How Do People Find Themselves?

What People Are Doing When They Travel To “Find Themselves”

How Do People Find Themselves?

You’ve seen it before, right?

Someone you used to know, suddenly transformed after venturing around the world. All their old dreams vanished and they come home all worldly with their stories and new-found carefree attitudes. Kind of annoying, really.

Life is different now, they say.

They’ve changed.

They’ve finally found themselves.

Honestly, I hate that phrase. “Finding yourself” is so cliche and fluffy that it doesn’t even mean anything anymore. Films Eat Pray Love and Walter Mitty have only glammed it up even more. But the truth is, travel does change things. The person that leaves is rarely the same as the one that returns.

But why? What the hell happens out there?

Here’s my take.

Removing outside influences

For most of us, our life is full of outside influences. We have parents telling us to work hard and find good jobs. We have teachers telling us to study hard and get good grades. We have bosses directing our careers. We have girlfriends (or boyfriends) swaying our decisions.

We have social pressure from colleagues and friends to fit in and be normal. We have governments saying we need jobs to be responsible. We have television, billboards and advertising, telling us what is trendy and acceptable.

We have society creating a mould and constantly pressuring us to fit into it.

And every time we want something somewhat different to the pack we get ‘concerned’ friends looking at us funny saying, “Really?”

With all these voices in our head, our decisions are so heavily influenced that it’s impossible to figure out what we truly want.

Instead of “going travelling to find yourself”, a more appropriate phrase might be “going travelling to decide what you want from life because it’s the only place where people will shut the fuck up long enough for you to think”.

Seeing the world changed a lot of my opinions and perspectives on life; almost complete U-turns in some cases, but in reality it wasn’t so much the travel that did it.

It was the quiet.

It was the solarity.

One of the biggest fantasies you will hear from people in 9-5 jobs is that they want to just “retire on the beach and drink cocktails all day”. In fact, while sitting in my cubicle I can admit that I fantasised about the exact same thing probably every Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday…).

And then, only a few years later, I found myself in South East Asia doing exactly that. Each morning I would wake up, eat breakfast, and then sit on the beach and drink cocktails all day.

Was it fun?

You bet.

I had the best time of my life…for two days. Then I got bored.

It only took 48 hours to realise that wasn’t my dream at all. It was just a fantasy that had been dreamed up hate for my old life; early morning commutes, wearing a tie, a shitty job and a 40-hour work week.

During those years, I would wake up every morning and think, “If this is really going to be my life for the next 40 years, you can kill me now.”

But as I sat on the beach with drink in hand, the prospect of that lifestyle didn’t impress me much either.

I mean, honestly, ask yourself; do you really want to sit on the beach and drink every day for the rest of your life? Never learning anything new, never challenging yourself, never growing or achieving anything? Is that really what you want from life? Is that really what you want to spend your precious time on this earth doing?

Sure, it still sounds better than a cubicle. But I’d be surprised if anyone would be happy spending 40 years drowning in alcohol on the beach.

That wasn’t my dream. It was an “anywhere but here” fantasy, dreamed up my unhappiness and desperation. I soon realised, I need to be challenged. I need to be learning new things. Sitting on the beach drinking cocktails is fun, but sitting on the beach reading books would surely satisfy me more.

But that’s not enough either. I challenges and building things. I writing and creating things. So perhaps, sitting on the beach reading books and building a business would be my dream.

But even that’s not enough. I to have friends. I companionship. I want to be around my family. So perhaps, sitting on the beach reading books, building a business, near my family with a great girlfriend and great circle of friends would be my dream. Maybe? Who knows.

But that’s a part of finding yourself. If I were still in my cubicle, with only 3 hours of free time a day and my friends, family, colleagues and girlfriend all telling me what I should do, I would still be fantasising about cocktails on the beach.

“The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.”
–Bob Moawad

Realising your paradise does exist

We all think our lives are normal. We all think that the way we live, the things we eat and the society that we have is the right version of life, and everything else is different.

But every traveller eventually has that eureka moment; maybe while sitting on a beach or wandering through some small town. They see and experience something so different and so contrasting with their own life that it suddenly hits them: their life isn’t normal. Normal doesn’t exist.

You think an alarm clock is normal? No, it’s not. Not everyone wakes up at 7am and does a 40 hour work week. Just the mere thought of doing that is a complete joke to many people.

It goes for everything in life – shoes, monogamy, internet, religion, taxes, locking your doors, tampons, divorce – all these things we blindingly accept as normal are considered absolutely ridiculous somewhere else in the world.

And then suddenly, it’s , poof, you no longer need to live by the rules back home. There are many different places out there, with different rules, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find a place with rules you agree with. That life you hated so much back home, you don’t need to go back to it.

Back there, the life you want to live is considered ‘stupid’ and ‘unrealistic’. You’re bombarded by naysayers and cynics, and people who feel threatened by your desire to venture out. But not on the road.

Somewhere in the world, you’ll be able to find a place where the life you always dreamed of living; your beliefs and values and lifestyle, isn’t stupid. It’s normal. And by finding this place, you no longer feel an outsider. You don’t need to feel what you’re looking for is stupid and unrealistic.

You’re finally able to accept who you are and what you want, and that’s a part of finding yourself.

“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.”
-Frank Zappa

Finding perspective

You’ve probably heard the saying “it’s a small world.”

Well, whoever came up with that is an idiot.

It’s an enormous world, overflowing with amazing people and places that even with twenty lifetimes you would not come close to seeing it all.

But it’s not until you really start exploring that you realise how big the world is.

It’s only when you meet that one interesting person in that one faraway town in that obscure, impossible to find tea house, that you begin to wonder; how many more amazing people are waiting to be met? How many incredible stories are waiting to be told? How many more places are there to be found, all with their own myths and scandals and legends and stories?

But more importantly, you realise that you cannot meet all these people, or see all these places. The world is too big. And in a world so big, you’re insignificant. You yourself are also just another one of these faraway people, waiting to be met. So even though back home you probably consider yourself the most important person in the universe, in reality, you’re nobody.

There are 7 billion people on this planet. If you disappeared tomorrow without a trace, how many people do you think would actually care?




That’s not even 1 percent of 1 percent of 1 percent.


You’re nothing more than a speck of sand on a shoreline that never ends.

Is that cynical? No. It’s liberating.

Because since you’re so insignificant, you are free. And because you are free, you can do whatever you want.

Nobody cares.


One thing that’s very noticeable among well travelled people is how laid back they are. They don’t get hung up on stupid shit. Girls I used to eat lunch with at work would freak out when their plate had a tiny bit of dirt on the edge.

They would berate the waiter with a tone that said “how dare you serve me a plate that isn’t sparkling clean!” However girls I eat lunch with on the road happily sit down in the dirtiest, smelliest street stalls and devour their meals with huge smiles on their faces.


Because the road humbles you. You learn how insignificant you are. And then you don’t care anymore. If someone is angry at us, we don’t care. If our order is late, we don’t care. No job? We don’t care.

If the bus ride is 40 hours and there’s no air conditioning and we’re all sweating and someone vomits and the whole bus starts to smell mouldy fish…we don’t care.

Because after seeing how big the world is and all the crap that goes on it, we realise this stuff doesn’t really matter.


When we stop caring about dumb shit this, we allow ourselves to properly care about the things that really do matter – friends, family, our loves and our passions. With our new found perspective, we learn how to choose our battles and focus on what matters. We rediscover what really is important to us, and that’s a part of finding yourself.

“It took me a long time and much painful boomeranging of my expectations to achieve a realization everyone else appears to have been born with: That I am nobody but myself. But first I had to discover that I am an invisible man.”
-Ralph Ellison

Realising that it’s ok to do what you love

We live in a wonderul world, where from the youngest of ages we are conditioned into being model citizens. Our lives are paved out for us before we even hit puberty.

I didn’t really want to go to university. I didn’t want a 9-5 work day. I didn’t want to apply for a job after graduation. I did it because I thought I had to.

You’ll probably do the same.

But then, you travel. And you do the things you love. And you find new things to love. And you decide you don’t want to be a banking officer anymore – you want to ride horses, or scuba dive, or do yoga, or play the harp.

And more importantly, you actually meet people who are spending their lives riding horses, and diving, and teaching yoga, and playing the harp.

Those moments stick with you. It’s , “Shit! Look at all these people living the exact life I never thought was possible!”

