“Who are you?” Remember when Alice couldn’t answer this question when asked by the caterpillar? The caterpillar became very frustrated but Alice insisted she’d changed so much since coming to Wonderland she didn’t know who she was anymore. While it’s unlikely the majority of us have fallen down a rabbit hole recently, Lewis Carrol’s logic is sound. As humans, we are constantly shifting and changing. We are always evolving, and the person I am now doesn’t remember my childhood self in more ways than one. The biggest mistake a person can make, however, is existing outside of themselves. Maybe they don’t allow themselves to evolve the way they have, holding onto their childhood selves when they should break free, maybe they focus too much n what is trendy or cool that they ignore their own tastes and opinions, or maybe they simply feel pressured by their families, friends, or society to act a way contrary to who they truly are. But I challenge you, right here and now, to ask yourself “Who am I?” Because the answer may surprise—and liberate—you.
I don’t think we think enough about who we really are. We put on different masks around the different groups of people we interact with, professional at work, uninhibited with friends, successful around families. We have become expert social chameleons at the expense of our true selves, and we hardly realise it. The reason I challenge you to find your true self is that it can free you from the confines of those fake identities. We may not realise how exhausting shifting our personalities truly is until we resolve to stop. Coming to terms with the true version of urself can also greatly increase your happiness. You can become involved in activities you truly love rather than those you believe you should be involved with. It can also increase your positivity and outlook on life. If you allow yourself to focus on yourself and your own happiness, you will be able to find yourself more in the world around you. You will enjoy the world more, and you will feel happier and more comfortable in yourself, thereby increasing your own mental health and well-being.
Asking yourself “who am I?” can take some serious introspection. It’s a hard question to answer, and no-one is ever going to tell you that it’s easy. But there are some simple ways to analyse who you truly are. We all have that one outfit or even piece of clothing that we feel really good in—find more items of clothing like that or wear the outfit more often. Allow yourself to feel good, really good, when you leave the house. Try to only buy things if it really and truly brings you joy, and not simply because you kind of like it. This step in particular will take some mindfulness techniques to figure out but you’ll start loving more of your possessions and save money in the process, thereby alleviating financial stress. Stop reading a book or watching a movie if you’re truly not enjoying it. Don’t force yourself to finish something you’re not enjoying or you don’t feel resonates with you just because you started it. For that matter, allow yourself to say “no”. This is one of the hardest things in general to do, but mastering the art of saying “no” is truly important. If you don’t feel like going out tonight, don’t. If something’s bothering you, address it, don’t stew in anger and depression. Address issues as they come and don’t do anything you don’t want to do just because you feel like you should. You are in control of your own life, so take control. If you truly love going to the cinema, allow yourself to go to the cinema once a week, or join a book club if you really want to discuss books with people. There are simple, quick things you can do to feel more like your true self without actively figuring out who you are. Simply taking small steps can improve your quality of life and your happiness immensely.
If you don’t feel like these more passive steps are helping you discover your true self, there are more extreme measures you can take to discover yourself if you’d like. Take a full inventory of your life and belongings. Get rid of anything that doesn’t feel “right” or true to yourself. You may be left with a minimalist lifestyle, especially if you have mastered only buying things you truly love, but as you slowly build your life back up, you’ll find yourself more comfortable in your space, in your clothes, with your possessions. You won’t feel wrong in your own house, in your own bedroom, in your own clothes. You will feel more like you. The next step you can take is to analyse the people in your life. Distance yourself from the toxic people in your life and make a real effort to spend time with people who make you truly happy. Join local communities for your hobbies and try to expand your social circle. Examine your romantic relationship, if applicable, and address issues which make you feel particularly uncomfortable. Make a list of your favourite movies, TV shows, and books, and find lists of “things like this” online to consume entertainment you may not have come across before. Good places for this are Amazon’s “people who liked this also bought”, Netflix’s “More like this” and Goodreads and IMDB lists. Cultivate your own favourites, even if the people around you don’t like the same things.
This final step is particularly important. I would suggest taking a break from social media, or at least from scrolling through it. If you feel inspired, feel free to post, but I would caution against scrolling through other people’s posts. Turn off notifications so you’re not spending time worrying about what gets the most likes. This way, if something truly speaks to you, you can share it, and figure out what you truly love, rather than modelling your social media around what other people do and what gets likes. External validation may feel good temporarily, but when likes don’t match up with expectations it can be damaging to mental health. Focusing on external validation is the least proactive way to discover who you truly are. In focusing on what others think, you are only perpetuating a version of yourself based on the opinions of others and that does no good to you. Take time to focus on your own loves and your own passions, separate from the opinions of others, because that will only discourage you from discovering your true happiness.
Discovering your true self is a long and arduous process with a lot of steps backward and frustrations. You may never truly figure it out. But taking steps to try is the important thing. It will allow you to be a better version of yourself, to be a better you. Knowing that everything you do is purposely calibrated to align with your values and your happiness will increase your quality of life and your outlook on the world. Simply put, it will make you happier. And it is not just you who will benefit from your discovery of your true self. A more positive and happier you will result in more productivity in your work and your social life. There is literally no one who does not benefit from this journey, especially you. So allow yourself to take the first step. Allow yourself to answer that age old question. Allow yourself to find true happiness.