In your twenties, you’ll hear lots of cliche advice, but perhaps none more frequently – and vaguely – than “you need to find yourself.”
According to some, the best way to do this is to drain your savings account traveling through Europe until self-actualization is achieved. While that sounds like a grand old time, there are better (and more fiscally responsible) routes you can take to discover who you are.
What Does it Mean to Find Yourself?
While several different definitions could apply, Merriam-Webster concisely frames it up as “learning what one truly values and wants in life.”
And maybe your first instinct is to answer that question with, “piles of money and a sexy car!” But, the intention of finding oneself is typically much deeper. It’s uncovering the stuff that will someday give us that sense of satisfaction when we’re on our deathbeds, rather than regret.
Finding yourself could mean discovering what stimulates you in your career. Or maybe it’s about learning what types of causes get you fired up. You might find yourself when you are able to discern what types of humans you want to surround yourself with for ultimate fulfillment.
Basically, finding yourself means feeling at peace with the way you lead your life. You should feel good about the activities you spend your time on, the people you have around, and the values you emulate in your daily life. Sounds pretty nice, eh?
How to Find Yourself in Your Twenties
Buying a one-way ticket to Barcelona might be temporarily effective…or it could lead to jet lag and a dose of anxiety. While travel is a great means for self-discovery, it’s not the most affordable option while you’re just starting out in life.
Consider some more tangible methods you can implement in your every day life to find what makes you tick.
1. Schedule in regular time for reflection.
Self-reflection easily gets lost in the hullabaloo of post-grad life. Every free moment is allocated towards your burgeoning career, social life, and Netflix (and Hulu and Apple TV and Peacock and…). Taking time to journal is….uh, far, far down on the list.
We get it. Not everyone has time to write a diary entry every night, nor does everyone want to. However, if you let the years fly by without any time to self-audit, it’s going to be extra hard to find out what truly makes you tick in your twenties.
Try setting self check-ins on a schedule. Journaling is great, but self-observation can take many different forms. It could be writing out a bulleted list, recording a voice memo, filming a video on your smartphone and saving it to a secret folder, or even just setting aside time to think or meditate.
Ask yourself things like:
- What have I accomplished in my life thus far?
- Am I truly happy with where my life is at right now?
- What aspects of my life make me feel more fulfilled?
- What aspects of my life drain me?
- What’s something I want to change about my life?
- What are some goals that I want to work towards, and what steps can I take to achieve them?
2. Try new things.
It’s literally impossible to find yourself without trying new things. Nothing changes if nothing changes!
Your twenties are the best time to try new things, whether that be joining a new social circle, starting new jobs, perfecting new hobbies, or moving to new cities. Sampling a variety of different lifestyles and interests will help you better understand which things make you feel most like yourself.
One of the biggest traps of the human experience is delaying trying things that pique our interest. We tell ourselves we’ll learn Spanish someday, try pottery next year, or learn to play golf when we’re retired. But what if one of those activities ends up being your passion and you spent years of your life putting it off?
Any new experience could end up being instrumental in your process of finding yourself. If something seems cool, force yourself to just try it.
3. Tune into your intuition.
Learn to listen to your intuition. It’s one of the best skills you can hone in your early adult life. So much of our lives up until this point are decided on by someone else. Now is the time to assert how you really feel. Laters, Mom!
Give up saying yes or no just because you think you should. This will ensure your time is well-spent on things that bring you true happiness.
As a result, you’ll find yourself at fewer annoying social events and having more fun in your life overall. Great trade off, right?
One of the best parts about being an adult is the ability to do things just because you want to. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to go to that concert or out to a cool restaurant. Just go and indulge in an experience that’s purely for you, and you’ll learn things about yourself in return.
4. Embrace your independence.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, learning to be independent can go a long way in self-discovery. This can be a hard thing to hone in on. After all, your life before post-grad was largely dependent on others. At least that’s how we were filed on our parents’ tax forms.
Being independent is one of the most powerful forms of self-care you can have. Think about it: if you want to try a new restaurant, you just can. If you really want to explore Croatia, you just can. If you want to try living in Bend, Oregon, you just can.
Learning to be comfortable in your own company helps you better understand who you are. If you’re always surrounded by other people and living your life based on their wants, you’ll never have time to determine what you want.
We get it: comfort with solo time doesn’t manifest overnight. Start by setting aside one day each month where you just do what you want to do. Challenge yourself to do something a little scary, like treating yourself to a solo lunch or strolling through a museum. We promise, nobody is judging you!
5. Surround yourself with an open-minded, diverse group of people.
It’s hard to find yourself when you spend your time with close-minded people. As much as we want to believe we’re all independent creatures who think for ourselves, we are influenced by the people in our lives. Hence the memes of gaggles of girls who are all wearing matching Adidas sneakers and light-wash Dad jeans.
If you’re always hanging out with people who are judgmental or hold you back from being your truest version of yourself, you’ll never find who you really are. In fact, you’ll always be hiding from yourself to blend in with others.
Furthermore, you’ll never know who you can become unless you surround yourself with a diverse set of perspectives and backgrounds. Challenge yourself to accumulate all different types of friends and acquaintances. As a result, you’ll develop a more well-rounded view of the world.