“Finding yourself” is bullshit. Sorry to rain on your parade or diminish the purpose of your “spontaneous” week long “adventure” to some third world country slumming it with the locals while you play barefoot soccer with children in Yemen, Angola, or Cambodia, hoping that they’ll teach you to find happiness in the little things. News flash! These people are starving, thirsty, probably landlocked, and their lives should not be romanticized. You’re not going to find yourself doing yoga on the summit of a mountain or some valley hidden in the depths of foliage, where birds fly overhead trying to find the best place to drop their shit while you try to find your “inner peace.” You’re not going to find yourself by screaming at your boss, quitting that job you hate on the spot, and dramatically flinging your nametag in their general direction. You’re not going to find yourself by going to raves high on ecstasy rubbing up against random strangers with dance moves just as bad as yours. You’re not going to find yourself by hiring a life coach who’ll tell you what you’re missing in life and what you need to do to get that. If you’re going to be paying someone for doing nothing, then hire me. I need money for college.
For the purpose of not coming off as a complete dick on the internet, let me just say that doing any of the things listed above is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, I think most of them are pretty cool– with the exception of one or two I listed (hint: It’s not the ecstasy), I think you should do them all at some point in your life. The purpose of this isn’t to make fun of these activities. It’s to highlight the error in pursuing these activities with the sole goal of “finding” yourself, when in actuality, you’re probably just using it as a pretense for running away from your problems.
Firstly, What Does “Finding Yourself” Even Mean?
Claiming that we need to find ourselves implies that some part of us is lost. It’s like looking for our bag when we’re already wearing it on our backs. The idea that we need to start from scratch, escape the life we live in order to get to our “core” disregards all the progress we’ve made thus far. We can never start “fresh” because our biases and perceptions will always be there influencing the way we see things. We cannot erase the slate; we can only add to it.
Secondly, The Idea Itself is Fundamentally Flawed
That “core” we are all constantly hunting for and hold so sacred to the fundamental makeup of our “being” is an arbitrary concept designed by standards that are different for everyone. How can we find something when we’re not even quite sure what it is?
Finding ourselves assumes that there’s only one part of us. Yet, in actuality, we are complex, multifaceted creatures who are constantly evolving– changing and adapting to whatever the world demands of us in whatever chapter of life we find ourselves in. So in that sense, won’t we always be “finding ourselves?”
Thirdly, We’ll Always Be Chasing
But what are we chasing? Perfection? Understanding? Because no place, no one, and no job is perfect and there will always be facets of life that will confuse us. There will always be something wrong no matter where we are, who we’re with, and what we do. There will always be an obstacle to overcome. Spoiler alert: welcome to life.
If we’re unhappy, we do something substantial about it because we’re not going to solve the problem by abandoning the inconveniences in our lives, packing up, traveling somewhere else, and passing it off as us trying to find ourselves. It’s irresponsible to think that the answers to the problems we’re trying to escape from are hidden somewhere for us to find– some place exotic and remote, but still conveniently with wifi and aircon– because once we get back, guess what will be waiting for us: the same old problems.
Fourthly, We’ll Expect More Than What’s Realistic
When we actively search for “experiences” we cheapen its thrill and authenticity. If we’re looking for it, we’re obviously expecting something. But what happens when nothing comes out of that search? Disappointment. We live in a world where mass media romanticizes the idea of traveling to some exotic place where we’ll randomly meet some local who will tell us in broken english some earth shattering revelation that we could probably read on a fortune cookie. But that’s not reality. We are not Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love.
What ruins us is the idea of how it should be, of how the world tells us it needs to be. We chase life colored by how it is experienced by others and because of that, we lose the ability to accept things as how they are meant to be for our own unique journey.
It’s common to think that being an unsure, ”fragmented,” lost version of ourselves is limiting and our goal is to eradicate any doubt that we harbor against ourselves. But that uncertainty, so characteristic of being human, is a gateway to a plethora of opportunities and avenues that can teach us more than what we can infinitely imagine. It’s probably a lot worse to perceive ourselves as only one essential being that can only be defined in some distant place in the world, with someone new, doing something crazy and adventurous. We set up specific visions of who we want to be and where we want to go and isolate the opportunities we think will help us to achieve such things, not realizing how limiting that path is.
You are you, whereever you are, whoever you’re with, whatever you’re doing— and you know what? That’s exciting as fuck. Because that means anything can happen. So just let life happen. You cannot “find yourself.” You can only improve who you already are.
If you truly want to find yourself, open Google Maps, click on “Your Location,” and voila! There you are.