And you no longer need an alarm clock to get you bed. You don’t need any more inspirational quotes on . You’ve finally realised that if you just take the tiny step outside the lines, it’s possible to spend your life just doing what you love and life is suddenly exciting again. That’s a part of finding yourself.

“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
 -C. Joybell C.

Do you need to travel to find yourself? Probably not. But amongst all the noise of your daily life, it is hard to really give yourself the space to do so. When we travel, we get lost. We have days where life has no meaning at all – we just lie in bed and stare at the slats in the bunk above us.

And then we have days where life has all the meaning in the world, when we meet a special person who teaches us a lesson so powerful that our life changes completely. Time on the road is time to reflect, to think, see what is on the outside. It’s time away from the masses; time to be whoever you want to be.

We see all the different flavours of the world, absorb it all, and decide which path draws us in the most. We get lost, and we search, and then we find ourselves.

Whatever the hell that means.


6 Steps to Discover Your True Self

How Do People Find Themselves?

To truly know yourself is the most important skill you can ever possess. When you know who you are, you know what you need to do, instead of looking for permission from others to do what you already know you ought to do.

It allows you to bypass tons of frustration caused by putting time into the wrong things. Yes, life is supposed to be full of trial and error, but this lets you find the best areas for you to experiment with in the first place.

Once you know yourself, you will become more confident, you will understand your purpose, and you will begin making a bigger impact on the world.

Related: Answer 6 Questions to Reveal Your Life Purpose

So how can you know who you are and what you ought to do in life? Here are the six steps you need to take in order to know your true self:

1. Be quiet.

You cannot and will not be able to know yourself until you take the time to be still.

Many people don’t know themselves because any sort of silence scares them; it’s too uncomfortable to be alone with every flaw staring back at them.

But it isn’t until you get alone, evaluate yourself and are completely truthful with yourself that you will actually be able to see every facet of your life—the good and the bad. Be quiet and discover your true self.

2. Realize who you truly are, not who you want to be.

I know you already have a set idea of who you desperately want to be, but it might not be who you were designed to be; this is why knowing who you really are is so important. When you know who you are, you will finally see where you and your specific gifts fit into the bigger picture.

And although there are many points along your journey to help you discover yourself, the best way to begin is to take a personality test and the StrengthsFinder test.

(If it’s been five or more years since you’ve completed either of these, take them again.

) No, these self-evaluations aren’t perfect, but they do pinpoint your top areas of strengths, so you can focus on the change you were meant to bring into the world.

3. Find what you are good at (and not good at).

This might be the most difficult step in the process of finding who you are, but it’s a necessary one. Sure, it takes trial and error to find what you’re good at, and no, I don’t want you to give up before you’ve had more than enough attempts, but knowing when to quit is a gift that everyone needs to learn.

Quit when you’ve put in ample time and your efforts aren’t giving back in return. What is ample time? Only you can decide that.

But when you quit correctly, it isn’t giving up, it’s making room for something better.

When your actions do nothing but drain you—rather than produce more passion and increase your drive to do more—that’s a good sign it is time to focus elsewhere. Your strengths will show you who you are.

4. Find what you are passionate about.

Following passion of any kind is a good thing, and you need to pay attention when it comes because it indicates an area of life that you need to pay more attention to.

If we’re talking about following your passion in work, it’s a good thing. And if we’re talking about having more passion for life, it’s a good thing. Focus more on passion; understand yourself in better ways, and you’ll make a bigger impact.

Passion produces effort and continuous effort produces results.

5. Ask for feedback.

If you don’t know yourself, hearing what others have to say about you is a helpful practice.

Ask them two simple questions: “What strengths do you think I need to develop further?” and “What weaknesses do you think I need to work on?” Of course, their opinion isn’t going to be perfect, but their feedback will probably indicate a few areas you should at least take a second look at. This step is especially important for those who are stuck in finding themselves. Sometimes those closest to us can see something we might not be able to see in ourselves.

6. Assess your relationships.

A large aspect of knowing yourself can be found in your relationships. When you realize you’ll never truly know anyone else until you discover yourself, the importance of knowing yourself becomes even more apparent.

This truth especially rings true for business leaders, because if you don’t know the people on your team, then you will be lost as a leader. But this rule also applies to any relationship in your life.

