I got an email last week from a reader asking me “How do you find yourself?”. How do you start focusing on yourself when it’s something that you’ve never done before? How do you find your role in life and most importantly how do you find that starting point for figuring yourself out?
Awesome questions and they definitely made me think! They also made me nostalgic about my own journey to self-discovery. It was equal parts the happiest and one of the more painful times in my life.
When I first started this blog and this journey I felt – not like a blank slate – but like a mishmash of random things that made a person but not a complete one. Like someone had taken a handful of puzzle pieces and jammed them together when they didn’t really fit.
I’d gone through over a decade of depression from my teenage years to about 25 and it was hard to find myself in the destruction of that depression. I never did normal teenage things or young adult things - I had so few experiences. At 21 I’d got out of my first relationship – a toxic one – and then I jumped straight into another toxic one. I didn’t know who I was outside of those relationships because all of my energy was focused on being lovable and worthy - two things I never felt.
And then without a relationship – I was empty.
I went to work, I got home, I zoned out playing video games, slept too much, or not at all – rinse and repeat.
That was who I was.
I realized how deeply miserable I was and I realized that something desperately had to change. I had to become a whole person, I had to figure myself out, and I had to find myself.
Here are the main points of my self-discovery.
I went on what I called my own Eat, Pray, Love journey. I didn’t travel the world or even leave my city but I needed a change. Explore, I needed to explore – and that outer exploration mirrored my inner one.
Go outside your comfort zone.
Instead of going home after work to numb my mind with video games, I started taking walks. I started going to the park with a book or a notebook and just sitting with myself. Sometimes I’d bring food and have a little picnic or I'd bring a bag of cotton candy. It forced me to be active in my own company. It forced me to have one-on-one time with myself. It’s like the difference between sitting on the couch watching tv with your partner while you both kinda check out and browse Facebook on your phone and sitting in an empty room together with no distractions.
The interaction is completely different.
I tried so many new things. I climbed a tree for the first time. I flew a kite. Sidewalk chalk, bubbles, nature walks full of taking pictures – these all became part of my routine. I went to my first ever yoga class. I wanted to do things that "Old DOminee" would never have done - not because she didn't want to - but because she was so stuck in her anxiety and depression that she didn't think she could.
Create a ton of hobbies.
When there’s no one around you have two choices – die of boredom or find some way to occupy your time. I tried everything that had ever interested me – jogging, crocheting, painting, blogging, webdesign, reading, jigsaw puzzles, gardening, yoga, drumming, drawing, jewelry making, coffee dates with a book in hand. It didn't matter if I was bad at it, or I ended up not really caring for it, I couldn't know if it was going to fit into my life until I tried it. I began coming up with this wonderful daily routine that always included something that I enjoyed doing.
It wasn’t any one thing that helped me find myself – it was that I was spreading my wings and finding things that made me happy outside of another person.
I started truly learning the things that I liked doing that were just for me.
That’s how I discovered that I was (still) a writer, that I loved yoga and enjoyed meditation, and that jogging made me feel like a superhero (thank you endorphins).
Work on your character flaws.
We all have things that we want to change about ourselves. I had to discover mine and work on them. Back then, it seemed so overwhelming. How do I pick something to work on when it feels like everything is wrong with me? There were so many things that I truly hated about myself.
I asked my best friend to be honest with me and tell me three things that he thought I should work on. It wasn’t great to hear criticism about myself but at the same time, it came from a place of love and I knew that. So I worked on those things and I felt so much better. It changed my life and it changed who I was as a person.
Making those kinds of changes isn’t easy. It’s something that you have to wake up and commit to every day. It takes months, even years, to re-wire your brain and change your default reactions to situations. The key is trying again and again until those changes stick.
Learn to appreciate yourself.
While you are working on those things that you don't like about yourself, equally focus on the things that you do. Break yourself down to those core things about yourself that are AWESOME and then focus on them. Water them, give them sunlight, watch them grow. I’ve always been a compassionate person and I built on that. My ability to listen and understand and truly show compassion for other people is one of the things that inspired me to make Blessing Manifesting. You need to find that essential part of your personality and then learn how to let it be one of the foundations of your life.
Discover your core values.
Write down those things that are important to you. The values that you admire in yourself and others and then ask yourself if there’s anything in your life that’s causing you to compromise your values. If so, re-align yourself. We are not perfect human beings. There may be a value that is important to you and you find yourself acting in a way that doesn't align with that - change course. You're not stuck with the same behaviors for your entire life. You can break out of the cycle.
Change your surroundings.
Part of finding myself was also discovering how I wanted my home to look. When I was going through that period of depression and those break-ups my house was a mess. If you walked inside of it you wouldn't know that it was mine. It reflected nothing about who I was a person. My journey of discovery had me surrounding myself in different colors, and textures, in art and houseplants – I created a home that made me feel happy to come home to.
If you looked at my living room today it would be easy to see aspects of my personality reflected everywhere.
Look at the people you’re surrounding yourself with.
Make a list of the qualities that you want in your friends and if your current friends don’t embody those qualities it might be time to find a new support system. You don't have to ditch them or cut them out of your life but there’s nothing wrong with outgrowing people. It happens, and if those people are sucking the life out of you and compromising your integrity – it’s okay to create some distance and find people who truly resonate with the person you want to be.
It is so important to have people to lift you up.
Find your style.
Sometimes that’s the easiest place to start. I remember the first time I bought a colorful hippy skirt and how it just felt like “me”. I had never been able to wear things like that but when I started to try new hairstyles and clothing styles it felt like I was re-discovering my true self. Dying my hair red or cutting it during periods of transformation felt like therapy. I got tattoos that have reflected where I've been at certain points in my life and each time I've done those things it's felt like I'm coming home to myself.
If you could go shopping and get any clothing you wanted - what would you get? If you could style yourself any way without caring about what other people think - what would you look like? Start there.
It took a few years but I learned to love myself in ways that I didn’t know were possible. I learned to love things about myself that I didn’t know were lovable, that no one had looked at me and pointed out. No one said “I love that about you.” Quirky, silly, little, big, amazing things. I discovered them all by myself and it was life changing in an intense way. It was self-discovery at its finest.
In 2012, I created a worksheet called Who I Am vs Who I Want to Be
It gave me an outlet to analyze my life as it was and then envision the life that I wanted for myself. Today I’ve recreated that worksheet for you. You can be super organized and make lists on the different topics I’ve covered. In “Who You Are” you can list your current hobbies, your current values, the things you like about yourself or dislike about yourself and then list the things you aspire to or want to try in the “Who I Want to Be” section. If you find yourself feeling stuck, just write words or thoughts. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.
I created a few different versions, including the one from 2012! As you can see, my style has changed a little. :p