The ever-evolving self

Everyone loves to tell you to just “be yourself,” as if you are living your life in purposeful avoidance of doing just so. It may even seem that the harder you try to “be who you are,” the further you are from it. How does one exactly go about this task?

Born and raised in the same city (Lexington), I naturally gravitated toward what was comfortable and safe. Though I attended the university of my hometown, I made a conscious effort to try branching out through evolving friendships and involvement throughout my community. I generally ignored the nagging feeling telling me that I wasn’t reaching my potential and after two years of an intense clinical program training to be a therapist, I was confident that I finally figured myself out. I felt solid in my insight, relationships and beliefs (as much as anyone could be).

But, after I completed my degree, I began to heavily feel the cost of safety and certainty in regards to missing out on opportunities to stretch and grow. I decided to take advantage of my new-found unemployment and plunge into a journey that I had dreamed about — I took a five month trip to volunteer and taught English as a Second Language in Palestine, studied Arabic and traveled in the area.

Away from my environment for the first time, I gained a new lens that perhaps can only be worn if you are at a distance from your life and your relationships. In a foreign country, I was thrown out of my comfort zone, surrounded by internationals and learned that open-mindedness went beyond others and into having that attitude toward myself.

I have always found hindsight to be a powerful teller of information, and what it has told me is that the changes I’ve gone through are not all together sudden. Rather, each experience gradually shaped me to become who I already was. Those parts of me always existed; I just never gave them a chance to be known.

I learned the hard way that again and again, the definition you have for yourself is only fleeting. Part of being “who I am” is accepting that it won’t be one state of being, but is fluid, adaptive and ultimately a beautiful thing. It turns out that it was less about being afraid of who I was and more about realizing that it is okay to not always have a sure idea of who I am.

In all honesty, this concept can be frightening. To put in the work and effort to learn more about yourself, only to have to start over every so often can feel confusing and defeating. But each time you go through the process, you will gain a new layer of understanding, depth and ease with yourself. I have never come out of a change that hasn’t shaped me for the better, regardless of what led me there.

So in the search to “be yourself,” you don’t have to look far. It’s in you, waiting to be noticed. Live more. Do something different. Try a new coffee shop. Make a new friend.  Be daring— leave everything you know, even if just for a short time.  After all, you can always come back.