Almost as much as you need to know yourself, other people also need to know who you are. People need you—the real you.

Use your reflections to fight your biggest fears, because when you understand who you are meant to be, your purpose will finally become bigger than your fears.

When you realize who you are, you will spend less time spinning your wheels. Focusing on your strengths gives you the needed traction to begin making a bigger and better difference in the world.

When you know yourself, you will find more peace, and you will find success quicker than ever before.

Now go take action and find your true self, starting today.

Related: 4 Reasons to Take Control of Your Destiny


Finding Yourself: A Guide to Finding Your True Self

How Do People Find Themselves?
Self Development By PsychAlive

The greatest and most important adventure of our lives is discovering who we really are.

Yet, so many of us walk around either not really knowing or listening to an awful inner critic that gives us all the wrong ideas about ourselves.

We mistakenly think of self-understanding as self-indulgence, and we carry on without asking the most important question we’ll ever ask: Who am I really? As Mary Oliver put it, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Finding yourself may sound an inherently self-centered goal, but it is actually an unselfish process that is at the root of everything we do in life. In order to be the most valuable person to the world around us, the best partner, parent etc, we have to first know who we are, what we value and, in effect, what we have to offer.

This personal journey is one every individual will benefit from taking. It is a process that involves breaking down – shedding layers that do not serve us in our lives and don’t reflect who we really are. Yet, it also involves a tremendous act of building up – recognizing who we want to be and passionately going about fulfilling our unique destiny – whatever that may be.

It’s a matter of recognizing our personal power, yet being open and vulnerable to our experiences. It isn’t something to fear or avoid, berating ourselves along the way, but rather something to seek out with the curiosity and compassion we would have toward a fascinating new friend.

With these principles in mind, the following guide highlights seven of the most universally useful steps to this very individual adventure.

1. Make sense of your past

In order to uncover who we are and why we act the way we do, we have to know our own story. Being brave and willing to explore our past is an important stepping stone on the road to understanding ourselves and becoming who we want to be. Research has shown that it isn’t just the things that happened to us that define who we become, but how much we’ve made sense of what’s happened to us.

Unresolved traumas from our history inform the ways we act today. Studies have even shown that life story coherence has a “statistically significant relationship to psychological well-being.” The more we form what Dr. Daniel Siegel talks about as a “coherent narrative” of our lives, the better able we are to make mindful, conscious decisions in our present that represent our true selves.

The attitudes and atmosphere we grew up in have a heavy hand on how we act as adults. As Dr.

Robert Firestone, author of The Self Under Siege, wrote, “As children, people not only identify with the defenses of their parents but also tend to incorporate into themselves the critical or hostile attitudes that were directed toward them.

These destructive personal attacks become part of the child’s developing personality, forming an alien system, the anti-self, distinguishable from the self-system, which interferes with and opposes the ongoing manifestation of the true personality of the individual.”

Painful early life experiences often determine how we define and defend ourselves. In short, they bend us shape, influencing our behavior in ways in which we are hardly aware. For example, having a harsh parent may have caused us to feel more guarded.

We may grow up always feeling on the defense or resistant to trying new challenges for fear of being ridiculed. It’s easy to see how carrying this uncertainty with us into adulthood could shake our sense of identity and limit us in different areas. To break this pattern of behavior, it’s valuable to acknowledge what’s driving it.

We should always be willing to look at the source of our most self-limiting or self-destructive tendencies.

When we try to cover up or hide from our past experiences, we can feel lost and we don’t really know ourselves. We may take actions automatically without asking why. In his book Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Dr. Siegel wrote of an interaction with his son, in which he’d lost his temper. After reflecting on the incident a bit later, Dr.

Siegel realized that his emotional outburst had more to do with feelings he’d had as a child toward his brother than with his perception of his son today. He wrote of the experience, “I realize once again how many layers of meaning our brain contain, and how quickly old, perhaps forgotten, memories can emerge to shape our behavior.

These associations can make us act on automatic pilot.”

By reflecting on the past, using a technique called mindsight, “a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds,” Dr. Siegel was able to make sense of his experience, then talk to his son about what happened and repair the situation.

“With mindsight I was able to make use of the reflections that arose from that conflict to arrive at more clarifying insights into my own childhood experiences.

