Finding Yourself

It’s always interesting to watch a person in process of finding himself. And by himself, I mean the he or she version of that. What makes it so interesting is that it rarely begins with any sort of realization about who he actually is and what he actually cares about. Usually, it’s more about branching out from what he is not or has not previously been. But change for the sake of change is dangerous.

And the spark that usually lights this flame is discontent either with a current rut, peer pressure, or a perceived notion that someone or some group he respects would like him more if he were like this person or that person rather than quite like himself.

It’s kind of naive to think that simple but sudden changes in attire or interest or taste or appearance are going to be perceived as anything but a desperate attempt to be something or someone one is not. It’s not believable; it’s not genuine. But still, I think nearly everyone has done this to some extent, because all of us have people we admire and would like to emulate to some degree. I don’t deny the reality of mimetic desire.

But short of a conversion experience (which may also be questionable, depending), when someone suddenly disagrees with the himself of yesterday on nearly every single issue, dumps all his friends for a new set or perhaps a significant other, and drastically changes his interests, appearance, passions, everything all at once, you have to wonder what on earth is going on. It can’t possibly be finding one’s self so much as doing a really, really bad impression of another person. Why? Because there’s nothing believable about it. It’s manufactured.

Granted there’s the whole element of needing to be exposed to a variety of things in order to know what one truly thinks or feels or desires to be regarding nearly anything. And it’s not a bad thing to grow up and to grow into one’s own. But it needs to be natural, and it needs to happen over time, in response to the proper triggers, and it needs to make sense.

This is not to say we can’t have new interests that we immerse ourselves in for a time or try out new styles or expose ourselves deliberately to new experiences that push us outside of our comfort zone…those are all really good things to do. Those are the things that stretch us and make us think and keep us properly uncomfortable. But don’t do that stuff just to impress someone. That’s silly. Do it because you care about it. Do it as an act of gratitude to God, because you take his world and your life seriously. Or, if you are doing it for someone else, at least be deliberate about it, and admit it up front.

We all have to grow up and become our own people, to some degree (I mean that in the best way it can be meant, recognizing in another sense that we are certainly not our own and there is one sort of conformity we should all crave). But if we’re honest and paying attention at all, chances are we’ll find things we were raised believing that we don’t actually embrace anymore. And if we’re pissed off about it, we might run really far in the opposite direction because we’re hurt or confused. But we don’t have permission to be dishonest like that and to simply live as a reactionary. Unfortunately, finding one’s self requires a bit of work…thinking, wrestling, and discovering. And as we find inconsistencies, it requires re-thinking in order to make it all mesh. Who we are as people, as image bearers, is the very last place we should allow ourselves to be lazy or fake. I, for one, am interested in a person’s real opinions, not their strategically worded guess as to what another person listening in may choose to acknowledge, appreciate, or praise. And if you don’t have an opinion yet, “I don’t know” is infinitely superior to just telling someone what he wants to hear.

We don’t get to just adopt an entire new personality off the cuff and expect people to take us seriously. That’s not how it works. That’s not you becoming an individual; that’s you acting like a naive, insecure teenager, which, isn’t terribly offensive if you’re a naive, insecure teenager. But if you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, you need to grow up.

“It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” –E.E. Cummings

Beka Johnson
Beka Johnson

Beka is the Director of Inbound Marketing for a fintech company in the Seattle area. She loves dabbling, reading, scheming, writing, and dreaming up ways to make good things better. When she’s not working, you can find her digging up all sorts of adventures in her new city.

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