Feminist Friday: The Process of Self-Discovery Begins With You

Friday, February 13, 2015

 The Process of Self-Discovery Begins With You

My first year of college, I went to see a therapist.

One of the first questions asked of me was “Why did you decide to seek therapy?” and I told her it was a preventative measure. I’d been going through a lot of change in my life at the time (most of it positive, but not all), and though I thought I was handling it pretty well, I wanted to make sure. I had a history of not handling stress well, and I didn’t want to implode before I could finish my first semester of college.

We met once a week for the standard fifty minutes, and I told her about all the goings-on in my life. I told her about the problems with my dysfunctional family, my plans for the future with the friends I made at camp the previous summer, and the unhealthy relationship patterns I seemed to keep repeating. Occasionally, we’d talk about a past experience that still haunted me, but not much. Until one day, my therapist asked a question that would change my entire worldview.

“I want you to think about you,” she said. “Every week, we talk about what has or is happening to you, but we don’t talk about you. I feel like I know more of what’s going on in your life than I know you, and I’d like to know you so I can better understand how to help you. How do you feel about your life? How do you feel about you? Do you feel like you know yourself?”

In an episode of How I Met Your Mother (a current addiction of mine), the gang reveals the annoying habits each of them possesses. Before having the habits pointed out to them, they ignored the annoyances out of friendship. The lesson was, if you love someone, you don’t notice what makes them annoying. You accept them for who they are. But for a moment, the annoyances were all they could notice as they were brought to life, and their perceptions of each other were momentarily shattered, along with the comedic sound effect of broken glass.

This was my broken glass moment. When my therapist pointed out that I spent fifty minutes each week avoiding all talk about myself and my private thoughts, my own perception of myself was shattered. I realized I hadn’t been taking a preventative measure for my health. I’d been taking a preventative measure to keep myself from opening up. Therapy is meant to open yourself up, and help you think rationally and objectively about yourself and your life. But the truth was, I’d simply been using therapy as an excuse to talk about what was going on in my life so I wouldn’t have to talk to my friends or family. My friends and family at the time were not big “sharers.” We kept to ourselves, and hid our inner most personal thoughts and feelings. I didn’t tell my friends about my struggles until I’d already resolved them, and they did the same. 

Before this revelation, I had convinced myself my friends were a healthy addition to my life, but then I began to question it. And then, I began to question everything.

Who was I really? Obviously, I was more than my experiences, more than what I’d been through and was currently going through. How did I feel about my life, honestly? How did I feel in general? I started to give myself permission to feel. I’d always had trouble feeling the “bad” stuff. I felt this enormous pressure to always be happy and smiling. I thought crying was a weakness, that being sad was ungrateful and selfish, lonely was pathetic and pitiful, and anger was dangerous and scary. Society treats unhappy people like they’re contagious, unhappiness a disease, and I was enough of an outcast already.

But nobody can be happy all the time, and when I started to accept this, life became a lot easier. I allowed myself to feel, even and especially the “bad” stuff. I began opening up to my friends and family. I stopped hiding.

And little by little, I discovered who I am. My wants, needs, and opinions. My habits, quirks, and deepest desires. I realized I’m constantly changing, evolving, growing, and I will never be the same person I was a year ago, and that’s a really, really good thing.

I realized the process of self-discovery is just that: a process. It’s something you’ll fight against and struggle with day-after-day-after-day, but eventually you’ll find acceptance.

Eventually, you’ll find the ever-evolving you.

So crack yourself open, and start the process of self-discovery. Find out what you’re passionate about, and share it with the world. Give yourself permission to think about yourself, and feel what comes up. Know that you are more than your experiences, much more.

The process of self-discovery begins with you.

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