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How can we live well if we don’t even know who we are?
Who am I? Why am I here? It took me about 34 years before I really stopped in front of those questions. And it changed everything.
There are powerful external forces out there shaping our views of who we should be and what we should be doing with our lives. These forces tell us what we need in our lives to be happy and what it means to be successful. They come in many forms: labels, titles, and boxes—showing us our place in the system.
And there is more. With us comes the conditioning from our childhood, all the smaller or bigger trauma we carry, and the dysfunctional beliefs we develop along the way. But we are not our trauma or our anxiety, nor are we our fancy job titles or the balance of our bank accounts.
Who are we then? And how are we supposed to figure it out in a world that supposedly has all the answers for us?
It’s tempting to go identity-shopping and look for the answers outside of ourselves, but this way, we only end up building more layers on top of who we really are.
An authentic, good life is an inside job
We are all unique human beings with individual dreams, desires, and talents. But we are not really encouraged to go after our dreams. We are encouraged to go after the dreams our capitalistic culture has carefully crafted and advertised for us. But where has that led us? Looking at the stage of the world, I dare to say we could do better.
I was doing a course in a meditation center in San Marcos, Guatemala, when I first understood that there is a lot in me that I haven’t discovered yet. I also understood that if I ever wanted to live a full and authentic life, I had to look inside and find the answers there.
My fascinating journey of more profound self-discovery started when I was participating in a powerful guided meditation at the center, and I still remember the sensations I experienced. I was lying on the floor of a beautiful wooden temple by the lake when the questions entered my consciousness: Who are you? Why are you here?
At that moment, there was tremendous power in those questions. I felt tears in my eyes. Maybe there was more in me than I had thought? In that same meditation, I experienced a strong release in my third eye that felt like opening a bottle of sparkling wine inside my head. The next thing I hear is our meditation facilitator asking us to open our third eye. I got goosebumps and wondered where on Earth had I come.
I knew I was in front of something big that couldn’t be ignored any longer. It was “the me” underneath all the layers of conditioning, pain, and false beliefs. And she wanted to be seen.
There is nothing noble in service that doesn’t come from the heart
Why should we do this inner work? The answer is simple: to be more awake. If we are more awake, we can feel better, live better, and serve better. Navigating in the world running on half-blind autopilot merely to survive is not a life well-lived.
When we start peeling the layers and becoming more of our authentic selves, it’s inevitable that we also connect with our genuine desires and passions—the things that set our souls on fire. From there, we should be looking for our callings, missions, or soul purposes. Whatever we might want to call them.
Doing this internal work is not selfish, and it’s not a self-absorbed quest to find happiness. There is a lot of research about the importance of being of service and contributing to a bigger cause. Victor Frankl wrote a whole book about the power of meaning and the responsibility to something greater than self. But how do we find our purpose or the cause we want to contribute to if we don’t know who we are?
Humanity doesn’t need more unmotivated doctors or guilt-driven charity workers. I don’t see anything noble in a service that doesn’t come from the heart. We need people who are connected to their inner selves and understand their gifts and desires. By taking conscious action—driven by our authentic desires—we can make a difference and be of benefit in a much more powerful way.
Peeling the layers requires work
I’ve learned that becoming my authentic self is a journey of a lifetime. We also might have several callings and missions throughout our lives. We are evolving beings. What’s true to us today might not be true to us in five years.
But we can take conscious action to learn more about ourselves today. That will serve us also in the future. I’ve used many tools and practices that have helped me on the way. I’d like to share some of them; maybe they can open doors for someone else too.
Tools and practices I’ve used
The first thing, maybe not surprisingly, is meditation. I’ve only practiced meditation more seriously and regularly for three years. I still don’t know if I do it “right.” However, meditation has helped me lift my vibration, become more aware, and feel more grounded. I’ve found new connections and received ideas and insights. There are still days when I think that meditation sucks, but I do it anyway.
Time alone is essential for me. If I’m constantly surrounded by other people and energies, I can’t hear myself anymore. Finding moments of stillness (preferably in nature) nourishes the connection with my inner being.
Then there is movement. I practice yoga and TRE. They help me move energy and connect with my body. I think any movement or exercise can be supportive in this process.
Journaling and writing are also great tools for me. I write morning pages often the first thing in the morning. Writing brings clarity; fluffy and vague thoughts can find a form. Working with my book project and writing my blog and these articles support my self-discovery.
Recently, I’ve also found other tools that I’m still exploring. They include astrology, Human Design, and plant medicine. All of them have taught me something new about myself.
It’s important to note that many of us will encounter unresolved pain and trauma when we start this journey. Dealing with these dark parts of me has been a crucial part of peeling the layers. We need to be willing to sit with discomfort and learn from those less appealing parts of ourselves. This is also called healing. But we don’t have to do that alone. We can find help: a therapist, a community, or maybe a healer.
Teachers, community, and environment
Teachers and a community also bear high value in the journey to our authentic selves. I’m eternally grateful for my teachers in Guatemala. During my exploration, I’ve also found wonderful yoga teachers, spiritual guides, and healers. It’s a vulnerable journey, so being selective about the people you let in is highly recommended. In my experience, humility is an excellent quality to look for in a good teacher.
We also need other people. A community can bring us a sense of belonging. Talking, sharing, and finding support are important to all of us. But if we are on a quest to discover who we truly are, we want to find people who are on the same quest.
One more thing essential for me has been changing the environment: living in different countries and traveling. Experiencing new environments, new people, diverse cultures, and various lifestyles has opened many new horizons. While my exploration can sound extreme, changing the environment can be something as simple as choosing a new route to walk to work. It’s about new perspectives and stepping out of our comfort zones.
Sounds like a big commitment.
Yes, that’s what it is. And it’s not always easy. But we didn’t come to this planet to run on blind autopilot and live someone else’s dreams. We came here to be fully alive and tap into our own potential. And when we know who we are, we can do that and step into our power—unapologetically.