Acknowledgements: This piece of writing was inspired by Scibabe’s article which I linked below. Bear in mind that I harbor no ill will towards self-help writers and life coaches, but the notion of ‘finding one’s self’ or awakening it as if it’s a compulsory temporary process bothers me. The bottom line is that the self-actualization we are looking for does not happen over a period, it happens throughout the entire life. We should stop wasting our time looking for that single experience that will stop our existential woes.
There is this amazing Wikihow entry to help you on your way to search for your lost soul. It details steps like waking your conscious, conquering your world, changing your perspective, and settling in for good. You start by finding out what you as an individual truly want by organizing ‘your world’, have time for yourself to discover a certain hidden passion or seek guidance, shifting into a ‘positive worldview’, and then somehow moving into your newfound knowledge and self. The piece is written with the best of intents for the human world and there is plenty of thought given when writing that is fueled with personal experience. On top of it, it is written in concise language and it is easy to understand!
To put things into perspective, the Wikihow entry basically laid down some general directions on how to develop a more positive outlook on life through developing unique strengths. It encourages people to think everyone has to be unique through this critical phase of letting go of everything and picking up different pieces to reboot themselves. It is as though the society and environment we were brought up in feed us obstacles and chained us from our ‘true callings’.
Was there anything wrong with the above? Everyone will almost certainly come across a point where they feel extremely uneasy with themselves and what they have become, and living lives that feels unfulfilled and hollow. That is when they desire change. Certainly something has to change? Certainly the ‘self’ is involved?
There are three major problems with the concept of ‘finding yourself’. First, it assumes that when one is uncomfortable, then he or she is lost and need to lose everything again to find themselves back. Second, it assumes there is a ‘true self’ or soul or will that is purely one’s own and has nothing to do with other factors. Thirdly, it portrays ‘finding yourself’ as a phase that a person endeavors like a preparation for a final exam.
There is no such thing as ‘finding your true self’. Only feeling comfortable about your self.
You have always been yourself, and will always be. We may put on different ‘masks’ in different scenarios, where we believe our true selves lie underneath them and they get lost because they are buried under too many ‘masks’. I would like to think that every masks we are wearing is a projection of who we are and who we want to be.
There are things in your life or personal world that needs changing. Maybe you need to reevaluate the worth of the sports car you have been eyeing and working your ass off for, or maybe, you just need a different plan to get there. Maybe what you want is just a different paint or sticker on your current car. The world, not only physical, but even social and personal, is made of different outcomes fueled by complex decisions. The solution to the problems does have to not lie in the one big change achieved through giving up your current circumstances and looking all over the horizon for ‘your true self’. More often than not, it lies right in you to embrace the problem as part of yourself.
Self-actualization never ends.
In the context of ‘finding yourself’, it means that you will never find it. You will always be lost.
That is because we are all beings fueled to life by impulses and wants, and as long we have them we can never feel truly ‘our self’. Which is ironic on its own, because ‘finding yourself’ is also a big ‘need’ item on the personal checklist. Either you stop having desires like a true Buddhist monk, or you admit that it is fine to have desires and be upset for not achieving them.
It really is fine.
It is fine to have more and more pursuits in life that may overwhelm you. It is fine to give up on some of these pursuits. It is also fine to grow old and weary of ambitious pursuits and settle for a simple life with simple pleasures. Yet, it is also fine to charge right into them without looking back and possibly not see to its end.
It is fine to want to develop new passions that are merely cool and nor practical. It is fine to be disinterested about talents that are not profitable or simply not proud about.
Becoming comfortable with one’s self is a life long process. So forget about having a one off and costly adventure to ‘find yourself’ and be happy forever. In truth, you have never left that journey and will never leave as long as you breath and think.
The things that need finding are values: honesty and courage.
I don’t want end on a nihilistic note so I decide to be more cliche: every obstacle in life becomes an obstacle when we want to avoid it. We feel uneasy about them when we we are not able to honestly acknowledge our role in them. We feel uncomfortable when we are fearful about letting things being the way they are.
So stop worrying about having to find yourself. The fact that you can think about that means that you are in greater control of your self than you imagine. What needs finding is your reasons to be honest and to embrace your fears and allow yourself to feel the edginess of the world. Then only you will be see if the world may be allowed to feel your own rough edges and decide if you want them smoothed out.
Go on that adventure if you feel the need to.
Find a place to be yourself if you feel you need to. Change to another career you may be not familiar with if you feel the need to. But remember that you have never left your pursuit in finding your self and purpose, and will probably never graduate from it. Don’t get sold on the idea of ‘finding yourself’ in a foreign environment too quickly. If anything, the very thought or idea that may put you at ease with your fears and discomfort is very unlikely to be far our of reach.
We still don’t have all the answers in the world.
But do yourself a favor and refrain from rushing on the costly train of re-booting your life and ‘abandoning your fake self’ so that you can somehow be happy forever. Embrace the fact that we are impulsive and needy, if not greedy, and acknowledge that we may be driven by these for the rest of our lives. Unfortunately I can write nothing inspirational about this, but we will always be bothered by our greed for ‘higher purposes’. Still, our purpose in this vast cosmos doesn’t need finding, only our own acknowledgement.
Why Finding Yourself Is Bullshit by Yvette D’Entremont, aka SciBabe.