who have been beaten down in our formative years don’t have this essential belief that many innately possess.
Zenhabits recommends these practical strategies to encourage belief in yourself:
- Push past the discomfort you feel.
- Put yourself out there, even if you’re afraid of being denied.
- Tune out your bad self-talk, and stick to what you’re good at.
- Keep sticking to it! Trust that your skills will carry you through. You can do this!
- Learn to feel okay with going into new situations blindly.
- Accept that it’s okay to fail and that you will
- Understand that you’re stronger than you think!
Even if you don’t believe it, you are a much greater person than you realize. Each one of us has the potential to achieve all of the dreams and goals within us, but we’re held back by the baggage that we accumulate throughout our lives. Learning to believe in yourself is an important first step to realizing the rest of the hopes, dreams, and wants that make you who you are.
Give Yourself a Break
A couple of times in this article so far, we’ve mentioned your “inner voice.” Inside many of us, we have a sense of doubt that keeps us from trying things that we might want to do – talking to a crush, for example.
This “inner voice” will no doubt hold you back from rediscovering yourself. You may have been conditioned to think that you don’t deserve to find yourself, or that no one will like your true self if you do find it. These thoughts are all just doubts, and all of them are unfounded.
Be aware that these doubts can come from those around you, as well. Whether the source is from malicious gossip or someone close to you, it’s best to either ignore the source or remove it if possible. In some situations, we can find it challenging to do either. It takes an exceptionally strong soul to rise above these situations, but it is nevertheless possible.
However, there is another option. Just give yourself a break! No one out there is perfect, and expecting yourself to get everything right all the time is an exercise in futility. Forgive yourself for not meeting the standards of your inner voice and those around you. This is okay!
The cornerstone of high achievement isn’t getting everything right on the first try. Believe it or not, it comes down to persistence rather than skill. Anyone who’s attained great success can attest to this. It’s okay to fail, and it’s okay to buck the expectations of others! Take this quote, for example, from Herbert Bayard Swope: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure – it is: Try to please everybody.”
This is not an excuse to let yourself fail when you don’t feel up to it or don’t feel like you can do it. However, it means you don’t need to be hard on yourself for anything other than what you want to achieve. Because, honestly, that’s all that matters!
Be Your Best Self
Being your “best self” might seem a bit vague to some. Indeed, the phrase can mean entirely different things to different people. However, that’s part of the beauty of it – your best self is not your friend’s best self, or your mom’s best self, or even your spouse’s best self. Their expectations of you do not matter one bit in the end – only yours do.
Despite being a bit different for everyone, your “best self” isn’t particularly hard to define. Try visualizing the person that you would be if you could do anything – if neither money nor time nor circumstance held you back. Where would you be? What would you do?
For many, this vision is a person with personal wealth. A common theme is having enough money to live comfortably, which is understandable. Aside from this, though, the vision can take on many forms. For some, it’s a great leader, a philanthropist who donates to the less fortunate and strives for change in the world. For others, smaller victories, like those of a missionary or person of faith, take precedence.
What we’re saying here is, to be your best self, you should try to be a good, moral person. These morals might differ slightly from person to person, but as humans, we are born with an innate sense of right and wrong. We should aim to maximize this sense of fairness through action and good deeds whenever we can.
Entrepreneur also recommends five tips to becoming your best self. They are as follows:
- Try new things
- Follow your dreams
- Stay motivated
- Capitalize on good habits
- Don’t forget self-care.
Several of the above we’ve already talked about in this article. You’ll find that, on the quest to finding yourself, many concepts intertwine or overlap. When you see it all laid out before you in black and white, it becomes rather easy to understand. The implementation, though, is where the challenge lies.
Surround Yourself with Positivity
Positive vibes are an incredible motivator. This is true for everyone on Earth, whether they like it or not! Someone who feels positive and upbeat is a measurably better worker than a negative person, and they both similarly impact their workplace. Positivity works the same way in your personal life, believe it or not. If you surround yourself with positive people, you will be far more motivated to reach your goals.
