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By Claudia Lee

The ultimate human experience is to discover who we are. After every experience we encounter, we grow into being more us. Experiences are a push into the right direction of becoming who we are meant to be. The way we handle situations is a good indicator of our character.

In this technological age it is very easy to get distracted by the shiny objects and the information held within them. Social media is indeed a great way to spread ideas, learn new things, and keep up with the news, but it can prevent soul searching from taking its full form within us. We are distracted by the magnitudes of opportunity, of weekend plans, of materialistic things.

There are ways to combat the gravitational pull away from the soul. To pay close attention to who we are and who we want to become is to be willing to take action in our life. Be proactive and always question things you don’t understand. Here are seven ways that will guide you in the process of figuring out who you are at your core.

1. Make time for an activity that serves solely for enjoyment.

Intrinsic motivation is the act of performing an action because you enjoy the activity. You feel accomplished inside and there are no external rewards for doing it. These things tend to be hobbies that you don’t need to be exceptional at. There is no competition, but if there is comparison it would only be comparing your past progress with your current. If photography is your hobby, you might compare your first few photoshoots from when you initially started to the photoshoots you have recently done. You’ll literally see the growth in your skills and be astonished. If it’s writing, you’ll see the difference in your lines of poetry from your first pieces to your most recent. Many people don’t feel motivated to try a new hobby because they believe it will get them anywhere. They believe it won’t do any good, that it would be a waste of time. However, this isn’t true. Finding yourself isn’t supposed to be easy; if you don’t try new things in order to narrow down your likes and dislikes then you’re not being proactive.

2. Keep a journal, and in it, write what you actually think and experience each day – not just what you’d prefer to remember. 

I started writing in a journal since the past summer. It is by far one of the biggest reasons why I’ve grown so much as a human being. I feel spiritually enriched by understanding the complexities of being human; we experience an array of emotions and can interpret them to make sense of our lives and experiences. That within itself is a gift. What makes us different from animals is our cognitive ability to process how we feel and what we think in order to transform into our full potential. Keeping a journal helps us figure out why we feel certain things after a given situation. Maybe a friend joked about a part of your body and that made you feel unpleasant. Even though your friend was kidding, writing about the experience can help you figure out what the root of the problem was and why you felt bad. Is your friend just not that good of a person? Is it possible that your friend is also insecure about that part of the body as well, which is why they made the joke? Are you insecure about that part of your body? What can you do to change that? Humans can have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. We must filter through all of them, pick out the ones that matter, and start building upon them in order for personal development. The only way to filter through all these thoughts is to write, even if nothing eventful happens that day. Mundanity is also part of the human experience, so don’t take it as something that isn’t worth being written about. You will find over time how much you’ll learn and realize from writing out your thoughts when you reread your entries. You will learn more about yourself like what qualities you value and what your ambitions and beliefs are. You’ll be a better judge of character after analyzing how people treat you in uncomfortable or pleasant situations. Even if you say you’re not good with words, you must try. You’re not writing in this journal to produce articles. You’re writing in this journal to understand the complexities within yourself and make sense of life.

3. Engage in thought-provoking conversations.

A big component in order to have intellectual discussions is the people you’re surrounded by. If your friends only talk about superficial things and gossip, there won’t be much to think about. Find people who will challenge the way you think. Find people who will make you question your beliefs or have more conviction in them. Find people who will make you think about the big questions in life—like death, religion, politics, spirituality. Have a coffee shop socratic seminar. Be engaging, thoughtful, and responsible for what you think. Be open to learn and be wrong. This is all part of the human experience. There are no wrong answers. It’s up to you to make your own conclusions.

4. Determine what you value by what you put your time, thought and energy toward.

Before I had a firm sense of self, I was influenced by my friends when I was with them. I would use the slang they used, such as “it’s lit” or “she’s bad.” My diction wasn’t a true reflection of who I am. We shouldn’t underplay our feelings by using poor vocabulary. After becoming self-aware from journaling, I realized that I value intelligence more so than fitting in by using slang. I call this an inherent trait. An inherent trait is something about yourself that doesn’t change no matter what kind of relationship or position you’re in. It doesn’t matter who you’re hanging out with—your core beliefs stay unwavered and you never turn off those qualities. For example, if an inherent belief of yours is to always speak up when something is wrong, you’ll do that despite what the people you’re with may think. It’s okay to do that. It’s okay to stay true to yourself when you’re in new situations or with new people. Don’t ever forget that sense of self. People will be drawn to your courage and you’ll attract those who also value the same things.

5. Figure out what kind of things you drift toward when you’re alone.

Who are you when no one’s looking? What kind of music is your go-to? Do you enjoy taking your time with things or moving at a productive pace? Do you enjoy being in the comfort of your home or exploring places you’ve never been to? Figure out what makes you, you.

6. Read.

Knowledge is a huge factor in discovering your identity. We’ve all heard of the phrase, “ignorance is bliss.” To not be informed is to solely live in your own world. Although soul searching is very internal, individual, and indeed a self-discovering journey in your “own world,” there are a lot of external factors that contribute to successful growth of the soul. You need to understand other people in order to reflect on yourself. You need to know how you react to news of tragedies, of birth and death, of history and political issues. Read about things that you have interest in. This is pleasure reading. Start to learn for the sake of just learning and growing intellectually. In this way you will find that life becomes a little bit easier to understand, and a little more manageable.

7. Make a t-chart of your strengths and weaknesses.

The only way to build upon ourselves is to recognize what we excel in and what we lack in. Being self-aware helps ourselves achieve our goals and establish better relationships with people. If you know your weakness is a short temper, try to determine why you are this way and work on controlling it. If you find that you overthink excessively to an unhealthy degree, try to find a common theme in all the things you obsess about. Figure out why you’re obsessing over it. This is the hard part—interpreting our bad habits in order to change them. If you know a strength of yours is resilience, keep that trait in mind the next time you find yourself in a rut. Keep in mind that you’ve gotten through a lot of terrible situations, and that this situation you’re in now will be no different. If you know you’re an eloquent speaker, build more on your vocabulary. There is always room for improvement.

Everyone is different, and not every route of soul searching will be the same. The things I mentioned above are all things that can start happening now. For those of us who can’t leave home yet, who have to wait another seven months for college, put these tips into practice. These seven steps are mostly internal and reflective. Of course, a major part of soul searching is traveling. Some of us have responsibilities we must finish out or are obligated to uphold, so traveling just may not be possible at the moment. These steps are created to show how soul searching starts from within. In time, it will filter out onto another level once we are able to leave what is comfortable and into the unknown.

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