Embarking on a journey to find yourself sounds like a cliché to most people. In fact, I have often wondered about it myself. What does it really mean when you say you are trying to find yourself? Does it mean you are lost? Well, yes it does.
Many of us plod along in life never truly knowing what we want, what we need, or what beckons us toward the future. We simply go with the flow, often hitching a ride on someone else’s dreams and aspirations, usually those of the person closest to us. We attach our hope for happiness and fulfillment to theirs and keep our fingers crossed for the best. This enmeshment can lure you into complacency until eventually, something begins to itch deep down inside. Everyone itches from time to time, but for the most part, we ignore the signal from below because we don‘t want to see what is making us itch. We have an uneasy sense that if we look too closely, or too deeply, we may find that we don’t like what we see, or worse, we might find that there is nothing to see. As a result, entire lifetimes remain stagnant; forever unexamined.
If you are one of the unlucky-lucky ones, there will come a time in your life when you will experience great emotional pain, and/or immense inner conflict as a result of the loss of a loved one or some other major life crisis. With this great pain can emerge the catalyst for embarking on a journey towards personal development, maturation, and eventually, for a few chosen ones, self-actualization. That is, becoming the person you were meant to be.
Not everyone chooses this path however, and they will be the ones that remain static and continue as they always were. For a few others, the catalyst will ignite a gradual change in the way life is viewed. A long period of self-analysis will follow and inevitably, this will result in finding truths about your Self that you never knew, or that you simply kept buried deep within your psyche. You may find, to your dismay, that who you thought you were no longer jives. And as a result, you may begin to feel lost. For the lucky ones, this is the beginning of the long and lonely road to self-actualization – that innate drive that propels you towards becoming the best that you can be.
The “journey” is not for the weak-hearted. It will require much courage, perseverance and commitment as you face your devils and become acquainted with your true Self. It is very difficult to travel this road alone and assistance by way of therapy is indispensable. And, it is by no means a short or quick journey but rather, a life-long process. It will take hours upon hours and even years of self-examination. It will require combing through life experiences, analyzing your behaviours, acquiring knowledge about psychological processes and theory, and even interpreting dreams, – in short, you must be prepared to work.
The extreme self-examination that is required will likely solicit accusations of self-centeredness from others, and in fact, will feel that way at times. However, it is the self-examined person who in the end will reach a greater capacity for empathy and compassion, and who as a result, will be better equipped to give of himself – in essence becoming less selfish.
In order to help others, you must always first help yourself.
As you move forward on your journey, you can expect that few will understand and even fewer will care. In fact, it is very likely that no one will care about your efforts to self-actualize. Any attempts to engage someone on the subject will end up dead in the water. People are either too uncomfortable about the issue, they don’t understand it, or they are just not interested. You will quickly realize this when you see eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the word self-actualization. And you will come to see that you are essentially on your own.
Abraham Maslow‘s theory of self-actualization posits that only a few will reach the summit. But the 1-2% who do reach it will be compensated with a renewed sense of Self. It promises to uncover a more realistic and authentic person who is better able to reach outward to help others. And it promises spontaneity of thoughts and behaviours, and a keen sense of independence. The self-actualized person will come to fully believe in who and what he is.
It is a lonely and difficult journey, but one that is well worth taking despite the small odds of actually reaching the end destination. And even though you may never reach Maslow‘s summit, if you are determined and keep your eye on the prize, you will at the very least reach a higher plain and be closer than you could have imagined to becoming the person you were meant to be.
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (iiteeeestudents.wordpress.com)
- James L. Fisher: Climb Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and become self-actualized (tcpalm.com)