There are a thousand and one quotes on self-discovery, maybe more. There is also a general misconception that it is more important to know exactly what you are than focusing on being what you want to be. Most young children are pressured to be conformed to a particular image and identity at an early age. We can see this when kids get enrolled in ballet classes and piano lessons. Cliques are formed in school: the cool kids clique, the bullies, the dorks etc. All these exist just to form a perception of their identity and most of the time it’s not the identity the child wants but the ones their parents or their friends want them to be.
So, the child grows up believing that to be his identity then, spends his childhood and adolescence being conformed to that identity. Some of them break away from that identity after puberty, others hold on to it until a particular incident unravels them to their core and makes the question who they are.
In short, since time immemorial, there has always been a lot of pressure on self-discovery.
Psychology says that consciousness or self-awareness starts between 15-24 months. This is when a child starts learning about his or her surroundings and discovering that the person in the mirror who stares back at him, is him.
Figuring out who exactly we are is not solving the puzzle; it’s only a piece of the puzzle, albeit an important piece but not necessarily the whole of the puzzle. There are still other pieces in the puzzle which comes to play and at the end, you would find out that the end matters more than the beginning.
So, finding out who you are is a means to an end. When you figure out what exactly you are, although it’s not completely necessary, you still have to deal with what you want to do with that piece of information.
In high school, at first, I wanted to be a vet doctor, then as time went on I wanted to be a doctor. After that I wanted to go to business school. I had lots of ambitions growing up, although this is not the case for some people. But then I reached a point where I was utterly confused. I didn’t know what I wanted to be then or why I wanted to be what exactly I wanted to be. It was nerve-racking. It was hard because everyone was constantly hammering it into my head that I had to find myself before it was too late.
I was trying hard, I was trying as hard as I could, but I still could not figure out what exactly I wanted. But it worked out in the end. I didn’t finally find myself or have an epiphany of the sort. I just concluded that I was going to continue to live my life the best way I could and let life handle it. I made up my mind to sort out myself one step at a time. I became someone I wasn’t before, and it worked out for me. The journey worked out because in the end I achieved what could be said to be the ultimate goal.
I would not totally dispute the fact that finding who you are is not important. But it should be noted that the journey to self-discovery does not begin and end in a day or a few days. It is an everyday encounter. Being humans, we are always exposed to so many things. Our environment can change who we are, our circumstances, our loved ones, our families etc. The only thing that makes your journey to self-discovery worth it, is being entirely different from who you were before. Being a completely different person and being content and confident in your newly founded identity.
Who we are is subject to change, we are constantly evolving. From the story of man as we supposedly evolved from apes to man, and from technology evolving from box television to flat screen TV. It is therefore safe to compare our self-discovery and awareness to the world around us. A seed is only a seed but when it becomes a flower, that is when it evolves into its true self. The seed stage is significant, but it is not necessarily going to be much of benefit compared to the flower it will become.
Most people are still figuring themselves out, most are still in the self-discovery stage. It’s not because that’s the end result of their lives but because of what they want to be after. When you finally achieve your ultimate goal of what exactly you are, what next? What next but applying this goal to your main aim, which is being who you want to be or what you aspire to be?
In the end what exactly we are is a means to an end. A piece of puzzle in the grand puzzle of figuring out our lives. This stage should not be misconstrued as the final stage in the race. In my personal experience, it was hard finding myself, because I believed there were so many parts and aspects of me. I was discovering it was entirely impossible to put myself under a label. I explored, and I tried new things just to find out what appealed to me. It was fun but also frustrating because it seemed everyone already knew what they were except me.
But I learned soon enough that most people do not even know what they are, they just find out more things about themselves along the way. Some of them use these things to make themselves better, applying it to their lives and works. Others are afraid of changing the identity they have made for themselves, which is perfectly understandable, but change sometimes is good. Especially if it makes you better person.
“Do not ask me who I am and do not ask me to remain the same” – Michel Foucault. He knew that what mattered wasn’t who we are but who we strive to be. I also believe that should be given more attention to. So, in the long run what really matters is being better than what you were before.