This is how the most challenging moments of our lives can become opportunities to deepen our self-understanding and our connections with others.”

By engaging in this type of thinking and being willing to face the memories that arise, we gain invaluable insights into our behavior. We can then start to consciously separate from the more harmful influences from our history and actively alter our behavior to reflect how we really think and feel and how we choose to be in the world.

2. Differentiate

Differentiation refers to the process of striving to develop a sense of ourselves as independent individuals.

In order to find ourselves and fulfill our unique destinies, we must differentiate from destructive interpersonal, familial and societal influences that don’t serve us.

 “To lead a free life, a person must separate him/herself from negative imprinting and remain open and vulnerable,” wrote Dr. Firestone. In his work with hundreds of individuals struggling with this exact process, he’s developed four essential steps of differentiation.

Step 1: Break with harmful internalized thought processes, i.e., critical, hostile attitudes toward self and others.

Step 2: Separate from negative personality traits assimilated from one’s parents.

Step 3: Relinquish patterns of defense formed as an adaptation to painful events in one’s childhood.

Step 4: Develop one’s own values, ideals, and beliefs rather than automatically accepting those one has grown up with.

Watch a whiteboard video on differentiation:

Read more about differentiation.

2. Seek meaning

Viktor E. Frankl famously said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” Frankl himself survived the most horrific of circumstances, living in a Nazi concentration camp.

In many ways, his very survival depended on maintaining this sense of meaning. In order to find ourselves, we must all seek out our own personal sense of purpose. This means separating our own point of view from other people’s expectations of us.

It means asking ourselves what our values are, what truly matters to us, then following the principles we believe in. Studies show that the happiest people seek out meaning more than just pleasure, and that people are generally happier when they have goals that extend beyond themselves.

Finding yourself and your happiness is, therefore, a venture inextricably linked to finding meaning.

3. Think about what you want

There’s a tendency in life to focus on the negative. Many of us fall too easily into victimized thoughts and complaints about our circumstances and surroundings rather than orienting ourselves toward positive goals, strategies and solutions. Put simply, we think a lot about what we don’t want instead of concentrating on what we do.

Knowing what we want is fundamental to finding ourselves. Recognizing our wants and desires helps us realize who we are and what’s important to us. This may sound simple, but most of us are, to varying degrees, defended against our feelings of wanting.

We may feel guarded, because we don’t want to get hurt. Wanting makes us feel alive and, therefore, vulnerable in the world. To truly live means we can truly lose.

The experience of joy and fulfillment can be met with feelings of anxiety, and on a deeper level, profound sadness.

Getting what we want can also make us feel uncomfortable, because it represents a break from our past.

It can make us feel guilty or spark a sea of self-critical thoughts that tell us, “Who do you think you are anyway? You can’t be successful/ fall in love/ feel relaxed?” In order to honestly discover what we want in life, we must silence this inner critic and drop our defenses.

As an exercise, when we are having a lot of negative thoughts, “I don’t want this or that,” we can try to shift our thinking to what we really do desire. If we are fighting with our partner and thinking, “You never hear what I say.

You don’t care about me,” we can instead think about or even communicate on a level that genuinely conveys our end goal. “I want to feel listened to, seen and loved.” Changing our outlook in this way makes us feel more in touch with who we are. It strips us down to our more basic desires without the unnecessary layers of defense that divert us from our core values and truest selves.

4. Recognize your personal power

When we know what we want, we are challenged to take power over our lives.

No longer are we engaging in a spiral of negative thinking that tells us all the things that are wrong with the world around us or all the reasons we can’t have what we want.

Instead, we are accepting ourselves as a powerful player in our own destiny. Harnessing our personal power is essential to both finding and becoming ourselves.

“Personal power is strength, confidence, and competence that individuals gradually acquire in the course of their development,” said Dr. Firestone.

“It is self-assertion, and a natural, healthy striving for love, satisfaction and meaning in one’s interpersonal world.” Knowing our personal power means recognizing that we have a heavy effect on our lives. We create the world we live in.

To create a better world means shifting our outlook, feeling empowered and rejecting a victimized point of view.

