One of the greatest adventures that many undertake is the journey of discovering who they really are as a person. Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher, said that the unexamined life is a waste of life itself but what does this really mean? After all, we know what we like, what we think ... don't we? We have our own personality ... or do we? This isn't as hippy babble or as wow-ee, zowee mystical as you may think. When we talk about self-discovery, we are simply speaking of the process of maturing and becoming our own unique person in the light of who we were uniquely created by God to be!
Take a moment and consider how our family influences us, how our education, economic status, friends, heroes and so forth. This can be positive and healthy, and sometimes not so helpful. These subtle and not so subtle forces often have a significant effect on our decisions and preferences. For example, many have chosen career paths due in no small part to our conditioned definition of success. How many of us work to achieve a particular body type or dress a certain way to conform to the ever-changing ideas of fashion and beauty? Perhaps in an effort to fit in, and compete for and maintain your rank relative to others in the community, we end up sacrificing who we uniquely, living life in the proverbial closet.
Somewhere under all the cultural graffiti is the real you. Buried under the influence of others to fit in, lies the organic personality and nature at the foundation of who you are. It is in this place we long to be known by others, but we fear being judged, ridiculed and excluded if we were authentically us. However, as we mature and experience life, many of us discover the vanity and insanity of living to please others. For many, they find themselves trapped living a life that is in many ways a lie, a facade that often leaves many lonely, afraid and restlessness. In many instances, feelings of depression and a deep sense of futility begin to creep in from the shadows of our life.
It will take real courage to explore, discover and accept who we really are - especially when what we discover may not fit so well with what is esteemed in our culture. The truth is just as there is a cost to not fitting in; there may be a greater cost by denying who you really are.
For what does it profit a person who gains the praises of all people yet loses themselves!
This journey of self-discovery is a courageous journey for sure, but a deeply rich, freeing and rewarding one. The journey to know who we are is all rooted deeply and inextricably in God. Through the divine lens of the love of God, we can be safely excavated and by the work of the Spirit, we not only discover who we really are but we can learn to accept and love who we are, and step out of the shadows into the light!
Here are a couple of thoughts and some starting places to help you along your way.
1. What do you want most? I am not talking about the fancy car, or winning the lottery! Take some time to consider your deepest wants. This could be to be loved, to love, a deep sense of personal meaning, rich relationships, to create something lasting or beautiful or something truly transcendent. Whatever it is, look for those things that if everything else was stripped away, you could still be content.
2. What do you think about most? What we spend the majority of time thinking about might give us a clue to the kinds of things that are genuinely important to us. While this may seem obvious in many cases, try reflecting upon why you like to spend time thinking about those things.
Note: Some thoughts can be toxic. These thoughts are often compulsive and tend to be fueled by fear, anger or some other kind of anxiety. While these kinds of thoughts are not directly indicators of your true self, they may be clues to help you uncover some areas of your life that are out of balance and in dealing with these fears and anxieties it may open up further insight to who you were created to be.
3. How do you use your money and leisure time? The Bible tells us that where our treasure is so is our heart! Simply, a good indication of what is really important to us is how we use our resources, especially our time and money. An honest reflection on where we spend our time and money can often be an effective tool to discern what we think is most important. These, of course, can be life-giving or life-draining. If we see a pattern that is not healthy, we can ask ourselves why? What is it we are trying to satisfy in our lives and is there a healthier way to do so? For example, if we are caught in keeping up with the Jones', asking ourselves why keeping up with them is so important to us and then look for healthier ways to satisfy those needs!
4. Who do you spend your time with? This can be really hard one! Many of us will tolerate toxic relationships for the sake of companionship, identity or status. Take an honest look at your relationships. If they are full of drama, negativity and alike, you can bet you too will have similar traits. It is a good idea to find friends and build relationships with folks who are generally positive, share similar interests and like you for who you are. Look for folks who will encourage you to grow and make healthy choices without controlling and manipulating you to do so their way!
5. Who and what do you admire? Have you ever stopped to consider the things you admire, respect and why? What is it about them that resonates with you? Perhaps it's courage, strength, talent, beauty, ideas, intellect, integrity or character. Consider allowing this inspiration to fuel the cultivation of those traits and gifts in your own life.
Caveat - it has been said that the best heroes are dead ones because dead ones can't disappoint us! Remember, that even the coolest, noblest people are just that - people. Like you and I, they have strengths and weaknesses.
6. What do you laugh at and what makes you cry? What kind of things genuinely move you? What are the kinds of things that cause you to erupt with loud guffaws and belly laughs, and what things touch your heart, releasing empathy and compassion? These can give us profound insight into who we are and where our passions lie.
Over time, and by reflecting on these simple starting places, we can begin to get a better understanding of who we are. Some things we may not like very much. These can be in one of two categories; the first being we may not see it as cool or esteemed in our culture and circles of relationships. Second, they may be things that when we see them for what they really are, they are not all that appealing anymore and will motivate us towards change. Regardless, life is a maturing and changing. Our needs and wants change as we mature. The kinds of things that are important to us change. As we live life, we discover more of who we are and deal with both the pleasing and not so pleasant.
Don’t miss this: I really like to encourage folks to do this prayerfully. Invite God into this exploration, look for the things in your life that the Father may be breathing on, those places in your life that you become aware of the presence of God. Don’t feel the need to rush or to force things, rather, resting in God trust that the good work He began in you; He will see through to completion!