Have you ever looked in the mirror and thought to yourself “who am I?” This is a questions that plagues every generation and it takes no preference to a particular gender, race, orientation, or age. The question of self or identity is what makes each individual unique in their journey.
Some people believe the self can be narrowed down to certain attributes that get to the core of humanity. They say the self is made up of:
We all have the capacity to reach these areas in the self, but each person will reach them at an individual level. Every person is so complex and unique that it is impossible to narrow down the core qualities of what makes up every self. Each person is uniquely made up from so many different experiences and relationships that each trait is going to be a little different in the person sitting next to them.
We were all born with a certain temperament that developed from genes within our family. Our temperament helps shape our responses and our adaptability to the impact of our environment throughout our upbringing, our relationships, and other external forces beyond our control as children and adults. The combination of temperament and nurture can determine the way we look and perceive certain situations in our life.
Exploration is the key to understanding the self, but it is difficult to know where to begin to see who you are and how you got to where you are now. Here are the three major pillars in finding who we are through all of our experiences and genes that has shape us:
- Past & Present Experiences: We all have a past that shapes us into the present versions of who we are. It helps shape how we look at situations and how we cope with certain complexities of life. When we explore the past we start to see how it links (positively or negatively) to the present, and this can be an indication of who we are currently. Every experience and every encounter impacts the way we see and create the world we are moving toward. Each past experience correlates to a present decision and each reaction allows us to tap in a little further to the world we have created around us. It can be a difficult and frustrating process to sort through all of the experiences that shape us, but this can give us a better understanding of what is happening inside of ourselves.
- Attachment & Relationships: Attachment is the bond that we create with our primary caregiver as a young child (before age one). This specific attachment shapes the relationships we create throughout our life. Temperament does play a role in this as well, but the way our primary needs are met as an infant provides us with the understanding of how we can trust, expect, and relate to the people/world around us. Our brain registers that the people/world are either dependable and trustworthy, or sporadic, scary, or untrustworthy. This also correlates to how the past shapes our world that we create, but relates more specifically that the relationships we have throughout our life. Once we recognize our style of attachment, it does not mean this can never be changed, but awareness increases our understanding and from this understanding we can build and shape the relationships that we have.
- Purpose & Meaning: Purpose and meaning are what drive us as human beings. It seems like we are always looking for something, whether it be work, an invention, a test, friends, family, the list could go on and on. There is a force that drives us to be happy and to create meaning in and throughout our lives. Purpose and meaning pull us to a place a positive self-esteem and self-fulfillment. Each person is given this opportunity to be unique in their passions and their desires, and our opportunity to choose can be shaped by people in our lives, by experiences, by dreams and hopes. There is very little limit to what we choose for our purpose in our lives. Where we find our purpose and our drive can say a lot about who we are as individuals. These drives can say a little about our strengths, our weaknesses, our desires, and our fears. Tapping into this area of our lives can give us deeper understanding of who we are, where we have been, and where we are going.
The self is such a hard concept to define and there is so much to understand and know. The journey to self-discovery is always continuous and things are always changing, thus we change.
“A strong, positive self-image is the best possible preparation for success in life” -Dr. Joyce Brothers
As we start to unfold some of the traits that we have, we may notice some discord with what we have uncovered, but this does not mean it is who you have to be. There are many circumstances in life that leave us wounded and broken and those pieces are still scattered. We develop certain habits or traits that protect us from all of the bad things that we encounter. These parts all serve a purpose in protecting us and allowing us to live, but these parts should not run who the core self is.
Maybe you have experienced some pretty difficult times and those three areas of understanding have been tainted by bad experiences, defeating messages, hurtful people, and those emotions run the compassionate and driven person you were before that incident. That core self is still there and is still shaped by all our experiences, but it has to learn to maneuver around all of the debris from our bad experiences. Bad experiences leave wounds, when left unattended to, that fester and begin to wreak havoc in our lives.
When exploration leads to struggle it is an opportunity for growth, and growth is difficult to do on your own. I encourage you to reach out and find someone trusted who will walk with you through this difficult journey. Whether this person be a family member, friend, or significant other. It is important that this person will walk with you through this and not allow their problems come in the way of your growth. If there is no personal connection that It is always my goal to create a safe place to come in and talk about the hard stuff. If the people above are not able to provide the support you need a professional may be appropriate whether it be a counselor, church member, or a coach. I strive to provide a safe space where you can start this journey toward self-discovery and growth. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions about moving forward.
This is just the beginning to getting a better understanding your“self” and these three pillars can provide some insight on certain behaviors and certain personality traits acquired through all of the years. Exploration is the hard part and life can become strenuous when moving through these different areas toward growth. Keep moving forward, each step may be difficult, but the journey of self-growth is worth the travel.