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Self-discovery is a topic with whole lotta layers.
I mean, at first glance, it seems simple, right? How can you not know who you are? It’s you. Duh.
But, as many of us have come to realize, it’s not that simple. A lot of us ask ourselves, “How do I discover my true self?”, which often leads to, “What does it mean to discover myself?”
Well, let’s take a minute to break this thing down… All the way down.
The literal definition of self-discovery, according to The American English Dictionary, is:
“becoming aware of one’s true potential, character, motives etc.”
After reading that, we might have a better idea of what it means intellectually. However, if you’re anything like me a few years ago, you still have no clue how the hell to use that information – how does it apply to real life? What are the actionable steps towards this awareness?
As I began to seek the answers to those questions, it became obvious that I wasn’t facing an easy task. I had an inkling of who I was, and what my purpose might be; but, year after year, life-challenged what I thought I knew. Every twist and turn brought less certainty.
This journey that I was about to embark on would be one of the most challenging – yet gratifying – experiences of my life so far.
Setting Out to Self-Discovery
My self-discovery journey began as I started to analyze the personal and internal conflicts in my life. What was my part in causing these conflicts, I wondered? What were my flaws?
I had to look inwards to find answers to external issues. I had to identify all the internal struggles that were holding me back and stopping me from reaching my potential.
Basically, I had to get real with myself. Look in the mirror and try to honestly evaluate what was going on.
I didn’t like all that I saw. The anger, bitterness, insecurities, shame, unforgiveness, self-doubt, fear of failure, anxiety about other people’s opinions… where did all of this come from?
But there was a lot of good, too, and I enjoyed time traveling to revisit what spawned the best of me. Creativity, resilience, courage, empowerment, motivation, strategy, and an entrepreneurial spirit. All of that was worth looking at again, too.
Self-discovery means going back and examining the good, the bad and the ugly of your early life. You must uncover and discover, finding out exactly what made you you.
These revelations – the process of self-discovery – allow you to fully comprehend the impact of your experiences. How did your history shape your current belief system? How did certain events affect your values? Who and what had the most impact on your personal set of ethics?
The further down the road to self-discovery you get, the more you learn. The more you learn, the clearer your head feels. This might sound simple, but it can prove difficult to grasp. I say this because the journey of self-discovery is not a comfortable ride. You’re going to be tackling fear, confusion, misunderstanding, and doubt about everything you thought you knew about yourself. You’re going to be hiking over a mountain of discomfort.
I know what you’re thinking. This self-discovery journey is supposed to be enlightening! Joyous, happy! Well, it is, so don’t worry. But we’re not there yet.
As I said: the further along this journey you go, the clearer things will be. But this clarity will provoke some tough decisions. For example, you might start to distance yourself from toxic people in your life; begin tough conversations with loved ones; reevaluate the things you spend your time on.
You may begin to see that some people who you thought of as in your corner weren’t. Not really. This can be super painful, but it releases you as their hold on you is loosened.
Clarity is a new set of lenses. As anyone who got glasses after years of short-sightedness knows, the new view is amazing – but not everything you see is pleasing!
Your self-discovery journey will, more than likely, trigger a change of course in your life as well. The closer you are to finding your true self, the closer you are to your true purpose. And it isn’t often that we find our calling before we find ourselves. In fact, your life may be very far removed from the path you need to take to your fulfillment.
The silver lining I’ve been hinting at lies here: your new-found clarity, arrived at after painful self-reflection, childhood reminiscing and flaw correcting, is what will help you find your true passion. Better still, you’ll know how to work towards it.
Discovering Your Purpose
All of us, although we are different in so many ways, carry the same desire.
We want to know why. Why were we born? Why are we here? What, exactly, is our assignment on this planet?
Many of us float through life without the answer. We don’t have a compass, so we live without direction. For example:
- Pursuing careers that don’t fulfill us
- Reading books that don’t speak to us
- Acting on impulse that harms us
- Creating goals with no substance
- Being in relationships (personal and professional) with people we would have been better avoiding
Here’s another “why”: why in the world do we do these things?
The answer is simple. When we have not yet uncovered our purpose in life, we will often – and repeatedly – make decisions that don’t align with our true selves. Our purpose gives life meaning and so, without it, our actions become meaningless.
Purpose is our higher calling and our gift to the rest of the world. It allows us to live consciously – not on autopilot, but fully in control of ourselves.
So, we come to the big question.
How Do I Find My Purpose?
I’m no guru, but I can share some key factors that helped me as I sought my own purpose.
Your purpose is not a gift you can receive from another person. It lies within you. Only you can find it – and only you will know it when you see it.
That said, there are lots of people who don’t know how to begin searching inside themselves for something so seemingly abstract. That’s okay – it’s why we’re on this page right now. We’ll start with some questions.
What Are Your Values?
What are your core beliefs? What are your personal ethics? What, put simply, do you stand for? Some of the values I pinpointed in myself were:
What Do You Love to Do?
What are you passionate about? Is there something in your life you’d do for free, just for the joy or the fulfillment of it? What do you look forward to and – just as importantly – look back on with pride?
What Angers You?
What are the things in this world you wish to change? What seems unjust, unfair, or evil to you? Why?
If You Won the Lottery…
What would you do? Exclude the “everyone” answers like travel, paying off debt, buying a house and so on. Let’s assume you got that sorted already. What’s next on the agenda?
This discovery process will help you create a personal vision: a portrait of your inner self. Take the time to answer them, thoroughly and honestly (write the answers in a journal, if it helps!) and find the inspiration within your own core self.
Do the work and you will be able to point to the things that are most important to you – and start to work out why you value those things. From there, you get traction toward discovering your purpose and, with it, the person you are truly meant to become.
The Wrap Up
By now (assuming you’ve spent time on the above), you have a much better understanding of you are and what your calling is.
From here, you can begin to honestly (and harshly) examine your life to measure the distance between who and where you are now, and what you will become. It’s up to you to manifest this destiny, but it’s a whole lot easier with the roadmap of self-discovery.
Because, of course, the journey doesn’t end here. We are always evolving. We must master each level of our lives.
Once you’ve captured the alter ego on one level, it’s time to ascend. Maybe the personality traits they displayed before are no longer needed or need alteration. Perhaps they need to be more aggressive, more subtle, more charismatic or more nonchalant.
Whatever happens, they will continue to help you on your journey towards self-actualization. It’s a constant, ever-evolving process.
What I know for sure is that this journey is worth taking. By using your Superhero Alter Ego to get you there, you are sure to reach your potential. You will find every tool to become who you were created to be.