Life lessons

Finding yourself

A recent conversation with a friend triggered this post. A recent frustrating conversation. Apparently there is a belief that you need to “find yourself” before you are worthwhile or good enough. This involves sorting out all your issues and your problems as well as understanding why you exist and what you are here on planet earth for.

Piece of cake. Not.

Especially not when you are a person who thinks you cannot move on with day to day life if you haven’t done all of it.

My argument with my dear friend fell on deaf ears.

I tried explaining how some people probably don’t “find themselves” even until they are on their death bed. Others may figure certain things out only by getting on with life and going with the flow. And sometimes, you cannot afford to stop your life just to sort out some issues. The clients I see have not all stopped getting on with school, with relationships or work just to sort out their depression or anxiety or post-traumatic stress. Some adults may stop work for a while but they will still seek therapy. Not just mull around things in their head and sort it out that way.

The past doesn’t always determine the present or the future. No matter what Freud and attachment theorists would like you to believe. But some people, including my friend, truly believe the past does determine your life. And hence is stuck and unable to move on with life. Traumatic experiences do occur. Dysfunctional families are almost the norm. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a choice in terms of how our lives pan out. We may not always sort out all our issues but we do have a choice regarding how we deal with these issues. Do we want these issues to rule our lives? Or do we want to get on with day-to-day life and work on the issues simultaneously?

And why is it so important to find oneself? I get annoyed with books and movies glorifying how people find themselves. [Funnily enough, they tend to do that in India. Go figure!] It is a new-age thing for sure. I’m pretty certain Gandhi or Martin Luther King never “found themselves”. They got on with their lives, stood up for their beliefs and took on responsibility. We can’t all be Kings and Gandhis. But we can get on with our lives. Doing what we do. Not needing to travel to India or other countries to ‘find ourselves’.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t know what my purpose on earth is. As long as I am content with what I’m doing and not harming anyone, that should be enough. Sometimes, it is not our careers that is our ‘purpose’. It may be something completely different. Who knows? Maybe we are all here to do one small thing and we may have already done it. Does that mean we stop living now?

I understand this has turned out to be a bit of a rant. Honestly though, if another person tells me they want to “find themselves” I’m going to physically hurt someone! 😛

So what about all of you out there? Do you have similar beliefs? Have you come across people who are so stuck in the past and not getting on with the present thanks to irrational or unhelpful beliefs?

Do share.

Until next time,


You Might Also Like

  • BlueMist
    9 June 2011 at 6:21 am

    I would be not honest if I say the question of my existence and purpose of my life does not haunt me at times. it surely does especially when everything starts going downhill. But that’s it. Other than those time I am pretty much content with my life, living on my terms and making best to my knowledge and learning from past. It is just one life and all I have is NOW. that pretty much sums up my belief. 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    9 June 2011 at 8:42 am

    Misty, I’m sure we all winder occasionally re why we are here. But I guess
    we don’t give up our daily routine to go ‘find ourselves’. I think that’s
    the bit that annoys me…when people give up their current lives to agonise
    over what their purpose is. For all they know, it could be exactly what they
    have been doing. I worry about the future in my down times…and regret some
    stuff about the past too when I’m not in the best of moods…but in the end,
    we can’t change the past nor control the future. So the best thing as you
    said is the NOW. 🙂

  • Jake
    9 June 2011 at 8:44 am

    Aaaah yes Aston Kutcher is all broke, his business just went bust, but then he “finds himself” and he and his princess lives happily ever after. They should have called it Aston in wonderland …morons. You are so right, mainstream media constantly floods people with swill like that. And a lot of them buy into it not giving it any thought. In a way they are exploiting that basic human craving for pleasure. The reality is life is never static and the very idea that you “find yourself” somewhere down the line is equivalent to a puppy that chases its own tail.

