Stop Trying To Find Yourself & Do This Instead

[A version of this post originally appeared in my FREE #GetGutsy e-newsletter earlier this summer. It resonated with my newsletter subscribers, so I wanted to make it public for all to read. Subscribe for twice-monthly emails filled with more inspiration, ideas and action items to get out of your comfort zone.]

Stop trying to find yourself

Stop trying to find yourself. Photo.

A couple of months ago, I attended my cousin’s wedding. It was a beautiful affair from start to finish, but what really struck me was something the priest said during the ceremony.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but his words resonated with me so much that I pulled out my iPhone (in the middle of church…the horror!) and quickly jotted down this phrase in my notes:

Don’t discover yourself. Build yourself.

How many times have you either told someone or thought to yourself, “I really just need to find myself.”

Uh…guilty as charged.

Call it part of the quarter-life crisis or just a natural part of growing up, but whatever it is, it’s likely a phrase we’ve all uttered at one point or another.

Whether you’re fresh out of college or years into building a family and career, we all experience uncertainty. We question if we’re on the right path. We wonder if there’s something more out there for us.

However, in attempting to find ourselves or discover our passions, we sometimes forget about or lose an important piece of who we are.

Think about it this way: during the ceremony, the priest gave a great example of how, as people, we are multi-layered. There’s a layer our parents help shape over the years, a layer our friends shape, our bosses, our significant others and so on. And when people go out there to “find themselves,” they strip away those layers, desperate to find something, anything, in hopes of discovering who they are.

But once they peel back all those layers, they are left with…NOTHING.

Because people cannot “find” themselves. And we certainly can’t do it alone.

But, what people can be is built. And we are built by experiences and by the people who surround us in our lives. Those layers are building blocks, laying a foundation to help us find our way.

So instead of trying to “find yourself,” change your thinking. Embrace all of your layers, even the messy and confusing ones. Those imperfections are what make you who you are. They shape your future and help you discover your path.

Remember: your journey is not a perfectly straight line from point A to point B. It’s long and winding, full of unexpected twists and turns.

And that’s what makes it completely beautiful and unique to you, and you only.

What do you think…are you finding yourself or building yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

  • Both. Even though I’m 28, there are still things about myself that I am discovering. (I think maybe marriage has something to do with that.) It’s really cool. But along with that, I also build myself. And as I reach new goals and do scary things I never thought I could, I find out even more about myself. So I say, a mix of both is healthy and important. Because sometimes you can passively find out who you are through situations and interactions. But it’s crucial to be active in creating the life you want to live.

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Hey Akirah, awesome answer! I agree that I’m still “finding myself” too, although I think it’s a little more strategic than just stumbling upon new things I’m interested in or passionate about, which is why I prefer the term “building myself.” You are so right about it being crucial to be active in creating the live you want to live! Such a smart statement. Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • I think I’m trying to uncover myself. These three quotes resonated with me recently. I actually thought “that’s what I want to do for my clients” and am now realizing that this is what I want to do for myself.

    “Someone has recently cracked open their joyous, genuine nature because they did the hard work of hauling years of oppression off of their psyche “” this luminous juju is floating in the ether, and is accessible to you.” ~Danielle LaPorte

    From Gabby Bernstein’s May Cause Miracles…”In a recent interview, I was asked, ‘Do you love who you’ve become?’ My response was, ‘I don’t believe I’ve become anyone, I’ve just released all that was blocking me from who I really am.'”

    “If you’ve abandoned yourself in the effort to keep anyone or anything else, unlearn that pattern. Live your truth, losses be damned. Just like that, your heart and soul will return home.” Martha Beck

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks so much for sharing these amazing quotes, Joanna!

  • I agree with that statement. Any time I hear people talking about finding themselves or being your “authentic” self it sounds confusing to me, because it suggests there’s this fully developed “real” self inside each one of us that just needs to get out. It isn’t that simple, and there’s a reason why people say they don’t feel like themselves very often when they are living life in a way in which they’re unhappy/unsatisfied, and why people are way more likely to characterize themselves as having ‘found themselves’ or whatever when they’re at their best, doing and achieving to their heart’s content – it’s because everyone is a work in progress and you “are” who you are at all times, whether it’s who you want to be or it isn’t, and the question isn’t whether you’ve found yourself but whether you’re proud of what you’re doing, where you’re at, and how you see yourself. The only way to do that is to take the time to figure out who you want to be and then to work in that direction! We’re always “ourselves”, just not always the “selves” we really want to be.

    • Jessica Lawlor

      Thanks so much for your insightful comment- super smart way to think about finding yourself/building yourself. xo

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  • Melissa Clark

    Finding yourself implies that there is one true self inside that is lost. It also implies that this self is built in stone, and our only job is to uncover it. Living an “authentic” life, to me, means living in line with your own values and beliefs. But these beliefs need to be crafted, not found. Building a value system leads to authenticity. Finding one leads to living someone else’s life. Which, as I’m sure we all know, can make us miserable.

    We in take bits and pieces of of the world around us, process them, and decide what the mean to us. We piece the information we have collected together to decide how we want to live. That’s building. Not finding.

    I never want to “find” myself, but I’ll spend the rest of my life building myself into the image of exactly what I believe is good, right, healthy, and full of integrity.

    (I know I’m about two and a half years late, but thanks for the great post. I enjoyed it!)

    • Yes, Melissa! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts <3