People are every bit as poetic and picture-perfect as autumn trees. Our roots (where we come from), branches (our potential), and leaves (our varied, multicolored impact on this world) paint breathtaking scenery. However, what do you do when the sky in the landscape gets clouded, something is stirring in the air, and you’re not entirely certain whether it’s the simple calm before the storm or the hurricane itself?
Identity crisis or evolution?
Who we are is a spectrum that forms under many different circumstances. Our experiences, relationships, beliefs, values, and memories all play a role in shaping our subjective sense of self. Our past and present, the changing seasons of our lives, who we love, who loves us, and what we hold dear in our hearts contribute to a self-concept which psychologist Carl Rogers believed was made up of three different parts:
- Self-image: How you perceive physical features, personality traits, and your role in society.
- Self-esteem: How much you like, accept, and value yourself.
- Ideal Self: Who you want to be.
It’s important to note that self-discovery is not only reserved for our teenage years or adolescence. It is perfectly normal to wake up one day in your 30s, 40s, 50s and so on, and question your entire reality. These are very often moments of profound revelation and an incentive to change. Welcome this energy with open arms, it will help you define your place in this world and what you want out of life.
It might not seem like it, but feeling lost can be a blessing in disguise. When you accept your difficult feelings, sooner or later they will form a map to answers and dispel the fog of doubt. Trust the peculiar state you are in, it’s part of the evolution of your self-concept. And while learning to identify who you are takes time, here is what you can do to speed up the process.
Mourn your childhood
Especially if you never had one. Regardless, buckets of childhood enthusiasm will generally make your life magical. Yet, maybe it’s not enough. Maybe what you need to do is everything that you were deprived of as a kid. You decide what to do with the money your hard work has earned you. Is it time for a trip to Disneyland? Would you like to buy a 3D model of the solar system to hang in your bedroom? Because you can. All it takes is for you to realize that innocent happiness is a choice. Blow bubbles in the garden, color in a picture book (and not the grown-up version), roll in the grass, dress up for Halloween, and eat dessert before dinner once in a while.
To find who you are now, start at the beginning: give your inner child a hug.
If your childhood was a happy one, and we sincerely hope it was, to reconnect with those innocent moments of bliss, grab a journal and write down your memories to relive them. Going back to a simpler time of purity and uninterrupted joy might help you make sense of the here and now and also draw strength from who you were back then. Dig into your past to comprehend the present. Usually, life can be understood backwards.
Do a headstand
Embracing change is one of the healthiest practices. After all, change is the only constant. But what if you spiced things up a little? Breathed a bit of fresh air into your life? Sometimes we need to look at reality from a different perspective, and while that might mean something else for you and us, really give thought to new experiences and the silliest of solutions. We’re talking literal headstands, or climbing up the stairs to the highest floor of the highest building in your area. Change your angle, shift your perspective, and move in a different direction for a while. Sometimes we need the tiniest shock to our system to gain new insights.
Trust your gut
Your body knows, and your heart knows, even if you do not yet know. The truth of who you are lies deep within, it’s ancient wisdom. How do you dig it up? Whenever you make a decision about your life, another piece of the puzzle gets uncovered. Challenge yourself to new experiences and pay attention to your intuition and bodily signals whenever you ponder doing or not doing something. Does your choice make you feel expansive or contracted? That’s your clue, follow it, analyze it, and store it in your memory. These hints, gut feelings, your sixth sense, if you will, create a coherent picture of your dreams, values, and core beliefs.
Leave yourself alone
Spending quality alone time is a self-exploration meditation. Which does not necessarily mean sitting cross-legged on the floor for an hour at 4am (although it might, it’s up to you). Intentional solitude is reading a good book in your favorite armchair on a Friday night, taking a gratitude walk in nature, or journaling in a semi-peopled coffee shop. Aloneness brings freedom from pressure, judgment, unsolicited advice, criticism, intrusive curiosity of others, and the burden of expectations. Are there any better circumstances to ask all the “who am I” questions?
When you reach your authentic self, you will cease feeling lonesome. You’ll become your best friend.
Ready, set… relax
We are not, nor will we ever be machines, but even devices need recharging. Running on fumes will take you further away from who you really are. Self-care is not selfish, it’s absolutely vital for our wellbeing for a number of reasons. For example, even though we believe in the good in people, there’s no guarantee those you meet on your path will be kind to you. You need to conjure kindness for yourself. Take care of your body, mind, and soul. Slow down, breathe, simplify to amplify. That means a proper nighttime routine, no work on weekends, more mindful family time, investing in new friendships and new hobbies, or staring at the ceiling, daydreaming. Give yourself a break to reach the stillness within you. This is you.
If you wake up in the morning feeling lost, it might well be temporary, tomorrow things may get back to normal. Still, one of those days you could actually enter a period of intense analysis and exploration leading to the integration of a brand new self-image, self-esteem, and your ideal self. This more coherent version of you, the YOU 2.0, will be more capable of rediscovering your North Star.
As soon as you know who you are and where your core values lie, find the courage to be yourself unapologetically. Only then will all the elements of your happiness fall into place with a satisfying click.