Life’s all about the learning

April 22, 2012 4:43 pm

Finding yourself can feel scary and complicated, but it doesn't have to be

What does it mean to “find yourself”?

This term has been thrown around in various contexts throughout my life and I believe that it’s not until you actually have to do it that you understand exactly what it means. However, I think the term is limited.

Listening to somebody’s woes, they may have to find themselves to move on. Understanding somebody’s lack of self-confidence, they may have to find themselves to grow as a person. Empathising with somebody’s relationship problems, they may have to find themselves to understand what they want in a partner.

These three examples shine a light on just part of what it could mean to find yourself. But as I said before; the term is limited. You don’t answer all the questions in your life with one quick “finding yourself” excursion; it may happen one at a time. You may “find yourself” and realise what your passions are years before you “find yourself” and understand what you want in a partner. Who would have thought that it would take so much time and energy to understand your own heart and mind?

Finding yourself, or at least part of yourself, happens in all sorts of ways. Depending on who you are, what your personality is like and what you’re sure of or unsure of in life, it could happen in any form, at any time. As far as I can see, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the best way to learn about who you are is to take yourself out of your everyday situation. Step back from the temporary relationships and be alone for a while. Do something new. Take a trip to a country you’ve never visited. Travel the world. Help people less fortunate than yourself. Try a new hobby or career. Challenge yourself. That way, when you focus your energy on something other than the gap you’ve been trying to fill, whatever it may be, your subconscious will have done all the hard work. Once you sit back and start to rethink about what you’ve been through, you’re sure to realise, “of course I want to pursue a career in marketing!” or “being alone has made me realise that I need a man that respects my independence”. It’s amazing what you can figure out without even thinking.

Teaching, volunteering, travelling or simply learning a new skill could all help you learn new things about yourself

From my own experience, moving away from home and travelling round South America made me realise what kind of challenges I could face and, therefore, what kind of person I actually am. Obviously, stepping off the plane in Ecuador was terrifying; I didn’t understand the language or customs and I needed to barter with the taxi drivers to get me a decent deal. It was scary and unfamiliar, but I was forced to deal with it. I had put myself in a situation where I had to step up. I was surrounded by my friends – because finding yourself doesn’t have to be a solo task – and I did it. I spent a month away from home in a country I had no idea about, trekking, volunteering and experiencing a totally new way of life. When I came home, without even realising, I was more confident, more worldly and more willing to try new things. I know that at some point in the future as I grow up and face new challenges, chances are I will have to do something to find myself, or a different part of myself, once more. To find out what I want for a career, to find out what kind of relationship I want for the rest of my life, or even to find out which country I want to live in.

Finding yourself is a continuous task that circulates all the way through life. At 16, it’s about figuring out what it’s like to be interested in members of the opposite sex. At 18, it’s about becoming an adult and taking on new responsibilities. At 45, it’s about learning how to live without the children you’ve spent your life raising. It is, and should be, continuous; it’s exciting at the same time as being scary! Discovering something new about yourself is often the most interesting thing that you can learn.

Saying that, it’s not always simple and it takes varying forms for everyone. Often, it’s not even a conscious decision; moving into university halls, for example, is just what happens when you choose to further your education. This in itself, although it’s not an active decision to find yourself, always makes you realise parts of your personality that you hadn’t realised were prominent: your ability to cook for yourself, your ability to make friends and your ability to live without the comforts of mum and dad. It’s certainly character building and always a nice surprise to know that you don’t have to actively take on a new skill or spend six months in Africa volunteering to realise who you are. Both methods are fine, little-by-little or one grand experience, as they affect everyone differently. Stepping outside of your comfort zone works wonders for your confidence.

Life’s all about the learning. So provided you’re safe and healthy, make the most of all the opportunities you find yourself in as they come along. With some luck, you’ll learn exciting new things about yourself that you never realised existed. With that, the rest should fall into place. But hey, even if it doesn’t, it’s just another experience that will undoubtedly teach you more about yourself. It’s a win-win situation.

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