The trouble with “finding yourself”

I graduated college 642 days ago. And for 642 days I have asked myself, “Who am I? Am I doing this right?” In each day since graduation, I have felt — even if it’s just for a brief moment — completely lost.

A lot has gone right in these 642 days. I’ve married my best friend, made some new friends, worked hard, and grown in many ways. But each day I’ve felt a pressure to discover myself, to realize “what I’m meant for.” I even read Call of the Wild. That’s right. I sought self-enlightenment in a book about a dog embracing his inner primordial beast. It’s safe to say it didn’t help me.

I just am so restless. I’ll read a book about Mount Everest and think I need to be a mountaineer. I’ve climbed one mountain. I’ll catch a big bass and think I need to be an angler. I’m the world’s most mediocre lover of fishing. I’ll set a friend’s band up with a gig and think I need to be an agent. I don’t even like music. 

My soul is desperately trying to find truth and answers to its shiftiness through self-discovery and self-accomplishment.

And I’m realizing I am not alone in this. “Know thyself,” was an aphorism constantly used by the Greek philosophers. Our society today stresses that we find the “best You.” I’m not condemning living up to our full potential or understanding our gifts and weaknesses at all. I think understanding ourselves is very important.

But what we as Christians can’t do is believe that freedom comes through self-discovery. It’s an epic endeavor in the art of toil. By our very nature, we are walking paradoxes. We’re kind and mean, selfless and self-absorbed. All at once. There are no absolutes when it comes to ourselves, so finding peace through self-discovery is impossible.

Find yourself. It’s drilled into us, especially in the years after college. We have to figure out what we are meant to do. And it’s as if the answer is lying hidden beneath layers of self-discovery. But digging that hole will be meaningless, because we will never find what we are looking for. We will be taking up the endless task of chasing the wind.

No right setting, job, or community will fill that longing. Looking inward for truth is pointless. How often I forget this: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus knew the temptation to embark on the endless race of self-discovery. He knew we would truly find our lives and purpose when we die to our search.

In these 642 days I have found no satisfaction or fulfillment on the days I try to find myself. But when my gaze turns away from building my kingdom of self towards the kingdom of God, I find who I am, what I’m meant for and where I am supposed to be.

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