Dr. Robert Firestone has further illustrated “6 Aspects of Being an Adult:”

  1. Experience your emotions, but make rational decisions when it comes to how you act.
  2. Formulate goals and take the appropriate actions to achieve them.
  3. Be proactive and self-assertive, rather than passive and dependent.
  4. Seek equality in your relationships.
  5. Be open to exploring new ideas and welcome constructive criticism.
  6. Take full power over every part of your conscious existence.

5. Silence Your Inner Critic

To be an adult, we must also break the ways we self-parent, either by criticizing or soothing ourselves. Dr. Firestone advises that we stop listening to our “critical inner voice.

” This destructive thought process can be made up of a judgmental attitude that tells us we aren’t good enough to succeed or don’t deserve what we want or a soothing-seeming attitude that tells us we don’t have to try or that we need to be taken care of or controlled.

By recognizing and standing up to this internal enemy, we learn not to be parental or childish in our lives but to find our real selves and know our strength and ability. As mindfulness expert Dr.

Donna Rockwell points out, to generate a “state of upliftedness that makes everything else possible—that creates the “go for it!” spirit we crave—is to subdue the doubting mind by disarming negative thoughts.”

Read more about the critical inner voice.

6. Practice Compassion and Generosity

Mahatma Gandhi once said “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” In addition to improving our mental and physical health and lengthening our lifespan, generosity can enhance one’s sense of purpose, giving our lives more value and meaning to us.

Studies even show that people get more joy from giving than from getting. If we want to find our way in life, it’s beneficial to practice generosity as a mental health principle and take on a compassionate and attitude toward ourselves and others.

People are generally happier when they create goals that go beyond themselves. These individuals show care and concern for others and practice generosity. As you go about your life, try to maintain what Dr.

Daniel Siegel refers to as a COAL attitude, in which you are curious, open, accepting and loving toward yourself and your personal journey.

7. Know the value of friendship

We do not choose the family we are born into, but often, we assume that this family defines who we are. While as children, we have little say in where we spend our time, throughout our lives we can choose who and what we want to emulate. As adults, we can create a family of choice.

We can seek out people who make us happy, who support what lights us up and who inspire us to feel passionate about our lives.

This family may, of course, include people we are related to, but it’s a family we’ve really chosen, a core group of people who we consider true allies and friends.

Creating this family is a key component in finding ourselves, because who we choose to surround ourselves with has a profound effect on how we relate in the world. Having a support system that believes in us helps us in realizing our goals and developing on a personal level.

comfortable in your skin, differentiation, lifestyle change, live your own life


Stop trying to ‘find yourself’

How Do People Find Themselves?

We’ve all heard the importance of looking within, finding yourself, and being authentic to what you see. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Actually, Chinese philosophers 2,000 years ago would say our emphasis on self-discovery has led us dangerously astray and constrains us.

Consider the self the way that they did: there is no true self and no self you can discover in the abstract by looking within.

Such a self would be little more than a snapshot of you at that particular moment in time. We are messy, multifaceted selves who go through life bumping up against other messy, multifaceted selves.

Who we are at any given moment develops through our constantly shifting interactions with other people.

Being untrue to ourselves helps us break bad patterns. Confucius taught that we must ‘overcome the self’

Philosophers, such as Confucius, advocated living “as if”. They said that by engaging in as-if rituals – which are the very opposite of the sincere, authentic approach to ourselves – we will develop into better human beings.

How does this work? Consider a game of hide-and-seek with a child. When you play at being a befuddled adult who can’t hide very well, both you and the child know you are just pretending. But by taking on these roles you have both broken from your usual patterns. The triumphant child experiences competence over an adult; the adult is the fallible, vulnerable person bested by a child.

We break from who we are when we note the not-so-good patterns we’ve fallen into and then actively work to shift them – “as if” we were different people in that moment. Such opportunities exist all around us.

When we greet someone cheerfully even though we’re feeling down at the moment; when we calmly respond to an infuriating person even though our “real” feeling is anger.

In all such instances, we enter an alternate reality in which we draw on different sides of ourselves and each time we do so we come back slightly changed.

Being untrue to ourselves helps us break bad patterns. Confucius (who presumably saw the dangers of too much self-absorption and would have almost assuredly been horrified by the Myers-Briggs test) taught that we must “overcome the self”. His rituals liberated people from the notion of any sort of essential self.

But if there’s no essential self and you are always changing, you might wonder how you could ever decide what’s best for you. Here again, the notion of living life by breaking from who you think you are can help.