    I think a lot of people fail to see that there is a difference between forgetting the past and accepting the past. We never forget the past (well .. at least until your memory starts fading as you get older), the thorns and roses are permanently locked away as the occur , its part of human nature. But we can learn to accept it and tell ourselves things like ..ok event x occurred, but then life is never perfect ..move on. A lot of people I know seem to have this idea that once you do that and accept reality the past will never come back to haunt us, and end up getting depressed more cuz they can’t forget the past (which in reality is NOT possible).

  • Psych Babbler
    9 June 2011 at 9:30 am

    I’m more than happy to blame Hollywood for this whole finding oneself. And
    then recently that lady who wrote the book travelling across Italy, India
    and Thailand to find herself because apparently she couldn’t do it in the
    US. And you are bang on in terms of accepting the past versus forgetting the
    past. I still remember a couple of years ago I had a 19 year old client who
    asked me in the first session whether I had pills or medication that would
    help her forget her past (history of bullying). I thought she was joking but
    she was serious. Go figure. She never came back after I said there was no
    way to forget the past.

  • starry eyed
    9 June 2011 at 10:33 am

    No. You don’t stop living and doing what needs to be done. But I guess self-introspection and a-ha moments (is that what finding oneself means?) keep coming all thru’ life and if you’re willing to work on yourself, life becomes better and richer. And of course you definitely cannot forget the past. Just understand it and accept it.

    Funny that you wrote this. My cousin was recently telling me that she felt people in the US thought that you could just talk stuff with a therapist and get over it forever then and there. Whereas people in India buried stuff and never talked about it and basically invented denial!! So how exactly does one find oneself in India? 😛

  • Itisnu
    9 June 2011 at 11:05 am

    those people who have the time and money to go find themselves do that-mostly these people !

    I don’t want to find myself cause I know where I’m and what am I doing 🙂 finding is what? am I lost? Have I forgotten my name and where do I come from ? 😉

    With due respect to what others think and follow I still feel this is a bit saintly godly in itself 😛

  • Pleemiller
    9 June 2011 at 11:19 am

    life is an ongoing journey and the adventure along the way is what makes it worth it…….our experience…our life experience forms “who we are”.  We “find” ourselves and sort our”crap” along the way…then as we go…we evolve, actualize and “find one more Piece” 
    good post and wise words

    9 June 2011 at 11:43 am

    Hi Psych Babbler,

    The question “who am i and what am i doing here?” hounded me for a very long time.  No, i cudn’t find any answer, now i’ve given up.

    In fact, i’ve let myself flow… with time… with events.  I guess i was holding myself back… questioning myself all the time, that time.

    V must know that life is not just about having fun… a little more than that but going crazy about finding it out can kill u from inside.

    Just live life today.. now… to the fullest 🙂 as the first commentator, Blue Mist wrote.


  • Jake
    9 June 2011 at 11:52 am

    Thats sad, hope she realizes the fact sooner or later…. hope your trip is going well 🙂 … 

  • Comfy
    9 June 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I am not even sure what ‘finding yourself’ means. Or maybe I am just too happy and superficial with the way my life is that I don’t think about the lost me. There are layers to me that come out in different situations and I kind of like that I figure out my strengths and weaknesses as I go through life rather than know it all to begin with. For me the mistakes of the past are to be left there, in the past. I learn from them and move on. Am not sure what my purpose in life is but that does not stop me from living a happy life and I think I am perfectly fine with having no purpose at all in the bigger scheme of things till I look back and have no regrets.

  • Bikram
    9 June 2011 at 1:25 pm

    Totally agree , I am still trying to figure myself after three decades of my existance.. each day i get ot know something new. obout myself..
    chatting to friends or others get told of you are bad, you are good , your this and that..
    different sitautions different things …

    I am sure we dont know ourself ever.. otherwise we will be GOD .. only he knows everything ..


  • Titaxy
    9 June 2011 at 2:46 pm

    First of all, I don’t understand what “finding oneself” means. Meaning one wants to know the purpose of one’s life? In that case, I don’t want to do it because I am happy where I am and not knowing what this is all about adds to the fun of life. I don’t know how it would be for me if I know what my purpose is…what if I just work towards that one thing and not do anything else? At least now, with it being something that I don’t know about, I explore, I take a chance, I am open to many things. I think “finding myself” will make me boring (more boring than what I am today).

