A simple life is one that’s focused on your essentials, so you can let go of the rest. It’s a life designed to fit you. But what if you’re not even sure who you are right now?
Maybe you followed the expected path, did the next thing and the next, until one day you looked around and wondered: How did I get here? This is not me.
Or maybe seasons changed. You have a new job situation, or a new family arrangement, or a new home base, and you find yourself thinking: Who am I now, in this place?
When I need to reconnect with my true self, the first thing I do is slow down and listen to my life. I notice what feels right and what feels off. Where am I overwhelmed and frustrated? Where do I not have peace?
Then I ask why I’m not showing up as myself in those places.
The answer is almost always that I need to devote some energy to knowing who I am, to being who I am, or to saying what I need.
If you’re stuck in one of those spots too, good news: you’re in good company. I think we all get stuck there sometimes.
Here’s how we start to move on.
Knowing Who You Are
There’s the true-about-everybody truth that you are loved and you are enough, just as you are. (It’s always true, but sometimes we forget.)
There’s also the specific-to-you truth of who you are: the truth about what you love, what you need, where you’ve been and where you are today and where you’re heading next.
Figuring out what makes you, you is a lifetime’s work. You’re always growing and changing, after all.
But the truth is, you only really have to know who you are TODAY. You don’t need to know who you will be always-and-forever before you can look inside for who you are right now—and start moving toward the choices that make sense for you.
Being Who You Are
You might know who you are on the inside, and still not know how to be that person on the outside. (This is always where I get stuck.)
There are three parts to this one.
1. There’s deciding to be yourself.
If you’ve decided ahead of time that you’re going to be you—you’re not going to pretend to like things you don’t, you’re not going to say yes when you mean no, you’re not going to keep quiet when you have an opinion—if you’ve already decided, it’s much easier to actually do it when the time comes.
2. Then there’s practicing being your whole self in the world.
It’s not easy, especially if you’re in the habit of doing something else (cough, people-pleasing, cough). You have to change your default way of being in the world, and that happens one interaction at a time.
3. And there’s asking yourself why you’re not being yourself.
What are you hiding from? Why do you need this shell you’ve built around your true self? Why haven’t you felt safe to come out?
(If you don’t figure out what you’re hiding from, it will be pretty tricky to convince yourself to live out in the open.)
Saying What You Need
The people around you don’t know what you need if you don’t tell them—and if you don’t have what you need, it’s hard to be fully yourself.
I always think that with enough practice my friends and family will become mind readers about what I need, but that does not seem to be how it works. I have to actually say stuff if I want them to know.
If you’re in the habit of saying what’s expected instead of asking for what you need, write yourself a new script. Tell the truth. Say what you really mean.
Try one of these:
- “That doesn’t work for me. What if we try this instead?”
- “What I really need right now is [this], so I’m going to [do that].”
- “I’m sure your plan is going to be amazing (for you)! I’m going to do this other thing instead.”
- “Can you help me find space to [do what I need to do]? I’m not sure how to make this work.”
Practicing knowing who we are, being who we are, and saying what we need isn’t easy. It feels vulnerable. It feels scary. People might not like it, or they might not like us.
But when the truth of who you are inside is the same as the way you live your life on the outside, things start to fall into place. You don’t have to pretend to share someone else’s priorities and values when you have your own. You know which decisions make sense for you. You start to see your own direction. You know what to keep in your life, and what to let go of.
Finding yourself might be your next step toward living a truly simple life.