I have felt a recent pull to recall and get in touch with my inner self – or my “true self” as it were.
I’ve struggled to piece together which parts of me are my “true self” versus the self I’ve been living and telling myself is me.
To explain – it is believed there is a self that we are when we’re born and while we’re young. Our true selves. We know who we are, what we like, what we don’t like, etc. We essentially know who we are at our core throughout childhood, during our carefree years of freedom and bliss. This truest version of our selves exists as long as it takes for us to be smacked in the face with the feeling of “oh no, I’m supposed to be someone different.”
We’ve all been there. Someone made us feel that who we are was not “right” and we became aware of ourselves as flawed. We did something, minor or major, to change ourselves in some way. For example, let’s say a child is loud and talkative and a parent or adult tells them “you need to be quite” or “I wish you didn’t talk so much” so the child then assesses their behaviors and changes accordingly. They’ve essentially moved themselves, however far, away from their true self.
That description might sound dramatic and in a way it is. But even if you had a relatively trauma-free childhood, you still undoubtedly experienced a time where you felt that you or your behaviors were out of place. Which is when you started to change yourself… to protect your true self from damage. You created a different version of yourself.
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently on the differences between my true self and my created self.
I think the majority of the positive feedback I received in elementary and middle school were mentally written off as “They’re just saying something nice because they have to.” and I took the negative commentary to heart without question. Somehow though, when I think back, I still knew who I was and just became more selective about who I shared my truest self with. A quality that I’ve held onto still today. I’m selective, but I know my true self.
So, in the spirit of making this the year of real change for me, I’m focusing more of my energy on getting back to who I was, or maybe who I’ve always been, and sharing it with more people.
Here are some steps I’m taking that, if you’re interested, you could take too! Onward to the journey of becoming who we really are!
Steps to Remembering Your True Inner Self:
Look back at old photos of your childhood.
For me, looking at photos of myself when I was younger helps me to recall the feelings I had during those times and how I experienced the world. I look back at photos of the backyard I grew up with and can remember how it felt like the biggest backyard in the world, where I had a tree fort and a sandbox, and how I would spend hours pretending to be a cheetah or swinging with my imaginary friend or younger sister. Take time to look back at old photos and place yourself back in those situations. One of my favorite photos is of me on the floor in the hospital when my younger sister was born. I was unhappy, to say the least. First of all, I wanted a brother named Cornelius, not a sister named Brooklyn and second of all, I wanted Oreos for breakfast. Put that all together and you have a very dissatisfied 3-year-old version of Jordan.
Looking back at old photos will bring a lot of feelings and memories back up. It’s important, if on the journey of uncovering the inner self, to sit with those feelings and unpack them. You might have thought that you were simple when you were younger, but chances are you were just as complex as you are now. Remembering your feelings and thoughts about different things and events will pull you back closer toward your true self.
Ask family and friends about what you were like.
Remembering events on your own is one thing, but being able to hear about yourself from other’s point of view is another thing entirely! My parents and grandparents have endless stories of things I did or said during different times in my childhood. Most of my personal favorite memories of things like this are actually family inside jokes pertaining to my younger sister. She was emotional and hilarious and has some of the best one-liners of any kid I know. I won’t detail her stories here, but trust me when I say that hearing about the ways you talked or behaved from others gives you a more full picture of who you are at your core.
Do things that YOU want to do.
I know it sounds straightforward, but ask yourself how many times you’ve done things because someone else needed or wanted to do them. I can think of at least 5 things I’ve done in the past 24 hours that I didn’t want to do, but I did them anyway to make others happy. A lot of these are now my “adult behaviors” like washing dishes or doing laundry. There’s never been a time where I’ve wanted to do either of those things on my own. Ever. I do them because my family needs clean dishes and clothes to function. Want to know what I do when I do the things I actually want to do? Watch The Lion King or Forgetting Sarah Marshall for the millionth time. Plant a garden. Paint a picture. Make playdoh with my youngest sister. Write in my journal. Read a book. Make a cup of tea and stare out the window while I daydream. Watch documentaries. Play video games. Do you know how myself I feel when I do these things? It’s honestly indescribable how rooted in myself I feel when I actively choose to do the things I want to do instead of caving in and doing things others want me to do. Granted, there is a time and place to please others. But there’s also a time and place to please yourself. Working on doing things you want to do more often helps you stay true to your inner self.
Try something you’ve never tried before.
Maybe it’s something as simple as a new menu item at a restaurant. That’s a great start, but I think we can be a little more creative than that. Think of something you haven’t done that maybe you’re dying to try or experience. Some people might say skydiving or getting a tattoo. It doesn’t have to be that intense either. Personally, I try to take streets I’ve never taken before. I know, not as adventurous, but it pushes me out of my element and typical way of thinking which, believe it or not, helps push me to out of my typical created-self wiring and more toward how I am on the fly. At my core, I’m a fly by the seat of my pants kind of person, but I don’t always have the opportunity to behave that way in life now. By seeking out environments that are outside of our norm, we embrace the opportunity to behave organically, not in ways that we think we should behave. We don’t think, we just are. It’s worth a try.
Learn something new.
My one true goal in life is to remain teachable. When I learn it all and know it all, that’s when I know I can die happy. Until then though, I want to push myself to learn more. I’m insatiably curious, which makes my learning process a little easier than someone who’s maybe more secure and stagnant. My advice for everyone is similar to the last one – think of something you’ve always wanted to do and chances are there are classes available. Hell, there’s probably a Groupon available for classes of almost anything. For me, I really want to take piano classes. I never had interest in learning when I was younger but now that I’m older I wish I would have. So don’t be surprised if somewhere down the road I’m taking piano classes. Learning is a way of opening up your mind to grow and expand and become more yourself. Learn anything you want to. I recently taught myself how to cross stitch (still not sure if I’m doing it right) but it is SO therapeutic and engaging. I also want to learn other artistic mediums like pottery or printmaking. When coming up with ideas you don’t have to think in an artistic way. Home Depot or Lowes have classes geared toward teaching you basic home maintenance or skills that are useful in everyday life. It can truly be whatever you want to learn. Open yourself up to new opportunities and you never know what you might realize you’re incredibly skilled at!
I can’t recommend this one enough! Meditation doesn’t have to take the form you think it does either. I often find myself daydreaming of cinematic space adventures, among other things, which I’ve come to believe is a form of meditation. You can, of course, sit quietly with your eyes closed and breathe deeply. But you can also just focus on your thoughts and emotions while you’re out for a walk or while doing a chore. Pondering is my one sure fire way to think about who I am at my core. If that’s too deep for some of you, which it might be, think about the things in life that bring you joy or make you laugh. If you’re hard-pressed for happy memories (which happens to all of us now and again) visualize what would make you happy in life. Think of the happiness you will feel when you experience whatever it is – maybe a new pair of shoes or jeans, a new car, a new job, more money in your savings account, whatever it is that you believe will bring you happiness, visualize it. Meditating will bring you closer and closer to who you are at your core and closer to becoming that most pure version of yourself.
Overall, I think the main goal in the “Quest of the Self” is to just take a step back and be more intentional and aware of your actions and behaviors. Take time to consider if the person you are today is the person you always wanted to be. If yes, then congratulations for staying true to you! If not, which I believe to be the majority of us, try a few things on my list. Undo some of the tangled wirings you’ve set in place when you created this new version of you. Dust off some of your natural, intrinsic tendencies and show them off. Embody your full authentic self as much as you comfortably can. By being who you truly are, you’ll give those around you permission to fully be themselves. I’m not sure about you, but that’s absolutely the kind of world I would like to live in.