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The Endless Awe and Awesome Endlessness of Self-Discovery

Like any journey, self-discovery requires enduring the tougher times -- but in reflecting back on those difficult moments, we will often find they ultimately prove to have given far more than they took.
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Who am I?

We've probably all asked ourselves this -- on an existential and otherwise abstract level, before the concept becomes too vast or vague to grasp and we bail, returning to routine. But I think figuring out who you are on a personal level is crucial to living a meaningful life. So it's a question worth asking, and I think it's also a question that should neither yield a single answer, nor point to a definite destination -- rather, its value lies in considering many answers, and embarking on the journey to discover them.

If there's one thing I've learned over the transformative if not tumultuous phase that is the twenties, it's that learning never stops. Figuring out who you are is as fulfilling as it is... ceaseless. The constancy of this process is a beautiful opportunity to bear witness to your own self-identification, and to appreciate the milestones of self-discovery that help you become a more complete person.

In order to lean into the journey rather than shy away from it, I've had to come to terms with the fact that the process of self-discovery isn't always triumphant.

There are moments where I feel like I'm overrated -- embellished in the eyes of others who love me, and then, deflated by the discrepancy. There have been times where I felt certain I wasn't much more than a well-intentioned hot mess, a lost soul pursuing mirages, or a shell of untapped potential, abandoned ideas, and creativity crippled by the binds of hesitation -- destined for an unfulfilled future, haunted by a perpetually distracted present. These moments, though they may seem like inescapable black holes, eventually pass, and emerging on the other side of those craters of doubt -- whatever form they take -- that's where the triumph is.

I had to accept that to truly become the best version of myself, I can't limit self-discovery to the rose-colored revelations. That can be daunting because clearer vision turns the blur to focus and who knows what cracks in the paint might then be revealed. A comprehensive growth inevitably means the unveiling of flaws. Moments like those might make self-awareness seem more like punishment than prize, but this lays the foundation for a truly fulfilling lucidness: seeing your flaws -- and still seeing the best in yourself.

Seeing yourself in full requires a certain trust in yourself. There are parts of ourselves that we share with no one -- pieces of our stories that we bury deeply so that they become faded, like the dissipating remnants of a dream when you wake. We bury them so we can forget them and, eventually, convince ourselves that they don't exist. It's the survival instinct: hide that which might be your undoing.

I've done my fair share of emotional burying. But here's the thing: as anyone who's ever dared to reveal some vulnerability knows, when you do release it, anxiety-provoking though it may be, you unburden yourself from the shackles of secrecy. You're suddenly free of the weight of silenced sentiments.

Everything becomes more daunting when shrouded in darkness. It's been true since we were toddlers who needed night lights. The same that might be true of monsters under the bed applies to skeletons in our souls. When you can't see things clearly, they magnify in shadows. They take advantage of the unknown and their power grows in your mind. Once cast into light, they often cease to exist -- and even if they don't, they're at least laid out before you, confined by reality, where in the clarity of the problem you can find the source of the solution.

Admitting your fears and flaws to yourself is not only a cathartic act of courage, but it allows you to know yourself more truly and fully, and that is an incredibly empowering awareness. Being truthful with yourself, even -- or perhaps especially -- when it's difficult, is transformative: your secrets become your strengths, your vulnerabilities become your valor, and your flaws become just another part of who you are, no less significant than your most laudable traits for the part they play in making you, you.

Like any journey, self-discovery requires enduring the tougher times -- but in reflecting back on those difficult moments, we will often find they ultimately prove to have given far more than they took.