Sometimes, the journey to building a positive support circle can be long. Some of us start with positivity all around us when we’re born, but some of us don’t. This is part of the nature of the human condition; our unique circumstances can be good, bad, or neutral, and they affect how we develop and grow.
As we covered a bit earlier, removing bad influences from your life is an important first step. This isn’t all there is to it, though. Replacing those bad influences with good ones is just as important, or you may fall back into the same bad habits as before. As a wise old man once said, it’s dangerous to go alone.
While cutting the negative out of your life can sometimes be difficult and painful, surrounding yourself with positive influences is just the opposite. As you meet new people, you will naturally gravitate towards people of like minds, so if you foster a positive mindset, your new friends will, too. However, the same applies in the negative direction: if you keep a negative mindset, you will keep attracting bad influences.
Surrounding yourself with a healthy support system is not by any means a quick process, especially if you weren’t born into one. However, it will happen naturally over time if you’re serious about it. If you’d like to attract positive people to you, try doing the following:
- Start developing a positive mindset within yourself.
- Frequent places where the type of people you’d like to be friends with will gather.
- Be your authentic self whenever possible.
- Treat people how you would like to be treated.
- Maintain healthy friendships – don’t let important people drift out of touch, but in the same way, don’t beat a dead horse when a friendship isn’t working.
Perfection Is a Myth
One of the most challenging things for people to accept when trying to discover themselves is that they are not perfect. You never will be perfect, because pure, universal perfection is a myth.
Now, not all perfection is a myth. Subjective perfection is very real. However, your ideas of it need to be reasonable. For example, a person who never fails does not exist and is not achievable. However, you might like an idol of yours to perfection, such as a parent, close friend, or celebrity.
It’s important to remember that no one is perfect, and that no one will ever be perfect. However, if you take this into account, you may just become (or meet) one of your visions of perfection one day. You should always strive to be this perfect idea of yourself, as this plays an enormous role in the discovery of yourself. You will always have your “current self” and your “ideal self.”
Few people ever reach their “ideal self,” and for good reason. Your perfect, ideal self is not something that is meant to be achieved. Instead, it’s there to serve as an eternal goal, and it should change and grow as you do. As human beings, the struggle to become our ideal selves is eternal, yet noble. This is life.
From a more down-to-Earth standpoint, it’s also important to consider that most people don’t like those who constantly try to reach a universal flawlessness. These people tend to be fake and unlikeable. Many of us much prefer the company of someone real, reliable, and true to themselves. Being around these people is not only refreshing but also helpful in your quest to discover yourself.
Defining yourself can be a hard thing to pin down. Who are you? What are you? What do you stand for? To identify yourself, the above are all questions that you must answer. This can change over time, too; at one point in your life, you might be adventurous, rowdy, and starry-eyed, while in ten years, you might be relaxed, content, and kind. To define these character traits within yourself, you need first to determine what you stand for outside of yourself.
Ask yourself the tough questions. Are you pro-choice? Pro-life? Do you believe in equality for all peoples? Do you believe in active missionary work, or do you think we’re better off minding our own business? Do you subscribe to a faith, or do you cut your own path? There are innumerable questions you must take a stance on to define yourself, and more of these questions come to light every day.
This is part of the reason why we’re constantly growing and changing. If we don’t keep up with the world as it changes around us, we will eventually be left behind, struggling to find ourselves again.
The last important thing to remember in discovering yourself is that you must welcome this change. The ever-present evolution of the world around us is not something that can be stopped or slowed. You may be able to influence it, however, if you’re dedicated enough to your cause. If this is one of your dreams, then great! Changing the world is a noble, if lofty, aspiration.
You must welcome change both in the world and in yourself. As we grow older and our formative generations are left behind us, we may be hesitant to move forward with the times. Often, we’ll think that times were better when we were young, or that some things should never have changed to how they are now. This is an immutable fact of life: nothing stays the same forever.
If you hope to know yourself for the long-term, change is something that you cannot avoid. If you don’t embrace change, your sense of self will be left behind as the years go by, just like everything else. Wistfully looking back on your golden days is fine, but don’t let these precious memories taint your experiences today. After all, you never know what lessons might be just over the horizon.