“Finding Yourself” Isn’t Really How It Works.

When seeking counseling, there can sometimes be this feeling of aimlessness, or lack of direction, or even the idea that you need to “find yourself”. There can be many different situations or scenarios that lead us to those feelings, but I don’t think we need to “find ourselves”. The tension we feel is often that the way we are doing life is no longer working for us, and we’re noticing it. We notice it through the things we do or ways we do them that create conflict or pain, or we notice the absence of things we wish we had–deeper relationships, a sense of purpose. I love what Emily McDowell says about the matter:

‘Finding yourself’ is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost.

Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are. “Finding yourself” is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.” 

I love the idea of returning to ourselves because I think it grounds us in the reality that we always have our true selves within us, and the messages we’ve collected along the way have muddied the picture. That instead of being “lost,” we have potentially neglected ourselves, or we haven’t been safe enough to be able to take the time to attend to, honor, listen to, act out of, or get to know the real “us”. When we are “unlearning,” as Emily says, we really are exploring, and exploration requires curiosity. We may even treat the process like getting to know someone we’ve never met–we would ask questions, we would get to know preferences, we would wonder how certain beliefs, values, or habits came to be. We could look at our current selves through the same lens: what pieces are working and what have we accumulated based on our environment, or simply out of habit or convenience? As we begin to reevaluate the different parts of our lives and pieces of ourselves, we may finally “remember who you were before the world got its hands on you.” 

Courtney Hintermeyer, LPC

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