Every single day of our lives we are being told who to be. What to wear, what not to wear, what music to listen to, what books to read, who to idolise and emulate etc. In fact, it starts at the earliest stage in our lives in which we are taught by our parents, our school and our general community how to behave. We are taught right from wrong and are given a framework of moral guidelines. However, it is at a young age that we are the most impressionable and I think one of the first things we notice as humans is the importance or the value of acceptance. As children and even as adults we all want to be accepted, to be liked and ultimately to receive some form of validation or approval of our actions.
Now you may be thinking what about those who rebel? Individuals who seem intent on not following the trends or fashion fads. Are they the exception to the rule? Do they not care about acceptance or popularity? For some, yes. However, some of these individuals crave something far worse than acceptance or approval. They crave attention. Each rebellious act is simply a nostalgic throwback to child like tantrum. “I’m going to defy you because I can and because it will inconvenience you and then you will have to notice me”. The problem is, some may get so caught up in this persona of defiant individual that they forget to develop an actual personality and rather live out the rest of their lives simply as a mission to go against the norm despite whether it’s in their best interests or not.
Another issue I have noticed and am slightly concerned about is that society has developed a method of not only embracing this ‘rebellious nature’ but also of popularising it so that it in itself becomes a sub culture in which individuals may be a part of. Herein lies the contradiction as you now have a group of people who consistently go against the norm in a bid to rebel, but feel justified in their actions because they are part of a group in which this behaviour is widely accepted. Society has ironically branded this as being ‘unique’. You may often hear some of these individuals repetitively exclaiming and reminding you that their actions or mannerisms are simply an indication of them ‘keeping it real’ or ‘telling it how it is’. Somewhere along the lines after years of this adopted persona of a rebellious individual, they may have developed the notion that society is ‘against’ them’, which of course only further fuels their general defiant behaviour.
The problem with those who consistently seek approval through their actions, whether consciously or subconsciously, is that they never really develop a personality of their own. They are so focused on ensuring they are constantly validated that they don’t really know who they actually are. Those that realise this, on some subconscious level, in my experience, have always been moody, defensive and somewhat aggressive individuals. Whilst those that are oblivious to a lack of self perception are simply rather ‘flaky’. They will often change their minds and styles and groups of friends in a constant bid to ‘find themselves’, when in actual fact all they really need to do is look within themselves rather than to others.
I feel the ultimate problem in not knowing who you are directly affects your ability to sustain consistent interactions with others, i.e. friendships, relationships, work relationships etc. For if you don’t know who you are, then how can you accept who are and considering how much importance we, as humans, place on acceptance then I’d say that’s a pretty big issue. More importantly, if you can’t accept who you are then how can you love yourself and I strongly believe that loving yourself is the first step to personal growth and development as an individual.
My suggestion for taking the first step on the road to discovering who you are is this; solitude. If you are constantly surrounding yourself with people then you have perhaps developed a method in which you will never physically have the time to reflect on who you really are. If the particular type of people you surround yourself with all share similar traits and perhaps only display a type of culture or sub culture you are comfortable with or accustomed to, then you are restricting your ability to open your mind and experience new cultures and perhaps explore different elements to your personality thus developing it. So my advice is this; take some time off from ‘life’ or what your perception of life is in a bid to find out what it could be and who you could be.
Travel; it doesn’t even have to be abroad, it could simply be to different parts of the city or the country and I don’t mean travel with friends on a girls holiday or a lads holiday or with a romantic partner, I mean travel alone. Undertake some form of a pilgrimage, perhaps not a holy one but rather a personal one in which you set yourself goals to try new things and meet new kinds of people. Find quiet, remote places in which you can be alone with your thoughts and reflect on what you want out of life.
Remember; recall your childhood, whether it was happy or sad, difficult or easy, it is good to remember where you came from in order to find out where and who you want to be. Do not look back on those memories with anger or sadness or regret, see them simply as a past chapter in your life and take from them what ever lessons you can.
Finally, and most importantly, love. Love yourself. Find out who you really are and embrace that person with all your being. If you allow the mask of your adopted persona to fall and you realise you don’t like the person behind then change that person until you are happy with yourself enough to be able to love yourself. These changes won’t happen overnight, these changes are what personal development is all about but through the suggestions I have proposed I feel you can begin to realise and accept what changes you may want to make and ultimately you can learn to know yourself and love yourself!