The question of “who am I?” can be so intimidating to think about, let alone answer! Do we need to know who we are to have a fulfilling life? Yes and no! When asking yourself this question it’s important to keep in mind that flexibility is key. We are always growing and changing and so allowing room for our understanding of ourselves to also grow and change is key.
If you ask yourself right now “Who am I” and can’t come up with an answer- that's okay! The beauty of life is that we get to learn and explore as we go along. What isn’t okay is forgetting to be curious about ourselves, who we are, and what we value as people.
Curiosity over judgement
We learn our values and about who we are in a variety of ways. Our parents (and society) work to instill values in us they find important. It's our job to learn along the way whether we feel those values and reactions fit in with who we are and who we’d like to be. Curiosity about how we act and react, what we hold dear, and what we believe is fundamental in the process of self discovery. When looking at our own actions it can be helpful to ask ourselves- what was I trying to gain or avoid by doing what I did? Did I feel shame and want to not feel that? Was I needing love or connection? By exploring our actions and thoughts with curiosity as opposed to judgement we open the door to being able to explore who we are- shame free!
So, how do we start finding ourselves? Start small! Ask yourself what kinds of foods do I like? When did I realize I liked those? Does this song make me happy? Remind me of something? What textures of clothing do I feel most comfortable in? Simpler questions like these can help pave the way for practicing asking yourself larger or more loaded ones.
Alone, but not lonely
Another tactic towards self discovery is to spend time alone. This can be triggering- but alone does not have to mean lonely! Do you find yourself good company? What sort of things do you like doing? If you don't know, then this is the perfect time to experiment with a new hobby (think plants or cooking or crafts). Trying something new then sitting with the questions of whether you liked it, whether it made you happy or uncomfortable, whether you find yourself looking for someone else to tell you what to do or enjoy will ALL inform you on your exploration to a deeper understanding of yourself.
How am I responding?
When trying something new we give ourselves a bunch of opportunities to explore our own immediate reactions. During this time, it can be helpful to ask yourself where you think these reactions come from. Did I feel embarrassed when I couldn't get the hang of this new skill? Where did I learn to be embarrassed at struggling? Who taught me that? By exploring these questions we give ourselves the opportunity to get familiar with these automatic responses. The more familiar we are, the more we are able to explore whether we truly hold that value or if it is simply one we have picked up along the way either from family, peers, or society at large. It’s up to you to create and discover your own sense of self. While it can be a scary process, getting to know yourself can help you approach others with a similar open mind and only serve to deepen and enrich all your relationships.
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