Stop looking for your self. Create it!
I am a worrier! Our tendencies to identify with habits is one of the biggest reasons why we get stuck. What if we could detach ourselves by instead saying “I feel the emotion of worry right now"?
I have often read articles or books which claim it can help me “find myself” or “be the best version of myself”. What does that mean? Does people mislay their selves, and somehow need help finding it again – ideally in an upgraded version? If I was enlightened enough, I would say that a self doesn´t exist in the first place. But while I am not fully able (yet?) to detach myself from my self completely, I do believe that who I consider myself to be is entirely my own construction.
To “find oneself” is a very misleading concept, because by believing we need to change ourselves we are A) telling ourselves that we are inadequate as we are and/or that B) we need to strive to become some kind of predetermined version of ourselves. The truth is that A) we are always ok as we are and B) our selves are neither fixed nor something we need to find, but rather something malleable. We are continually creating our selves. I recommend replacing the question ‘who am I?’ with ‘how would I like to engage with life?’
For a long time, experts thought our personalities became fixed in childhood and were relatively stable from the age of 30. We now know that they continue to be quite fluid and malleable throughout life. This continual process of change that occurs as we age, referred to as personality maturation, is seen worldwide.
This is very important information, because it empowers us to continuously explore how we engage with the world and how to improve our well-being and our relationships.
So often we excuse certain unhealthy habits by identifying with them. We say: ‘well, this is just who I am, and that cannot be changed’. Some examples are “I am a smoker”, “I am introvert and like to be alone”, “I am old and set in my ways” or “I don´t like exercising”. All of those statements are beliefs we have made up about ourselves, but they are not necessarily true. In the tradition of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy they use the term “workability”, which means asking yourself whether a thought helps you be the person you want to be and do the things you want to do. So, when you hear yourself think limiting thoughts this, you would benefit from asking if it is helping you live the life you want to live? It doesn´t matter if the belief is right or wrong or good or bad, but whether it is workable for you. If they answer is yes – then go ahead and continue believing it and acting accordingly. If the answer is no, then the next question would be “what do I want to believe instead?
It sounds easy, but we all know that old thought patterns, habits, and beliefs are hard to change. The first step, however, is to believe that both inner and outer change is possible and then start to take small steps towards creating the person you want to be.
If you would like to explore your sense of self, I invite you to try out the guided Exploring My Self Meditation available on my website. It is a walking meditation that helps us notice our constructed self by turning our awareness away from it. We explore the parts of us which we usually associate with our self, only to find out that they are not our self. You will discover how your thoughts, physical sensations and emotions are not you, they just are.