The Fear of Finding Yourself
The Fear of Finding Yourself
Right now, I’m in Santorini, Greece. I’m writing this post at a cafe in the town of Perissa, famous for its black sand beaches. I woke up this morning thinking: how is this my life?
This time three years ago, I was working downtown in Washington, DC – enjoying my nonprofit job but itching for something new, searching for my Next Step. A few months later, I made the decision to leave my organization to work for myself. And my life has been a whirlwind ever since.
Almost a year ago, I chose to get rid of my expensive studio apartment in DC and experience living in different places without a lease, mostly through sublets. That decision freed up a lot of money to save for long-term travel, including a three 1/2 week trip to Honolulu, Hawaii and my current month-long trip in Europe.
Throughout this journey, I’ve also gotten rid of most of my personal belongings. It’s been so freeing to let go of my things that I now embrace the concept of living with less. Without having to worry about the acquisition, storage and maintenance of material possessions, I have found that I can have more experiences instead. I have lost a lot of my former desire to accumulate all the “stuff” I used to lust after – clothes, shoes, furniture. I buy only the things I need and keep only the things I really love. In this way, I have released attachment to much of what kept me from being able to just get up and go whenever I want.
The downside to this process (if there is one) is that when you release attachment to everything, the only thing left to focus on is yourself.
And for most people, that is the scariest.shit.ever. It’s been terrifying for me. I’ve been writing through the fear here on the blog, hoping to share what I’ve learned along the way and encourage other women to live life on their own terms. But I’d be shortchanging the journey if I didn’t also talk about how scary it can be to pursue your ideal life.
When you turn off the TV, close the magazine, unplug from the drama, shut out the negativity, stop the mindless shopping, get rid of all the stuff you don’t need and quit letting other people control your life, there’s literally NOTHING left to distract you.
So…now what? You look at yourself in the mirror and start asking questions.
- Who am I?
- Who have I been pretending to be this whole time?
- Who do I want to be now?
The answers, when they hit you, can be overwhelming. Self-discovery can be an elevator dropping right on top of your head. It can make you want to run to the edge of the cliff and jump back into your old life.
Except that now, you can’t go back. There’s NO WAY you can go back. You’d have to unlearn everything you now know about yourself, about the world.
At this point, your task is to fall deeply in love with your new self, to embrace this wide-eyed woman in all her naked glory. To softly sweep up the dust she kicked up when she burst through the door, dazed and confused.
Then figure out what to do with her.
When you begin to discover who you really are after so many years of procrastinating on your desires, of burying your dreams in the sand, it’s as if a veil gets lifted. You become a baby learning how to walk. You realize that YOU HAVE LEGS and they can take you ANYWHERE YOU WANT TO GO.
But a big part of you doesn’t want to learn. You don’t want to be a baby, after all this time you spent learning how to be an adult. So, you decide to stand up in defiance. It’s time to shake it off, this feeling of imbalance. You take two steps forward and fall. You stand back up, taking three steps now. But you just fall down again. And again.
You start crying because the falling feels so lonely. When you fall, you’re down there on the ground by yourself, looking up at the people who seem like they already know how to walk. Falling feels like failure, so you want to stand. You would give anything to stand. To be able to walk like everyone else.
But you can’t walk when you’re in the process of finding yourself.
Now is the time to crawl and fall. After a while, the universe will send you angels who will help you learn to walk. They will show up in the form of strangers or friends or lovers who are meant to teach you how to see yourself in a new light. This is so that you can finally accept the uncomfortable truth that there is actually nothing to “find.”
You are already the person you’ve been looking for.