song in my head—”Good Things” by The Menzingers
“… The amateur's self-inflation prevents him from acting. He takes himself and the consequences of his actions so seriously that he paralyzes himself. The amateur fears, above all else, becoming (and being seen and judge as) himself. Becoming himself means being different from others and thus, possibly, violating the expectations of the tribe, without whose acceptance and approval, he believes, he cannot survive. By these means, the amateur remains inauthentic. He remains someone other than who he really is." —Steven Pressfield, "Turning Pro"
We've all heard of the idea of "finding" yourself. It's a self-reflection axiom used since what would seem like the beginning of time. But is this really how things work? Do we really “find” ourselves?
The idea that the path to self-understanding is some quest or hunt is an alluring one. It gives us a task we must go and do, and we have a fantastic propensity to "do" things without actually "accomplishing" things. But also, and more importantly, this image implies that our self is lost somehow, which means that if we fail in finding it, it's not our fault. Not all things that are lost can be found, right?
But Pressfield pokes at the true hindrance to our self-actualization. It is not that we can't be found. It's that we're already found. We're just afraid to live into what we've discovered.
The opinions and judgments of others are great cudgels levied upon us daily. But how many of those opinions and judgments are merely imagined fears we hold on to as an excuse not to try?
You see, the self doesn't need to be found. I mean, sure, we all experience maturation and growing up. But at a certain point, a picture begins to form, and we can see who we are—what makes us tick, what interests us, what our values are, what our mental makeup is. Some of us dive deeper into fully forming this portrait than others, but I think we all understand the basics of it on some level.
So stop thinking about trying to "find yourself;" trust that you already have! You'll continue to learn and grow, but the foundations are there. Now it's just of matter of embracing it, of showing the world just who you are—a treasure not found or discovered through a path to some X on a map, but one that was there all along.