Self discovery is defined as 'the process of acquiring insight into one's own character.'
I started writing this blog post back in 2017, shortly after a whirlwind breakup. It began with me explaining I was actually in the middle of a period of self-discovery, and that I was slowly rewriting who I had become during a six year relationship. It was strange to read back over that, two years later, because if I thought I was in a state of self-discovery then, I really had no idea what I was in for over the next 24 months!
Being in a relationship requires us to become familiar with another person in our lives 24/7. We spend time cultivating this thriving relationship, and inevitably it starts to feel more 'us' and less 'me'. The precious joy of a relationship is having someone to share everything with, but when that relationship is taken off the table, you must return to a state of 'me-ness'.
It's definitely not always post-break up that we find ourselves contemplating the topic of self-discovery. Although we are constantly discovering deeper details about ourselves, it is often a specific moment, occurrence in our lives or perhaps a meaningful period of travel that catapults us into a state of wondering who we are.
Why do I need to discover anything new about me?
We all lead busy lives, filled with work, relationships and the daily grind. We muddle along and stick to the things we know; the comfort zone, the familiar. There's nothing wrong with that- we all do it! We do it because routine is safe and reliable. But how often does something groundbreaking happen in our lives when we stick to what we already know? (Not often!) So we don't discover new things about ourselves until we are forced into doing so by something out of our control.
As the world continuously changes around us, we make small changes in our lives. Our attitudes, beliefs and desires change over time, but these are so slight we tend not to notice until we glance back over the previous few years and see the vast difference. I believe it's important to take time aside to concentrate on our development as individuals; to rediscover ourselves.
This might mean trying a new hobby or taking the weekend to yourself to consider the important things in your life right now. Maybe it's spending a few precious hours relaxing in front of the TV or enjoying an hour or so in the bath. When we begin a relationship with someone, we take the time to get to know them; their likes, dislikes, hobbies, fears. It should be no different when discovering yourself as a person. You need to get comfortable enough to spend time on your own and to get to know yourself a little better.
A voyage; an exciting project
Getting to know yourself is a scary but incredibly exciting project. There is so much you can do, try, experience, get wrong and learn from. As a society, I don't think we really discuss self-discovery very much. If we do, it can be viewed quite negatively, like when somebody joins a new religion, moves country so they can be with their new partner, becomes a vegetarian. We question big life changes in others, and instead of congratulating others we often berate them (behind their backs, of course).
Sometimes getting to know yourself better and being honest with yourself about what you want in life can be messy. Perhaps it means leaving the job you worked so hard for, or separating from your partner. Big changes scare us, so we keep our thoughts close to our chests.
If you find yourself on the voyage of self-discovery, know you don't have to share your progress and revelations on social media. You do, however, need to acknowledge the importance of the work you're undertaking. Rediscovering who you are shouldn't mean discarding who and what you were and are right now. You are exactly where you're supposed to be right now.
Everything you've lived and learned has led to this moment, so embrace that. But what self-discovery does mean is taking a look at you; really investigate who you are and what you stand for. Intertwined with a strong sense of self-love, learning and discovering more about yourself is simply another form of self love; honouring who you are through a continuous search for ways to ensure you're reaching your highest potential.
Self-rediscovery post break up
It can be scary to go it alone after being so comfortable in a relationship because you might not know who you really are anymore. I know I certainly experienced this limbo feeling, and it took me some time to almost rebuild and rediscover my sense of who I actually was, without my partner.
A successful relationship takes compromise, and through this you may begin to move away slightly from the things you liked in order to be more compromising and accommodating to a partner. Perhaps a genre of film you watched less as a pair, or a certain restaurant. But when you’re no longer together, really there are very few limitations and compromises you need abide by. In short... you do you, honey!
The voyage is in the travel
Since the end of 2017, self-discovery has been the single most liberating thing I've ever experienced. I've had the chance to reexamine who I am; what I want to do, what I stand for, what I'm good at, the things I like and dislike. Having returned to England, and the towns I spent my life in, it's clear that I've changed as a person. Not negatively, in fact for the better!
I would attribute most of my revelations to travelling. I travelled to Camp Chinqueka, a girls camp in Connecticut, where I spent two summers with some of the most incredible young women ever. I explored America - both alone and with friends - and experienced some of the most amazing things in Hawaii for the first time ever. I became an au pair in New Zealand for six months for the most beautiful family and above all, I fell in love with things I had never enjoyed... adrenaline fuelled experiences and hobbies.
The main thing I learned from my travels, my breakup and my self-rediscovery was that it's never wise to get too comfortable. I never want to be so comfortable that I don't step outside what I know. I don't want to miss opportunities simply because they're unfamiliar and as cliche as it sounds, I know I now grab every new experience with both hands.