Finding Yourself

I spent most of my fifth-grade year humming the words, “these boots are made for walking,” channeling Nancy Sinatra, navigating the chaotic current of adolescence in either red cowboy boots or a pair of white vinyl go-go boots. Nancy recorded the hit single in 1966, but I’m slow to find great music. In 1972, Nancy was everything, soon to be replaced by Carol King and her album, Tapestry.

The Watergate scandal topped the news hour, then the first terrorist attack at the Olympic games in Munich, Germany. Humor tried to assuage these tragic events and the hippy phrases used for years in sub-circles moved into mainstream usage as the television show Laugh-In overused phrases like “Sock it to Me,” or “Right O Daddy O,” and “Live and let live.”

Our church started a guitar mass, and Bob Dillon and I sang along looking for answers blowing in the wind. I found God in nature, music, and coming of age novels.

I read Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, Bronte’s, Jane Eyre, and anything with a strong female protagonist.

Helen Ready topped the charts with her song, “I am Woman,” and the pulse of feminism was strong, expanding roles for women.  School counselors listened while I tossed out career choices that didn’t involve a classroom or a nurse uniform. Dreaming is part of growing, the launching pad of hope. My faith, songs, literature, culture, and DNA helped me define my core self.  

The ’70s was also the first time I remember hearing the phrase, “I just need to find myself.”  My high school years embraced this phrase with the zeal of a souped-up Monte Carlo blaring the band Boston on the eight-track cassette.

By the time I was a college graduate, and a young working mom, juggling career and domestic skills, I loathed the phrase.

“I just need to find myself” sounded like a huge cop-out, an excuse, like the bad break-up line, “It not you, it’s me. I just need to find myself.”

To be fair, I think I resented the idea that some folks had the luxury of free time to explore inner selves while my feet and brain worked to stabilize my family financially and focus my attention on raising capable children.

The phrase signified a brand of self-entitlement that I never could afford. Friends backpacked through Europe after college taking a gap year in Gap jeans I never choose to buy.

Despite my green-eyed monster, the phrase evolved. Dissecting the linguistics of it seemed to help me place my disdain for the words.  “Finding yourself” became just a phrase, and for me, a false one at that.

To this day I still believe you are not a ten-dollar bill you find in an old raincoat. You are not lost — ever. Even if you are wandering around downtown Atlanta with every road name a form of Peachtree in it, you are not lost.  The universe or your God knows exactly where you are at all times.

Emotionally, you are never lost either. Your true self is still always right there — waiting for you to pull it out of the hamper of life. You may be buried in your own laundry of living like a pile of dirty towels: one represents societal expectations, some other people’s opinions, and most likely the smelliest of your laundry is your lack of self-compassion failing to see your true beautiful self.

Continuing with the laundry metaphor, many of us just buy some new towels and never really examine what lurks in our laundry. And that’s one way of doing it. Easy. Clean. Always a fresh start.

We rise, we eat, we do, we go forth each day, and some days we are so consumed with the physicality of living we don’t have time to think what substantiates us.

Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, who recently passed, believes there are three selves. She discussed this idea in a wonderful piece entitled, “Of Power and Of Time” which is part of a collection of essays in her book, Upstream.

She identifies the three primary selves as the childhood self, which is with us into the grave, the social self, “fettered to a thousand notions of obligation” and a third self, an otherworldly awareness. Oliver asserts that the first two selves are present in all people, and the third is found in some more profoundly than others. Oliver states:

“Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, a tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.”

Perhaps some never feel confused about their purpose. They consume, contribute and grow like a Chia Pet, happy and content. Others, their third self craves to question, to leave a legacy of wonder; a comfort to other third selves who express their creative energy in a variety of artistic ways.

Someone’s third self may have coined the phrase, finding yourself. Long ago a writer searched for words to describe their dissatisfaction of living without an internal road map.

Perhaps, finding yourself is nothing more than updating your own map.   

Maps come in handy. Most of us load a GPS whenever we go further than the county line. My third self recently updated my internal map with inspirations from Mary Oliver, Nancy Sinatra, Carol King, the book of Ruth and the Bronte sisters. Oh, and Tina Fey and Brene Brown.

Here’s what we came up with:

  • Continue to improve on self-criticism and encourage self-compassion. Of course, this is easier said than done. We can be kind to 45 billion other people before we can cut ourselves any slack. Be as good a friend to yourself as you are to others.
  • Seek to find middle ground on facing and avoiding difficulties is like WAZE on a real GPS: it is a game changer. Life will have challenges. Some days you will want to climb the mountain and others you may need to sip hot chocolate. The art of the right decision at the right time is your internal road map at work. When in doubt read your map. FOLLOW your own route.
  • Lose some time on social media, if that what it takes to avoid getting trapped into comparing yourself to others.  The comparison trap holds your true wonderful self at a high price. The quickest way to get lost is to get sucked into the trap of comparison. Let it go, sister. YOU are YOU.
  •   Lose your selfishness and serve. Sometimes the best way to find our way back to ourselves is in the service to others. Serving adds to our growth and journey.
  •  Slow down. Paths unfold every moment we are alive. Make space for creativity, family, things that matter. When we intentionally slow down, we hear, smell and see our life as a journey and an adventure.


March 29, 2019
March 29, 2019