Many of us reach a point where we realize that our lives have gone off track. It’s as if we wake up one day and suddenly realize that we’ve simply been swept along by the tides of life in uncharted directions. Why does this happen?

Well, the truth is that life entails momentum, and it is easy to become caught up in it. Once we realize that we’ve become lost in that momentum, we often begin to seek ways to return to ourselves. Thus, it is not uncommon to understand the concepts of “losing ourselves” and “finding ourselves.”

Finding or returning to ourselves is the process of examining and coming to understand who we are. This type of exploration helps us to acknowledge our authentic values, desires, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses so that we may assert ourselves in healthy ways, and design our lives around authentically fulfilling endeavors. Often, people who suddenly change careers are doing just that. A wonderful example of this is seen the following video short, which interviews a man who left a career in medicine to start a bakery – clearly a decision to follow his passion.

Finding ourselves is not always an easy task because the momentum of life can be likened to background noise, which makes it hard for us to hear our own voices. At times, the noise can become so loud that our own voices are drowned out altogether.

In the design of our lives, we often face pressures from the expectations of others, which can become the loudest noise of all. There is nothing wrong with being offered advice and guidance, or working with others in the spirit of cooperation. However, it is important not to allow the expectations of others to overshadow your sense of self.

Therefore, I think the first step toward finding ourselves is to listen for our own voice. In many ways, we have to stop caring about what other people think of us, and allow our own voices to take center stage. This becomes especially important when we embark on an endeavor to make radical changes in our lives.

There may be others who are close to us who are not ready to accept the changes we wish to make simply because it challenges the identity they have created for us, creates insecurity about the role they play in our lives, and can also challenge them to take a hard look at their own lives (which often conjures fears and insecurities).

When we face opposition, we have to allow our own voice to maintain a position of prominence. In fact, we should embrace the responsibility of being an advocate for our own needs. Moreover, we should not feel guilt for expressing our true selves. The truth is that each of us is responsible for our own distress. If expressing our desire to evolve in a self-directed manner creates distress for others, it is not our responsibility to shrink ourselves to fit the comfort levels of others.

Within our own voice is often the key to our own flourishing. Flourishing, a key concept in the field of positive psychology, is associated with living a meaningful and fulfilled life by developing our potential, and using that potential to pursue goals that fulfill the needs of our individual natures.

Obviously, your nature is uniquely our own, and it follows that the needs of your nature cannot be defined by anyone but YOU. If our voices could be likened to an internal GPS, ignoring our own voice is roughly equivalent to ignoring the internal guidance system, and instead preferring to accept direction from others who have no idea of where we wish to go.

Finding our own voice is an integral part of finding and understanding ourselves because it brings our motivations to the surface. Personal change is rooted in the ability to understand those motivations. Change occurs when our personal motivations become strong enough to give impetus to a changed behavior or course. Therefore, if we cannot hear ourselves – or worse, refuse to listen – change is virtually impossible.

The lesson here is to become more mindfully aware of who we are and to find the courage to express the inner selves that we “discover.” Our inner voice is always there, whether we can hear it or not. Our task is to block out the background noise, and bring our minds to the center of ourselves so that we can more effectively hear it.

THE VOICE

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you–just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.

~Shel Silverstein~

Are you in touch with your inner voice? What is it telling you? Do you find it hard to express your needs and desires to others?

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