In The Forest Scout’s “Human Advocate” column, our staff writers seek to analyze and interpret deep questions that arise during the transformative years of their life. Many of these young writers are deeply entrenched in the curriculum of Humanities, a senior English elective at Lake Forest High School.
As humans, we spend our whole life trying to figure out our identity.
When we are children we wish time away and dream of being adults so we can live out the dreams and aspirations we’ve held near to us since our youth. It’s not until we start to mature through our young adult years, however, that we realize that maybe our childhood dream of being a veterinarian or a fireman is not our most acute desire any longer. Perhaps all of a sudden–after years of hard work–we no longer want to attend the dream college destination that our parents, uncles, aunts, or siblings once attended. We may never know exactly why we lost our passion for it, but we just did.
All of these changes are normal and come with being human. Most people say that moments of sudden realization like this bring us closer to “figuring out who we really are.”
But what does is really mean to figure out who you are?
I wake up some days feeling absolutely sure of myself, interacting effortlessly with the people around me and truly living and enjoying each moment. It’s on those days that I feel like I’m most myself. On the other hand, there is inevitably also days where everything feels off for no apparent reason. I may have not done anything different than the day before, but for some reason I find myself questioning everything I say and do; on these days, I feel weirdly distant from my own sense of self.
In time, I always come to the conclusion that I have days like these because I am still figuring out who I am. It makes sense to think that some days I feel unsure of myself because I’m still not sure who I am: but does anyone–at any age–ever really know who they are?
As a child I thought adults generally had it all figured out. From watching the adults in my own life live their routines complete with work, family, and social decisions, they made it look so easy, so I thought it was easy. As I’ve become more mature, however, I’ve realized that no one–not even adults–have it all figured out. Everyone, at various ages, have things about themselves that they want to work on and either ignore these issues or face them head in the milieu of life’s endeavors. Every day, the people around me are learning new things about themselves and changing as a result. Thus, can you ever really know yourself completely if you’re constantly changing?
From my own personal experience, it seems like whenever I think I’ve got myself figured out, something big happens in my life and as a result of that event, I change.
Life seems to be one continuous thread of cause and effect. We are constantly aspiring to be the ideal vision of ourselves–the person we want to be and the person that we ultimately intend on becoming as we look toward the future. But, by always striving to be better we change without even realizing it.
These changes turn into habits and, in time, we start to define ourselves by our own habits. For example, maybe when you were little you slacked off in reading because it was challenging for you. When you realized you could get away with slacking off, it became a habit, and ever since then you’ve considered yourself “bad at reading” when in reality you just never gave it a fair opportunity to become part of your life. In fact, everything that you think about yourself is just a label you have presupposed about yourself when you really think about it.
You ultimately have the opportunity change any quality about yourself if your willingness and desire are strong enough. If you feel that you are a negative person and want to be more positive, focusing on that quality and making a conscious effort to change it can turn you into a more positive person.
It is perhaps a bizarre and almost frightening concept to think about–this notion that how you perceive yourself can continually change throughout your life– but it is also one of the amazing parts of being human. The constant ability to change gives us the freedom to be whomever we want to be and grants us the ability to achieve our dreams and life goals.
So the next time you get down about something surrounding your own self or identity, or are feeling hopeless about perception, reputation, or your ultimate future, feel comforted by the fact that you can change. Whether its that you want to be better at math, or nicer to other people, you have that power within. You live your own life and decide who you want to be every morning by the daily decisions you make and who you interact with.
So take control over your life and make yourself into the person you want to be.