    The one book / movie I recall from the recent times that deals with this is Eat, Pray, Love. I couldn’t get myself to read that book past a chapter. I found it nonsensical that she would give up a life she has to go find something else. I don’t get the concept of running away to get away from problems. Because I believe, where ever one goes, the problems / issues follow. Nobody’s life is perfect…be it in India, Italy or Thailand. It may sound exotic and all that to do something like that. But I would rather just a break / vacation and get my mind clear instead of giving up all the beautiful things I have going on in life and making a run for a new one…what’s the guarantee that it is going to be better? As much as it is enticing to start afresh, I wouldn’t trade the relationships/bonds I have now for something like that. Anyway, coming back to that book/movie…I didn’t read the book, but I did watch the movie….she runs away from a relationship and at the end she ends up with another guy in another country…???!?!??!?!?

    Oh wow, looks like I’ve typed an entire post here. Sorry! 🙂

  • Prateek Bagri
    9 June 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Different people have different perceptions but very few know it is hard to keep those preformed perceptions.

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 8:51 am

    Come to think of it Starry, what exactly is finding oneself? I thought it
    was about needing to know your purpose on planet earth. But I could be
    wrong! 😛 I understand what you mean though in terms of introspection and
    thinking about one’s own life…but to give up everything else in order to
    introspect is a bit too far fetched. And therapy does help people accept the
    past and all the shit that may have happened (if it is done right and the
    person is open to accepting and moving on) but yeah, here denial is the key.
    But somehow given the spiritual or cultural aspect that people from overseas
    see, they end up “finding themselves” 😛

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 8:53 am

    I agree Nu…people with money! If you see T’s comment later about the Eat,
    Pray, Love woman…she had money and loads of it! It is quite saintly in a
    way, isn’t it? Or narcissistic would be a cruder way of putting it. It’s a
    tad different from introspection about oneself and one’s life so far…the
    whole purpose bit…you may realise your purpose as you get on with life.

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 10:15 am

    Welcome to this space Pleemiller! I couldn’t agree with you more…you have
    summarised everything I wanted to say in such a succinct manner! Do keep
    visiting and leave a link for your space too… 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 10:17 am

    Restless, going with the flow and living life to the fullest is what it is
    all about. As you said…questioning yourself all that time held you back
    and drove you crazy…currently it’s doing exactly that to my friend and no
    amount of rational or logical arguments seem to work. I guess in due time,
    she too will come to a realisation as you did…

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 10:18 am

    Yeah hope she does. Trip is not too bad so far amidst getting the flu and
    having a tooth pulled out and not liking the monsoons (and yet, choosing to
    visit around that time!). Oh the joys!

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 10:24 am

    It’s a cliched, new-agey term isn’t it Comfy? And yeah, I guess I’m confused
    too if you see my comment to Starry above! 😛 I don’t think you are
    superficial with teh way your life is…rather you are content and with
    contentment comes happiness. You seem to have understood that we learn from
    mistakes and move on…shit happens, but we can stay stuck in that shit for
    the rest of our lives trying to figure out why it happened and what our
    purpose henceforth is. I think that’s where people make mistakes. But as Nu
    said, I think it’s the people with a loooooot of money who can literally
    spend time just “finding themselves”

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 10:26 am

    Yep…we learn about ourselves every single day. I doubt that will stop
    until our deaths. And then people who stop everything in order to learn
    about themselves are in fact doing themselves a disservice. You have to live
    life to learn.

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 10:37 am

    Join the club T…there seem to be a few of us confused with that! I did
    think it was about purpose in life but then Starry added the bit about
    self-introspection. You make a lot of sense T when you say that if we
    already know what our purpose is, then that’s it. What more can we do? This
    way…not knowing…we can continue with life and explore and be
    adventurous. And yes, Eat, Pray, Love was a book I was thinking about when
    writing this as well…even though I haven’t read it, I understand it is one
    woman’s self-indulgent journey of finding herself apparently. I guess she
    just had a shitload of money and couldn’t ‘find herself’ at home! And it was
    a bit of her running away from her life…which is ridiculous in my opinion.
    And that’s sort of what my friend is doing…running away from the usual and
    stopping her routines because she needs to sort out her issues.

