Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Being You

The teen years are when young people begin to explore and establish self-identity with increasing independence from their parents.

Parental influences, or the absence of a parental presence, shape the search for self-identity and possibly determine its trajectory.

business people in a series with a casual guy doing the headstandBut the search for who you are isn’t confined to teenagers. Young adults face critical decisions about mates, careers and lifestyles. Middle age adults encounter what we broadly describe as mid-life crisis that can shake a marriage, launch a new career or land you on a Harley.

At any time in life, someone can encounter a crisis that forces a self-evaluation of personal priorities. You can discover your real pain threshold, the discipline to persevere or the daring to stare down danger. You also can watch yourself disintegrate under pressure.

When you really think about it, life is a continuous carousel of self-discovery. If you are true to yourself, you will keep looking for ways to be yourself.

Being yourself involves a lot more than putting on whatever clothes you feel like in the morning. Being yourself means recognizing your unique set of talents and making the most of them, as only you can.

Many teenagers block out the quest for self-discovery by following the crowd. They wear the same clothes, listen to the same music and act the same so they blend in, not stand out.

Adults push away self-discovery by allowing daily routines of job and family to dominate to the point that their inner resolve to be themselves is dulled. Being what you can be begins to look like just another, sleep-shortening chore.

being-yourself-1Often it is only in those too-rare quiet corners of our life that we allow our minds to wonder what we are all about, to take stock of what we have accomplished and to ponder what we want to become.

Bucket lists capture things you still want to do, but they don’t hold much water for what you want to be.

Life dreams are often just that, dreams. They can involve more whimsy than will. I dreamed of playing for the New York Yankees, but I never actually thought I would wear pinstripes.

The search for self-identiy boils down to something very different than wishing and dreaming. The search is all about personal decision-making. You discover who you really are by having the courage to become that person.

The biggest variable in discovering your self-identity is what you don’t do, the risk you shy away from taking.

People shun risk because it they fear it may end up in failure. It may. So what? A closed door is just an invitation to find another just-as-appealing door that is open. Failure is one of the best learning tools we have. You know what doesn’t work, so you can trek on to find something that does.

Like most good things in life, your self-identity doesn’t just plop into your lap. You have to get off your duff and go find it, typically one step at a time, frequently without a map or even a flashlight. Remember, it’s your identity, so no one else really has a clue.

The worst self-discovery you can make is that you never gave much effort to finding out your true self-identity. You may be a putz, but the question is did you have to be one? Procrastination and fecklessness may explain why you still have no idea who you are or why you were living, but it won’t justify the missed opportunity of finding a special path that would have been all your own.

We view it as a compliment when someone is said to be “comfortable in his/her own skin.” People comfortable in their own skin usually are people with a pretty good idea of who they are under that skin.

You don’t have to be different than everyone else to be you. You just have to be you.

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