“A ship is safe in the harbour but that is not what ships are built for.”- John Shedd
It is no secret that we are social creatures and that it is ingrained into our innate beings that societal acceptance is crucial to survival. In todays day and age, it often feels like if we do not live up to the expectations and opinions that the people hold around us, then we will be deemed a social pariah of sorts and an outcast in our respective communities or among our peers. Actually, I am sure that this is a notion that has been prominent in society since the beginning of time. It is easy to see these expectations and opinions being reflected in our fashion trends, the top 20 music charts, favoured sport affiliations, the societally approved career paths, religious affiliations, political views, and all of the other aspects of our daily lives (big or small).
We were not created with different personalities, ideas, and feelings so that we could all imitate and reflect them in the same manner as each other. We were created uniquely different because without such differences society could not thrive and progress. Like the ships that find safety in a harbour, it is not difficult to see how and why we get caught up in living the popular societal opinion over who we actually are. As a direct consequence a lot of people struggle to find themselves, or struggle to come to terms with who they are because it may differ from the rest of their immediate peers.
For some, the struggle to find themselves (or to come to terms with who they are) is overtly real and an issue that they can feel present and looming from day-to-day. However, if you are like me, then it might not have been a pressing issue, or an issue that you knew existed until after the fact. Here are a few concepts that (looking back) helped me figure out who I am and to find comfort in candidly expressing that person:
You must find self-validation from within yourself, and not from within the reactions of others. If you are struggling to find yourself, I whole-heartedly believe that this is the first (and biggest) step towards figuring out who you are. If the motivation behind your actions are the reactions of other people, then you are eventually going to lose sight of where the motivation is coming from and you will consequentially lose sight of yourself. The things you do and the views that you hold must come from a place that satisfies yourself first, and foremost. Or in retrospect, the things that you are not doing cannot come from a place that is trying to satisfy the people around you. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, so you might as well do as you want.
Your comfort zone is your worst enemy. Ignorance is not bliss, and neither is your comfort zone. I know that this is a strong statement, and I am sure that there are many who will debate otherwise. But if you have always stayed within your comfort zone (or have no desire to leave), then you will face no challenge or have no new experience that will help you learn about yourself. I, also, genuinely believe that we can learn so much about ourselves through other people, through people who are vastly different than our own beings and these people are not generally found within our comfort zones. I opened this article with a quote by John A. Shedd that states, “a ship is safe in the harbour but that is not what ships are built for,” and like ships we will not fulfil our potential in the safety of the harbour, or comfort zone.
You are enough. This is a short and seemingly simple concept to embody, but it is probably the most difficult aspect in the struggle to find yourself. Fear plays the deciding hand for most of our actions, and here it is no different. Within the struggle to find who we are, there is the up-most fear that it will not be enough for the people around us. We fear that if we figure out who we are and that if it is different than the popular societal opinion, then we will be judged by our peers and seen in a different light. I cannot say that this won’t happen because we have seen people alienated time and time again, however, I do encourage you to be the difference. If you start finding validation from within and allow yourself out of your comfort zone, then this concept will fall into place and confidence will replace the fear as a result.