The Important Work of Self-Discovery

David Andrew Wiebe

Photo by Siora Photography/Unsplash

How well do you know yourself?

Do you realize that your relationship to self affects your relationship with others?

Have you ever noticed how every relationship you have in life is in some way a reflection of who you are?

The truth isn’t always easy to hear. But it does better equip us with the information we need to make choices that lead to desired outcomes in our lives.

And if there is one thing that makes all the difference, it’s engaging in self-discovery.

Why Self-Discovery?

Do you remember taking personality tests in school?

Perhaps you’ve taken an aptitude assessment in your workplace.

Do you remember what it felt like when you got the results? What did you learn about yourself? How did you feel as result of what you learned about yourself?

The answers to these questions can be hard to come by unless you are consistently engaging in self-discovery, because you may not have thought anything of these tests in the moment.

What I can say from personal experience is that not only has self-discovery given me a sense of excitement at times, in some ways, it has even saved my life.

I can still remember summer 2014, lying depressed in my bed, desperately praying to a God who seemingly had no answers for me.

That is most of what I remember about that summer, besides playing video games.

But I also recall going over to my computer, logging into YouTube, and typing in “how to live as a sensitive person.”

That’s when I discovered Heidi Sawyer and her work on intuitive-sensitive people. Which could have been God’s way of answering my prayer. I do not know.

I found a video in which she started multiple statements with “As an intuitive-sensitive, you’ve probably felt that…”

And as she started listing off attributes of intuitive-sensitives, I related to so much of it. It was exactly what I needed in that moment.

Overcoming sadness and depression didn’t happen in a vacuum. It wasn’t a singular, miraculous event. But as I began to see myself anew and understood myself better, through Sawyer’s work, I found a sense of peace about myself and the world again.

The Pressure to Belong

From the moment we were born, we have all striven to belong, to be recognized, and to be appreciated.

As we learned to crawl and walk, our parents cheered and celebrated.

As we did well in school, our teachers gave us glowing recommendations.

When we did well in our job, we got a promotion.

It feels good when we do something right and others acknowledge it.

Writer Kayt Sukel suggests that as human beings we are hardwired for social relationship. To many of us, being accepted is a matter of survival.

Many also feel the need to be unique, different, or special in some way. But this also tends to come from the same place – the pressure to belong.

The assumption is that if you are unique, different, or special, you will achieve the status of an influencer or celebrity. You will be famous, and more importantly, liked by everybody.

The fact that most celebrities are hated as much as they are loved, however, seems to elude us when we make up our minds to try to be one.

When taken too far, such pursuits can turn into dysfunction. But at its core, the need to belong is human.

If we can gently separate the pressure from the need to belong, however, we can begin to peel back the layers of conditioning and programming and embrace who we are, exactly as we are.

If we did not fear being rejected, and instead focused on accepting ourselves, we’d find much of the acceptance we say we need from others. It might even be more powerful than that.

Am I Broken?

As Mark Manson states in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, self-improvement can sometimes lead us down the slippery slope of comparison.

We end up making many assumptions about life, like:

· I can be like my heroes

· I can do everything my heroes have done

· I am above average in every way

When our heroes are probably in the top 3% of the top 3%.

And believe it or not, most of us assume we are above average in every way. It’s called illusory superiority.

Through consistent, persistent, dedicated hard work, we can all achieve something. But to what degree, and to what extent is a point of speculation beyond anyone’s best guesses.

This isn’t to say we should not be in pursuit of our desires. But to what extent we can maintain realistic and objective thinking may have an impact on how we perceive the outcomes we create.

Disappointment is just a stone's throw away if reality does not match expectation.

Manson himself did not know that his book would become such an explosive success and even expressed that trying to follow it up with something more impactful or successful would be dubious at best.

There’s also something about having achieved something so monumental early in life, too, because you almost end up needing to find a new reason to get up in the morning.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is not anti-personal development, though, at least not from my perspective. I find it to be more about making the most of what you’ve got – something we can all do.

Instead of striving to be like the top 10%, Manson recommends embracing curiosity. And the magic of becoming curious is that learning tends to happen more quickly. You worry less about looking bad or asking a “stupid question” and instead focus on becoming your best version.

The Return to Humility

There is something to discover in everything. It’s just a matter of whether we adopt that paradigm. It’s not going to come without intentionality.

For instance:

If we consistently attract the same type of mate in life, and repeat the same relationship with different partners, inevitably the common denominator is a factor, and that common denominator is inevitably ourselves.

Sometimes it requires godlike self-awareness to be able to see patterns like this in our lives, however, which is why self-discovery is an important work. There are many things we won’t see without deeper contemplation, reflection, and self-exploration.

Unless we’ve chosen the easy, comfortable, average life for ourselves, we shouldn’t expect to learn all that we need to know through day-to-day life.

We should delve into personality and aptitude tests, books, and other resources that offer greater insight into the depth of our beings and the things we’ve made wrong about ourselves.

It has been my experience that the things we make wrong about ourselves are the very things we desire most, just that we’re scared to admit. John Eldredge’s Desire is worth a look if you don’t mind a religious perspective.

Why self-discovery?

Perhaps you will discover something about yourself that makes you excited to be alive again.

Or maybe, like me, you will overcome a season of sadness and depression.

Challenges do not demand growth. But they do prompt it. Whether you take the bait is up to you.

Final Thoughts

The late and great self-help and spiritual teacher Wayne Dyer said:

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Philosopher Socrates said:

To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.

We often think that life happens outside-in. But the truth is that it happens inside-out. And as we begin to embrace that paradigm, we won’t just discover more about ourselves. We will also shift the way we interact with ourselves, and therefore, the world.

There is a connection between you and everything that’s in your life. That is the important work of self-discovery.


· Dana Foundation – In Sync: How Humans are Hard-Wired for Social Relationships,

· Mark Manson – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,

· Wikipedia – Illusory superiority,

· John Eldredge – Desire,

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