"...you lose yourself, you reappear, you suddenly find you got nothing to fear..." -Bob Dylan
Self-discovery. Two little words that pack a big punch. The journey can be as elusive as the search for the Holy Grail ( but with fewer chalices and more confusion). I view self-discovery in different stages. They don't necessarily always go in this order, but I've found that these stages are always present. It's the circle of life, my friends!
1. Who the hell am I?
The age old question that generally begins with you falling down the rabbit hole. Maybe you started to feel unsettled in yourself and not sure why. I mean, everything on paper looks right, so why would you feel restless? Oh man, are you ready to pull on that thread? And so begins the deeper questioning of your life. If this usually makes me happy, why doesn't it anymore? My journey with self-discovery started when I realized that my interests were very different from my peers. I don't have an exact starting point, but let's just say I was reading about ways to communicate with spirits in 7th grade. Every middle school kid needs a hobby, right? It's safe to say I know what it's like to feel different. Being in that place of "feeling different" helped to define who I was. If I don't fit in with the people around me, where do I fit in? This question kept leading into being curious about things that interested me. The answer ALWAYS turned out to be: I better feel comfortable in myself.
When you begin to think outside of the box that you've been in, or thought you had to be in, the potentials are unlimited. Figuring out what made sense to me through music (looking at you, Bob Dylan), books (the Religion and Self-Help section is where I took my lunch break at Borders) and interactions with different people all helped to keep me wanting to explore. Once you open your mind to a new experience, it can't go back to how it was. Well, maybe through enough denial or distraction, but when your eyes are opened to something, you want to keep having more moments that say, "this makes sense to me."
2. Who's around me?
Or better yet, "why am I all alone?" Isolation can definitely be felt during discovering yourself. It makes sense that the person you've always been is trying on new skin, so naturally you'd feel different about the people surrounding you. You become more in touch with how you feel when you're around certain people. Maybe that lifelong friendship suddenly doesn't hold the same importance as it did before. Maybe your new standard for a friendship/relationship involves more honesty and level of comfort with expressing a new part of yourself. Can that other person accept a new version of you? Are they capable of that? Are you capable of taking a risk on showing them? I've been through this phase, a handful of times, and know that it can feel lonely. I also know that I'd rather feel lonely than alone when I'm surrounded by other people. I don't just need a stand-in body in the room. It's about wanting authentic connection. When you have those moments when someone understands you and you understand them, it's hard to settle for a relationship less than that it.
Redefining the relationships in your life is an easy starting place. Maybe that person you've always considered a friend is more of an acquaintance. By redefining the relationship in your own mind, you take the pressure off of being unfulfilled. I have countless experience with the ebb of flow of growth and loneliness. Some friendships come back around and serve the purpose that they're meant to, others it's easier to let go of. A lot of this is just about being honest enough with yourself. I guarantee that when you start living from the place of being yourself, you'll attract more like-minded people. Trust me! That's how energy works. When you clear out old energy (friendships/relationships no longer serving you), you make room for what you actually want. And no, I'm not advising cutting off all forms of communication with your circle of people, there's no need to drop out of socializing. But having awareness of which relationships are ones you actually want to grow or not is always worth taking a look at.
3. Where am I going?
That's the biggest question (but sometimes the best). I remember after an illness when it was time to set off and jump-start my next life step after lots of contemplation. How exciting! How terrifying! I felt like I had this blank slate in front of me and I was moment-by-moment torn between: "Wow, a blank slate that I can create into ANYTHING I want, it's so open!" And, "An entirely blank slate...with nothing on it...and I can create it into...anything? It's so overwhelming." *cue me hiding under the covers* The good news about figuring out what to do with your newfound sense of self is that you're approaching life from a clearer perspective. That always helps. Maybe you don't need to make a drastic change in order to accommodate your new ways of being into your life, maybe you need minor tweaks. What's one small way that would support your new self realizations? Sometimes talking to a person who is a great listener helps. Even if they haven't been through the exact situation, having a safe confidant is powerful in feeling seen. It reminds us that we're not alone. And everybody needs to remember and experience that.
Another question to ask is, "what makes you feel most like yourself?" You already know, even if you feel like you don't, you really do have some inkling. Is that something meditation, helping others, playing music, doing something creative, learning a new skill, moving your body, hugging trees (just me?). This can look different for everyone. Once you start with one small thing, it will have a ripple effect.
I know I have a sweet spot between being out in the world and having meaningful connections and also needing alone time. Call it introversion, enjoying my own company, or just really not wanting to go out after dark in the winter because you believe hibernation isn't just for animals (5pm is an acceptable time for pajamas, right? Asking for a friend). Whatever your big or small next move is, do it honestly. Self-discovery is all about knowing what you do and don't want, and having the desire and awareness to act differently. Stay curious and be easy with yourself, we're all on this journey together, even when we're at different stages.
meet the author: Kara Laudenslager
Hello, I'm Kara! I'm an Energy Healing Practitioner, Transformational Coach and unapologetic tree hugger. I believe that getting to know ourselves is our greatest gift and responsibility in this life. Create the life you want by first knowing who is doing the creating.