    And you are more than welcome to type up a whole post! 🙂

  • Raindrops
    10 June 2011 at 11:13 am

    Sorry if I’m being judgmental, but I think you are being too harsh on your friend. I understand that the world may view the whole ‘finding oneself’ phase as a over-hyped fad, and it may be an escape mechanism for many people. But there are some who have benefitted from such introspection, however lame, or mindless it may seem to the world. Many authors, entreprenuers, artists have discovered their talents post such introspection.
    Most middle class Indian children follow the beaten path because of parental pressure….study well, do an MBA, marry the person of our choice etc. But at some point in life, the pressure might take a toll, and the individual might want to break free from such shackles, by doing something he/she really wants to pursue. I do not think that this choice should be derided.
    And think about it, if the question ‘what is the purpose of my life’ never occured to Siddhartha, he would have remained just that, and not become the ‘Buddha’.Not to say that everyone who is out there, wanting to find themselves is going to turn up great. But I think as a society, that chance should be accorded, without the accompanying jeering.
    Apologies for this super long and bhaari comment!

  • Aakash Johry
    10 June 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I might be an exception in your league and risking my life after your threat of physically hurting 😛
    It’s very individualistic. Though I agree that one can’t sit back and ponder over his life to find self. It works the other way. We move in a direction and then change it if its not the fit we are looking for, and this continues till one finds satisfaction or learns to satisfy himself with what is practically possible. Now, for some, most of the many, life is frustrating because they live in a misfit and then they seek for the reason. That’s primarily the cause of those ‘finding yourself’ movies affect them. 
    My point here is that one can’t just flow with life forever, smoothly until it’s the direction that satisfies him. Finding self is a never ending process and may be one of the reason to keep looking ahead too.


  • D
    10 June 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Very thought provoking. Honestly, my effort in life is more to be myself than find myself. I think I’m not a static being, who can be a type of person all her life. I change, with time, with situations, with people. Ideally, I would like to be like an Aamir Khan from 3 Idiots or some such, but I’m cool being who I am. Perhaps, I’ve already found myself 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 5:50 pm

    No worries Raindrops…be as judgemental as you want! No offense taken 🙂
    The thing is though, my friend has been going through this for a couple of
    years now and it’s only now that I’m frustrated and we have told her to her
    face that she needs to get on with things. You have a valid point with the
    Buddha example but majority of us are probably not cut out to be the next
    god or saint or even Gandhi. I think introspection is good…no doubt about
    that. But giving up your day to day relationships, work etc is probably not
    the best thing even in terms of mental health. And I do like long
    comments…so don’t apologise for that! 😀

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Exactly…finding oneself is a never-ending process…I so agree with that.
    We are always learning, always growing. I think that if we found ourselves,
    there probably would be no reason to grow, eh? Just wondering. And yeah,
    it’s probably more so these days thanks to some movies and books that people
    want to walk away from their day to day life to find themselves…

  • Psych Babbler
    10 June 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Hehe…you probably have found yourself D if you want to be
    yourself…because knowing people who haven’t ‘found themselves’ they don’t
    know who to be! Okay…that sounds confusing but hope you got what I meant!

  • Prats
    11 June 2011 at 5:04 pm

    I think finding oneself is not a function of place but a function of events happening in life… for ex. Gandhiji found himself when he was thrown out from the train on the railway platform or Mother Teresa watched a death in her presence. But I don’t think people have the control on events which would lead them to find themselves and it doesn’t happen consciously for sure… All one can do is be conscious and introspect on things happening in our lives.

  • Psych Babbler
    12 June 2011 at 4:54 am

    Exactly…so it’s about letting life happen. Not taking a break from things
    and then trying to just introspect about your purpose in life.