Do you ever feel you are just a pebble in the water, washed wherever the tide takes you? Is it sometimes hard for you to take a stand or feel like you don’t fully know who you are as an individual? This is an experience everyone goes through at different times in life as they evolve, grow change and mature. Thinking about what matters to you and why, will help you feel you are in the driver’s seat of your life.
Development of opinions and values is a lifelong process. Reflecting upon past experiences helps to determine why we feel the way we do about things. Likewise, the choices we make and the things we experience impact us as we evolve and shape our priorities.
One pivotal point in development occurs during adolescence. During the teen years, it is natural to go through the process of individuation, or recognizing that we are capable beings who are independent from our parents. We all want to become adults with unique characteristics that are loved and respected by others. In pursuit of autonomy, teenagers in particular, are notorious for rebelling and asserting their individuality in ways that often create friction with their parents or adult authority figures. The pendulum swings from being a child who is guided by their parents and seeking to please them, to a person who often chooses to defy adults’ expectations and requests. In addition to behavior, this may apply to creating one’s own style and appearance as another act of defiance. As we mature, the pendulum begins to fall center. We learn that while independence is vital, harmony with those around us also holds value and is essential to our success. Nevertheless, learning how to balance our individuality with the demands of jobs, responsibilities, and the expectations of others, requires skill that often takes time, and sometimes heartache, to develop. This is what I refer to as the search for healthy independence. The word ‘independence’ can refer to someone who does not rely on others, yet, on a deeper level, it describes a person who has discovered who they are.
When we get into early adulthood, the early to mid twenties, the search becomes more intense and complicated. At this time, when we realize that the standard by which we define our independence has more to do with our personal values and self-expectations, than it has to do with not depending upon our parents. We realize that it is far more devastating to let ourselves down than it is to disappoint our friends or parents. This becomes motivation to work hard to meet our own expectations. We finally recognize what it takes to discover oneself and what we value.
If you are interested in learning more about yourself, here are some things to consider:
- Reflect on your childhood dreams. What were your hopes? What did you think you would become as an adult?
- How have these hopes changed over the years?
- Have you succeeded with any of your past dreams? What did it take to achieve them?
- Now that you are older, how would you currently describe yourself?
- What do you hope for your future? How do you plan to achieve those hopes?
Taking time to yourself to review where you have been, where you are, and where you hope to be can help you guide your actions and identify who you are. While you may find the road ahead difficult and where you are may not be where you had hoped to be at this point, don’t forget to find praise for yourself. Acknowledge how far you have come, even if at one time you may have thought it unachievable. Identify what strengths you have used to help you get to where you are, and continue to focus on those to help you get to where you want to be. Being self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses is an important part of gaining independence. Once you have taken time to organize your thoughts, embrace your past and accept the present moment of your journey, you will start to blossom and notice that you may just know yourself better than you think you do!