‘Finding Yourself’ – A Cliché or a Transformative Phrase?

We hear the term ‘finding yourself’ quite often in our modern age. It is a byproduct of a time in which liberty and exploration due to economic conditions and access to resources are being experienced on a large scale (though this is certainly not the case for many people who do not have the same opportunities).

It is a catchphrase, often used to patronize others, “she went to India to ‘find herself’” – when someone takes a step away from their daily life to travel, introspect, or otherwise look for something beyond themselves.

It purports that I have yet to know myself and that I must search outwardly to find who I am; however, this is a misconception. This phrase indicates a journey into the self.

Finding yourself is not the same as searching through the mall to find the perfect dress for an occasion. It is about journeying inward, clearing away the clutter, clearing the conditionings of a life influenced by societal information, and coming back to who we are. It is about finding what we’ve always had yet forgot or misplaced along the way.

Finding yourself is similar to washing the dust and dirt off an old glass frame, revealing a beautiful piece of artwork that has always been there, yet was covered by debris from years of hanging on a wall. It is searching deep within ourselves, dusting ourselves off and revealing the beautiful artwork that we all are.

It is not a graceful journey either. It is painful, uncomfortable, lonely, and vulnerable. It is difficult to shed the layers we have grown to protect ourselves from life. It often feels like we have exposed a wound before it is ready, and we want to reach for the gauze to cover it back up. But it is in these most vulnerable, uncomfortable times that may bring us clarity and allow us to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. It is in these lonely experiences that we are forced to sit with ourselves and become reintroduced to who we are.

‘Finding yourself’ may be a cheesy cliché, but there is true value to this phrase. It is when we begin to know ourselves fully and deeply; when we sit with our darkness and our lightness; when we learn that our internal world influences everything outside of ourselves, that we can transform our lives. In finding ourselves, we find our true expression, our true authentic self, and learn to love ourselves fully as we are.

2018 – The Year of Self-Love

Happy New Year and 2019!

I am so excited and grateful for the start of another year, and for the opportunity to experience growth, renewal, and expansion.

However, before I dive into 2019, I think it is a good idea to reflect on what brought me to this point, to be thankful for my progress, and to contemplate 2018 – my year of self-love.

2018 was a year like no other for me. I left on January 4th for a trip to Costa Rica, where I completed my Yoga Teacher Training and volunteered in hostels. The sudden urge to book this trip was murky, if not completely unknown to me. I woke up one day with an overwhelming need to travel to Costa Rica and within two days I booked a plane ticket. Though somewhat unexplainable, this trip was detrimental to my health and well-being. Perhaps it was not the travel specifically that I needed so badly – it was the change of scenery, the expansion of my world-views and the reintroduction to myself.

When I arrived in the little surfer town of Puerto Viejo, where I planned to live for a month, I noticed how kind and happy the people living there were. Of course, the sun, warm weather and a home in paradise contributed to their glow, but there was something more to it. There was something else that brought a sparkle to their eyes and an extra friendly smile to their faces. It was their love.

It hit me like a brick-wall when I realized – no, I felt the love these people were emanating. I felt so cared for and surrounded by so much warmth. And yet, I didn’t understand why people who barely knew me made me feel so warm and loved and why I had never felt this way before.

It dawned on me that the reason my new friends had so much love to give others was because they worked on loving themselves each day. It began when I told one of my new friends that I was “so stupid” for whatever I did – a very common retort I’d use when speaking about myself after the most minor infraction – and she looked at me and said, “Love, you don’t deserve to be spoken to that way.”

I began noticing the comments I consistently made to put myself down and how unnecessary these words were. It didn’t end with little put-downs after I made a mistake either; I constantly criticized my body, personality traits, and I would compare myself to others with the notion that I would never measure up. The more I became aware of my habits, the more I realized I never actually had a nice thing to say to myself.

My epiphany, followed by guidance from the amazing women I met, led me to a place where I was able to question the way I have treated myself my entire life, and my ingrained belief that to speak with self-confidence means you are narcissistic and self-absorbed.

During those months of travel a lot of things came up that I had to deal with and overcome. I had to talk myself through a lot of insecurities, a lot of traumas based around old relationships and this constant feeling that I was not deserving of my own or anyone else’s love. I spent a lot of time alone, and a lot of time in stillness, which effectively led to a weight gain, causing even more body-image issues to surface and work through.

Of course, this is an ongoing process that I did not overcome in one year; however, the first step is to become aware of our toxic patterns, and I certainly did in 2018.

Since this discovery I have felt changes in myself. I have begun to develop a healthier self-image and my thoughts are shifting from criticism and discontentment to kindness and patience. When my internal chatter starts listing off perceived reasons why I am not good enough or why I am incompetent, I redirect my thoughts to focus on positive aspects of myself, and I remind myself that every mistake is an opportunity for growth. I have started telling myself “I love you”. I have begun questioning the social norms, advertisements and messages I have grown up consuming that indicate we can never be happy just as we are.

I have begun to work on being happy just as I am.  

2018 taught me the importance of reminding myself I am good enough and I am deserving of love from others and from myself. It taught me that love starts from within and flows outwards to others, and in order to exist within a place of love, we must work on loving ourselves first.