I have a friend who recently decided to get a puppy. She was overflowing with excitement and had a heartfelt desire to be the best dog mom in the world. But one day into her new role, she realized she couldn’t be everything that puppy needed her to be—she had to give her back. I listened as she poured out her heart, trying to make sense of what she did wrong. She felt like she should have been the perfect dog mom.
It’s natural for us to think of ourselves as we relate to other people. For example, I pride myself on being a good daughter and I want everybody to know how much my friends love me. But isn’t there a problem in measuring our worth through relationship? Because at the end of the end of the day, if you don’t know who you are, you can’t be anything to anyone.
You at least have an idea of who you are—your likes, dislikes, hobbies and beliefs. But do you have a firm grasp on your identity? Identity is that raw, one-of-a-kind, unwavering truth inside of you that sets you apart. It’s your passions, your convictions, the things that make you cry. Your personality might change based on who you’re with and what you’re doing, but your identity remains constant in every circumstance.
It’s possible to go a lifetime without ever discovering your real self. I was 22 before I realized I didn’t know who I was on my own. I had been so influenced by relationships, social media and my personal experiences that I was wearing dozens of identities, clueless as to which one was truly mine.
We often carry so many false identities that we expect everybody to love us. Once you start shedding the layers that aren’t you, you may find that you’re not everybody’s cup of tea. Maybe they don’t like how outspoken you are or that you take your coffee black. Who knows?
The great part of self-discovery is that as you realize who you are, you realize who your people are.
Not everyone is going to adore you, but you’re not going to adore everyone either! You can finally say goodbye to that old friend who constantly brings you down and surround yourself with a community of uplifting, life-giving friends.
The truth is, trying to be everything to everyone is exhausting.
One of the first steps I took toward finding my true identity was becoming disciplined in the art of journaling. You don’t have to be a writer to write, just pick up a notebook and some fun pens and see where your hand takes you! I started creating a list I like to call Things That Make Me Feel Lovely. I wrote in it every day for months. By writing down tiny moments that I would normally overlook, I learned that I love white sheets, classical piano and early mornings. Take time in your day to notice the things that make you feel lovely.
On the other hand, take time to notice the things that make you feel depleted. For example, when I kept a list called Things That Make Me Feel Bad, I learned that I hate gym shorts, I don’t feel confident in my body when I wear them and have since switched exclusively to yoga leggings. These small realizations led to big changes.
Over time, as I wrote, I started seeing patterns.
I saw that the biggest things keeping me from knowing and loving myself were fear and guilt: fear of being rejected and guilt for not being enough. It can be scary, diving into these parts of ourselves we try to keep hidden. But once you know what is inhibiting you, it becomes easier to embrace and fall in love with who you were made to be.
The truth is, trying to be everything to everyone is exhausting. It’s unsustainable, unhealthy and unrealistic. But more than anything, it’s unnecessary. Allow yourself the deep honor of making your acquaintance. Be alone with yourself and discover what you didn’t know was there. We can’t be everything to everyone all the time, but the great thing is that we’re not supposed to be.