For quite some time now, I’ve been hammering on self-discovery, but one question that comes to my mind and I believe the mind of everyone is, what does this seek to achieve?
Why all the noise about Self-discovery?
I’ve been looking critically at all I’ve learnt and even taught about self-discovery and I think it centers down to just a few things. There are not so many things self-discovery will do for you at a basic level, but those few things can begin a multiplier effect to many other benefits.
For instance, looking deep into yourself will bring up some negatives realities that are hidden within you, which you might have been hiding or running away from. This can further lead to more negatives like depression, low self-esteem, and shame if not handled well.
What then are we trying to achieve with self-discovery?
1. Understanding yourself
This is the basic of self-discovery. In fact, that is what self-discovery means: the process of gaining understanding of one’s personality, potential, passion, experiences, as well as all the other conditioning that makes the individual distinct from others.
If we are all to live our lives by the rules that exist in the society, a larger percentage of the human race will live frustrated lives. This is because the rules that are popular and we always hear were formulated by only the individuals who could make the rules that worked for them public.
What I mean is this: there are different rules that will work, and have worked for different individuals but only those who were able to “market” theirs, got the whole world heralding them. Those other rules that have worked for other individuals, who couldn’t market them, are not heard, although they work too.
Now, that is a problem because the marketed rules only fit one specific type of people (with certain personalities, geographical background, orientation, experiences, desires etc). Other categories of people who do not fit into the category those marketed rules work for, will be left in frustration trying to force themselves to be something they are not for the sake of the rules.
Practical example: it is popular that males are muscular, tough and should be drivers wherever they are. That’s true, but only to some people. Some other set of males– without any manipulation, just– found themselves not tough and driving as society expects.
If such males continue to force themselves to fit into the expectations of the society, they will either live frustrated lives, or adjust and loose their autonomy (the ability to live from within); they will constantly rely on society to tell them what next to do with their lives.
But understanding yourself (personality, passion and experiences), will help you relate with yourself and seek for rules that will work for you based on who you are.
For many years we have cried of the environment not relating with what we are going through. More worse is when we can’t relate with ourselves. If you can’t understand why you do certain things (especially when they are things you don’t desire), it brings frustrations. Here lies the reason why do many people hate themselves. themselves.
Why can’t I just do this? Why can’t I simply make friends? Why am I so reserved? Why can’t I just shut up? Why do I always think like this? Why don’t the rules work for me? Why can’t I be like this guy/girl?
These are very empowering questions, just that we don’t ask them to empower ourselves. Many times when you ask this question, it is out of frustrations and sometimes, giving up on your ability to get better or meet your standards.
But in these questions are actually the answers to our problems. If we could just understand why! Since at the base of your frustration is the question Why?, At the base of the solution is the answer This is why!
Most of the mental health issues and psychological stresses we face will be solved once we can answer the different Whys we are asking at each point. Because most times, what we want isn’t solutions, it’s just an answer to our question Why? Or we can say, once we know why, we can then look for solutions.
This is what self-discovery is about. Telling us why we are how we are, and why we do the things we do.
If you know why did something wrong and can relate with your weaknesses, you will easily forgive yourself, and work out a plan of action to prevent it from reoccurring.
2. Take informed decisions
Now, after you have understood yourself, you can go on to direct your life based on that understanding. Every mistake, failure and regret we have experienced are simply products of uninformed decisions, or misinformed decisions by ourselves or someone else.
Self-discovery helps, not basically in making simple decisions like which cloth to wear, but in more critical life decisions like what career path to choose and who to marry (or whether to even get married or not).
Back to the issue of frustration…
If your chosen career does not fit you, or represent what you truly are, you are signing up for frustrations. You are only increasing the number of individuals who hate life on Monday mornings.
I have come to experience that it is very possible to live a life fulfillment, with so much passion and drive daily. I have come to learn that everyone can excitedly look forward to the next moments of their lives. It is so true that your life can be without any frustration– and what frustrates others can be exciting challenges to you.
But this can only happen when you are in a place that is just you. I don’t mean being alone, but being in a place that satisfies your inward desires and fits your person. But how can one find a place that fits their person when they don’t know that person? That’s what the process of self-discovery is about.
Below are some of the most common ‘big’, life decisions according to Psychology Today, and how self-discovery can help you in making them.
1. Start a new job/position (or not): understanding your abilities, passion, and experiences will help you know if you can perform in the job and if it will suit your desires and expectations.
2. Get married (or not): self discovery will expose your expectations and needs, your flaws and strengths, all of which are determining factors of whether you should get marry or not and who you should get married to for a successful marriage.
3. Pursue a degree (or not): not only will you know if pursuing a degree is best for your needs, drive and personality, you will also know what degree to study after the decision, through self-discovery.
4. Have/adopt a child (or not): can I meet the demands the child is bringing based on my current predisposition? Self discovery answers that question.
5. Quit a job/position (or not): are my expectations being met? Do I have a sense of fulfillment from this job? How likely am I to find a better job? What kind of job suits me? Self-discovery answers these questions too and help you make the right decision.
6. Move to a new state (or not): do I have the requisite coping techniques? Am I ready to face the challenges it will bring? What do I care about more– the benefits or disadvantages? Self discovery gives answers too.
7. Choose where to study: do their values match mine? What type of friends do I need? What am I ready to sacrifice?
8. Get divorced (or not): what matters most to me? What do I believe? What do I really need? What’s influencing my decision? Should it?
9. Begin a romantic relationship (or not): What do I need at this point of my life? Do their personality match mine? Can I cope with their weaknesses?
10. Start a new business (or not): am I equipped for the demands of business? Will I continue to push through till it succeeds? What’s my motivation?
These questions are only to give an idea of how self discovery can guide you in taking life decisions. Of, course these are not the only questions you should ask before taking decisions, but most times, once you can settle, through understanding yourself, what you should do or not do, other (extrinsic) factors will easily fall place.
This is basically the idea behind our career counseling practice– helping individuals make informed decisions by pointing them to themselves and other factors and showing them how each can affect their decisions.
3. Maximizing your potential
Your potential is all that you could do that you haven’t done yet, all you could become that you haven’t become yet, all you could get that you haven’t gotten yet, where you could reach that you haven’t reached yet.
Maximizing your potential is beyond achievements. It is living your life to the fullest and experiencing the best of all, as is possible.
I talked of the possibility of living a life without frustration earlier. That’s a potential for every life. Truly living a life free of frustration is the maximization of that potential.
The process of self discovery ultimately leads to the maximization of your potential. After your understanding, after taking informed decisions, your life should accumulate so much feeling of fulfillment, knowing that all you could become is all you have become.
It’s a painful feeling looking back at the end of life and seeing so many things we wished we had done but didn’t do, sometimes maybe because of ignorance of our ability to do them. Self discovery would have helped us determine what matters to us, what we should focus on, what we could do and that would have made the difference.
There are not so many things self-discovery will achieve for us on the surface but it will settle some vital aspects of our lives, that will make big changes and lead to other superficial benefits of self-discovery.
What then is self-discovery?
Self-discovery is the process of gaining understanding of one’s personality, potential, passion, experiences, as well as all the other conditioning that makes the individual distinct from others, using them to take informed decisions, and finding how best they can be maximized to live a fulfilling life.
Olusegun Iyejare is career coach and certified counsellor. He helps entrepreneurs balance mental wellbeing and entrepreneurial success. Think about maximizing your potential or living a fulfilling life and Olusegun is your go to person.