A common phrase you hear is ‘I need to find myself’. This quest to find oneself can arise at different stages in one’s life. Maybe it is triggered at the end of your studies where you have this urge to travel and explore your place in the world. Or perhaps for some it might happen after a significant event occurred such as at the end of a long-term relationship or a loss of a loved one.
Self as an Identifiable Object
When we speak about the need to find oneself, we take on a certain notion. That the ‘self’ is something that can be defined. But what does it truly mean to find oneself? For rather than being a fixed object that could be named or identified, are we in fact not a living organism that is constantly evolving based on both outside and inside forces?
Inherited Roles and Identities
It is natural to think of the self as something that can be defined, for our lives and identity has already been predetermined from the moment we were born. We are either born as a girl or a boy and with that are given a set of expectations of what being one or the other means.
Then there are the familial roles we receive as being someone’s daughter or son, (in some cases also one’s sister or brother), and are taught to live according to an inherited set of values.
As we go through life and make our way into the world, we unwittingly take on more roles that each come with their own set of unspoken rules. From becoming someone’s significant other, husband or wife to the occupational roles we take on. It is then not surprising that as we live out our various roles and identities a dissonance can arise between the expectations our environment places upon us and our own inner desire to express who we believe to be.
The Follow Your Passion Movement
This dissonance can manifest in different ways. Perhaps you chose a study not based on your personal interest, but on what your parents desired for you. Maybe you are doing a job because of its social esteem rather than a personal interest. Perhaps the relationship you are in was partly influenced by what would be a responsible choice rather than what your heart was telling you.
All too often we hear media and the self-help movement spur us on to ‘follow our passion’, to ‘just be yourself’ or ‘live life on our terms’. But this is so much easier said than done. Especially when a large part of your happiness is derived from seeing your loved ones happy. How does one reconcile these seemingly conflicting forces and still stay true to oneself?
Living According to Your Values
Perhaps, the quest shouldn’t be so much about finding oneself. Recognising that it might not serve you to fix your identity to one thing. Maybe the real question should be to ask yourself ‘what are my values?’ and what are the ones that I inherited circumstantially? How does the life I live help me live in alignment with those values and if there is a gap, what do I need to change? Roles can come and go. Just like the things you once identified yourself with may change as you grow and evolve.
Aligning with Your Inner Compass
When you choose to live consciously in accordance with your values, then the defining of your identity or role becomes less important. When we choose to live our lives guided by our own inner compass we are able to navigate more clearly through the tides and waves of the expectations placed upon us by our surroundings. We can then recognise that the self was never lost in the first place, it was there all along just waiting to be seen.