Consider the example of a student we know: throughout secondary school he’d excelled in maths and science, so when he went to university he expected to continue along that path, and planned on studying economics.

He had an interest in Chinese, but quit after a term because learning a foreign language didn’t seem to be a strength of his.

After encountering Chinese philosophy, he realised that he didn’t need to limit himself to his strengths and proclivities, nor did he have to stick to a plan he’d previously made, so he returned to Chinese, did a postgraduate degree in Asian studies, and now works as a diplomat. By breaking from his vision of himself he found an expansive and unexpected life.

It is liberating to understand the self and the world to be unstable, imperfect and fragmented. This gives us all the more opportunity to shift things on micro levels constantly. We alter things at a small, daily level, and if we’re successful we eventually build tremendous communities around us in which we, and other people, can flourish.

The Path: a New Way to Think About Everything is by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh (£14.99, Viking). To order a copy for £11.99 go to

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Is ‘finding yourself’ a legitimate reason for breaking up? – National

How Do People Find Themselves?

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The theme of “finding yourself” has launched numerous coming-of-age novels and countless angsty movie plots, but in some cases, when it happens to one member of a real-life couple, it’s not a cliché. Regardless of age, some people really do feel that they need to find themselves, but it may not be the best reason for ending a relationship.

“There are times when someone really does need to be alone and not distracted to focus on personal growth and development,” says Nicole McCance, a Toronto-based psychologist and author. “This is usually the case when people easily put others before themselves and they need to be alone to force themselves to put themselves first.”

READ MORE: Taking a break from your relationship? Here are the dos and don’t’s

And yet, if Hollywood is to be believed, oftentimes this person will find themselves in a new relationship shortly thereafter or running back to the arms of the person they just broke up with. The reason for this is because there’s no straight answer — it comes down to whether you recognize that you’ve found the right person regardless of whether you still need to find yourself.

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“Some people need space to find their way in life; other people find their way while they’re in relationships,” says April Masini, a relationship expert and author in New York.

“That said, if you commit to someone, it’s good to know that they are willing to make changes — both intra-personal and interpersonal — while in the relationship so that you don’t have to break up every time they need a new direction or clarification in their lives.”

In fact, deciding that your crisis is grounds for breaking up with your current partner could work against you. Especially considering that they can help guide and support you on your journey. If it’s a relationship in which you feel secure, staying in it while working on yourself can actually promote personal growth, McCance says.

“It is possible to find yourself and to evolve when you’re in a committed relationship. In fact, that’s how healthy relationships grow,” Masini agrees. “When you are with someone who is committed to you and the relationship, there is room for finding yourself.”

How do you know if it’s real or just a line?

Needing to “find yourself” can sound a flimsy excuse for not wanting to be with someone. The experts agree that it’s akin to “it’s not you, it’s me,” but if the person is being sincere about their need for space, it’s a clear message that they feel they’re being hindered by the relationship.

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READ MORE: 15 opening lines that will get a response on your dating apps

“What they’re really saying is that they’re not happy and that they think the relationship (you) is holding them back from personal evolution,” Masini points out.

Hearing that can hurt, but it should also be a strong sign that you need to let this person go. This is not a battle worth fighting.

Does being alone guarantee that a person will “find” themselves?

Someone who jumps from relationship to relationship could be construed as being rash or incapable of being alone, which for many is a red flag. But being alone doesn’t always ensure a path to self-discovery.

“There’s a grieving period that is important to take place after a relationship ends.

As long as the person feels that they have created space in their life to feel the emotions that come with the ending of a relationship — disappointment, hurt, sadness, anger — [they could be ready at any time],” McCance says. “For some, it’s a week, for others, it could be a year. It depends on the person’s resiliency.”

READ MORE: 5 signs you’re falling love

wise, Masini points out that people learn about themselves by being alone, as well as in relationships. Even the most self-aware person will continue to change and grow, and that change can easily be triggered by being in a relationship.

“Human beings thrive when they are in secure attachments, our capacity for personal growth is much more when we feel connected and in a safe bond,” McCance says.

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The bottom line is, finding yourself doesn’t need to be a solo journey, and the security and comfort that the right person can bring you could help you find your way to the person you want to be.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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