It would seem that one of the most instantly recognizable ancient Greek aphorisms – know thyself – is also the most wholesome piece of advice we could possibly get. And yet, it’s loaded with so much meaning that it might scare some of us into running the other way. Especially in this day and age, when the abundance of unprecedented possibilities – while a blessing – might also be distracting and overwhelming.
What’s more, it’s one thing to know who you are, and another to keep knowing. What if while wearing many hats, we also put on many masks? What if the challenges and demands of life derail our truth? It’s way too easy to get lost. If you feel like your inner compass is confused right now, you need to recalibrate. Here’s how.
The Tamagotchi Approach
Whether we like it or not, reconnecting with yourself begins with the most basic of needs. Is it time for a healthy snack? Are you warm? Did you sleep well? You’ll be unable to think or feel straight on an empty stomach, with a brain that is dehydrated and tired, or if your other physiological needs have been left unattended. Your identity is built on the pillars of your overall well-being.
Some of us Millennials certainly remember the Tamagotchi – a small, egg-shaped toy from the late 90s that played home to an electronic pet we were supposed to keep alive. We had to tend to those little pixel creatures, feed them, and make them happy so they could grow and evolve through training. You see what we’re getting at, right? We are our Tamagotchis now.
Redrawing the Circle
Humans are herd animals, we need to stick together to survive. But who we hang out with matters. Those closest to us have the power to shape our lives in more ways than one because we influence each other’s opinions, feelings, beliefs, and dreams. Hence, we can serve as somebody’s motivation only for them to be our downfall in return.
We need to choose our circles wisely to make sure the people we surround ourselves with bring us closer to who we really are. Look for positive signs. Do your friends and family reassure your value? Do they criticize what you do only in a constructive manner? Are you genuinely happy in their presence? Then keep those angels close. Otherwise, abandon ship.
The Family Suite
Family comes in all shapes and sizes and chosen kindred spirits are still very much family. Because some of us are born into loving and supportive environments, and some of us learn how to fill the gaps left by our flesh-and-blood with self-love and self-compassion. One thing is for sure – your bloodline does not define you. Sometimes the apple falls far from the tree and we need to grow a whole new tree ourselves.
Speaking of trees – if you’re one of the lucky ones, with blood family to be proud of, your genealogy may tell you a lot about who you are. Look to the past. Learn more about your ancestors. Those who came before you and are no longer here might still communicate with you one way or another. Whatever questions you have about yourself, your ancestral history may hold some answers.
Go It Alone
In order to stay well and connected to yourself, you must put your needs before those of others (as often as necessary). Learn to say no to overwhelm. No, there’s no need for you to be on Instagram 24/7 for your audience. No, you don’t have to see that extremely talkative friend for the 3rd time this week if all you feel is the opposite of excitement. No apologies necessary. You’ll be unable to be there for others anyway if you abandon yourself in the process.
This leads us to intentional solitude. There are no better conditions to reconnect with your authenticity than when you are alone with it. No need to become a recluse, but tone down the noise of other people’s opinions, judgments, and expectations if you want to hear your most genuine voice.
To Do or Not To Do
Take a breath and evaluate your to-do list. Is everything on it still relevant and 100% necessary to accomplish? Some things we do on autopilot, simply because they’re everyday endeavors. Maybe it’s time to deep clean your routine and make some space for more stillness?
However, if the whole list of tasks needs to be realized, aim at productivity. If you let yourself get buried under a pile of unfulfilled obligations and responsibilities, there will be no room for you. The noise in your head will overpower your clarity and freedom of thought and you’ll find yourself slowly but surely drifting away from who you are. Reducing speed isn’t laziness.
The realest you lives within you. In order to find your way back to yourself, you need to self-analyze and nothing says introspection more than journaling. Put your faith in the blank page. It’ll listen to whatever you have to say with endless patience. No need to be a writer or a wordsmith. The simplest sentences will still open the door to your self-awareness.
If you feel like you’ve lost yourself, you need to decipher a map back to your buried treasure. One pen stroke at a time, the path will be revealed to you if you can muster the courage to let the inner you speak on paper. As Margaret Atwood said, “A word after a word after a word is power”. If you’re already an avid journaler, read your past entries. That’s reconnecting with yourself in the most literal sense.
Travel Broadens the Mind
If you struggle to write about what’s happening inside you, start with keeping a record of daily events. Aside from a notebook serving as your external memory, you’ll build writing momentum that will, after a while, lead you where you’ve never been before. Where? Only you can find out.
We suggest starting a travel journal. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost”. What if we tried wandering to get found? No need for a fancy exotic vacation, just leave the house for a change of scenery, then write all about it. On the corner of New Street and Novel Avenue, there awaits a fresh perspective required for an improved sense of self.
The Story Goes
It sounds pretty poetic, feeling lost, doesn’t it? It’s because this kind of disorientation has been the leitmotif in art since the dawn of time. If you’re feeling stranded in your own mind and heart, try working through the problem in the context of a story and artistic meaning. Put it in a dialogue between characters in your book, weave it into the fabric of your painting, or sing it out at a karaoke night – let your true self find its way back to you through creative expression.
To know thyself is a huge accomplishment. Especially because for such ever-evolving creatures like us, self-awareness is one of the most elusive parts of our being. And since we’re all different, there’s no one formula for concocting a new sense of self, no straight line we could all follow to regain our footing in life.
On top of that, we might go through all this trouble only to find an incarnation of ourselves that we need to let go of because it no longer serves our purpose. Unbecoming is a form of becoming, starting over is a rebirth of sorts. Yet, if you feel like you’ve strayed too far from your path, seek professional help to solidify yourself. Diamonds are hard to shape but they are forever.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” – Henry David Thoreau