I think in life it’s important to have room to stretch.
I believe that experimenting and exploring are such a key part of life that without them your life becomes limited. It can be in small ways such as trying a new hairstyle or big ways like moving to another country for 6 months.
Sometimes, after a person has been limited for so long when they finally get room to stretch, they take it too far. They end up doing things that are risky and potentially unsafe. It’s like going straight for a back bend when you should have started with a lunge.
On the flipside, when you’re used to having space you’re much more considerate about how you choose to explore and much less likely to overdo it.
When people have an expectation of who they think or want you to be, they have a difficult time I’m accepting when you become something else.
It could be a permanent thing or perhaps you are just going through a phase but either way who you become is your choice. I think we all need to have the space to explore and experiment in order to find ourselves and figure out the kind of person that we want to be.
Unfortunately, sometimes because of the people around you, you end up pushing self-exploration aside. Instead, you’re so focused on what other people think, people pleasing and wanting to feel accepted that you would rather pretend to be someone you’re not.
Being yourself doesn’t even feel like an option.
I think it’s important to remember that being accepted for the person you’re pretending to be isn’t true acceptance. Once you really take that in, you’ll end up realising that it isn’t worth pretending anymore. You may as well just be yourself.
I think most people have a some idea of who they are, what they like and what they would and wouldn’t do. Sometimes the idea we have of ourselves is flexible. We’re open to the idea of changing even if that means being very different from who we were or who we thought we’d be.
Other times the idea we have of ourselves is rigid. We have a mental note of things we wouldn’t do and we stick to it. There are times when we want to try new things, explore and experiment but we restrict ourselves because it goes against the idea we have of who we are.
But I think there is something wonderful in doing something you thought you’d never do. It’s a reminder that we’re constantly changing and also to remain open to change.
There’s something quite wonderful about being a beginner, starting something new with fresh eyes, optimism, excitement and curiosity.
There are probably plenty of things that you’ve been doing for a long time to the point that they’re a regular part of your daily, weekly or monthly routine. It could be old hobbies from childhood or a job that you’re just so familiar with that the joy has been taken out of it.
It could even be what you want thought was your dream job but because you’re doing it all the time and you’re so used to it doesn’t really feel like a dream anymore. Now it’s actually just your reality.
Sometimes, we get the job that we want and maybe we’re even living in our ideal home in our ideal location. We feel settled in life so we stop exploring. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but if you’re putting aside your curiosity and yearning then maybe something needs to change. The feeling of wanting to explore life probably won’t just go without you tending to it.
The reason we don’t tend to it is often because we allow societal standards and ideas to restrict us. We end up feeling like it’s too late to try something new because we’re a certain age or it feels like it’ll be a step back. It’s no use holding on to those ideas if they just make you unhappy.
The desire to explore could be as small as reading a genre of fiction you wouldn’t usually be open to or joining a local volunteering group. It doesn’t have to be about quitting your job to start a business. selling all your belongings and travelling around Asia for 6 months.
Who you are does not have to be so rigid that you force yourself to be defined by ticking several boxes and sticking to them. You can be one thing today and another thing next week.
So often we go through life trying to find ourselves and figure out who we are so that we can settle into ourselves. Yet in doing so we end up limiting ourselves because maybe who you thought you were or wanted to be at 20 will be very different to who you evolve into in your 30s.
We focus on things like having a career that we work towards from our teen or even pre-teen years. We assume that the plans we made 10+ years ago won’t change. And even when they have changed we struggle to let go because it opens us up to changing and exploring ourselves once more. We aren’t always ready for that because there is societal pressure to figure yourself out and settle down.
You’re told that you need to have your life together by a certain age which sometimes leads to you making choices to do things that you don’t even really want to do. And if you get to 30 or 40 and you’re still exploring you’re considered somewhat fringe, unconventional and even looked down on.
But maybe you don’t value the things that other people value. Perhaps you’re very aware of the life that you could or could have lived but you’ve chosen another path that has lead to a deeper exploration of life and self. Something you’d have never had the option to do if you had chosen to give in to expectations of the way that life should be.
Sometimes it helps to take a few steps back and return to the way things were. We often perceive this to be a negative thing as though we have regressed. However, it might actually be the case that the way you used to do things was much better.
So often we search for better or new because we don’t know what’s out there. And so we turn away from what we know and venture out to see what else is on offer. Sometimes we find other great options or ways of doing things but other times we end longing for what once was.
It’s normal to want to explore and try new things but perhaps you’ll ending up finding that the way things were is exactly how you want them to be.
Something really interesting happens when you start spending time alone.
You learn a lot about yourself. You learn what you like to do, how you like to spend your time, what brings you joy, what fulfills you and so much more outside of your relationships with other people.
So often we learn about ourselves in conjunction with other people. ‘My sister and I like to do this, when I’m with my friends I like to do that or my partner and I often do this together’. And it’s not that you don’t enjoy those things or that it’s not the real you but I think it’s important to explore yourself by yourself.
You might discover that there are a whole heap of things that you enjoy doing alone that you never previously had time for because you always prioritised spending time with other people. Or, you might find that you appreciate making time for yourself to spend doing small and simple things like bake, take a walk or read outside in a park.
The familiarity of what you know might be the thing that keeps you from exploring other ideas or options.
Let’s take the example of food.
Imagine you go to a restaurant and order the duck. Now imagine the duck is incredibly delicious and so each time you go back, you order the same thing.
You find yourself sticking with what you know because you know you’ll like it. But there are many other options available to you that are worth exploring. It’s not that you’ll like them more but instead a reminder of the important of taking advantage of what is available. I think sometimes in life we take our options for granted.
As much as there are so many other options available for you to experience, you turn them down because you’d rather play it safe with wat you know than venture out into the unknown.
But what you end up forgetting is that the very thing you’re clinging to because of familiarity was also once unfamiliar, you just got used to it over time.
From a young age it is likely that you were taught to figure out what you wanted to do with your life. That in turn dictated the choices you made and paths you chose for many years that followed.
Sometimes what ends up happening is you end up creating a very specific life where you rarely explore something new.
Whilst there is nothing wrong with knowing what you like and what you’re interested in, you don’t want to be so set in your ways that you’re closed off to the unknown.
Exploring something new every once in a while allows your mind to stay fresh. It could lead you to take a new path or just remind you that you’re exactly where you want to be.
When you feel low or sad about something it can be difficult to know what t do with the feeling. After all you don’t want to feel it, you’d much rather the sadness just left you alone.
But the thing with difficult feelings and feelings in general is that they don’t leave if you don’t allow yourself to feel them.
And then there is the question of how do you feel your feelings.
I don’t think there is a set answer of how but I’ll share what works for me.
Writing is incredibly therapeutic, I do it everyday.
Writing allows you to explore yourself freely and can be used as a tool to express how you feel. If you’re feeling hurt you can write about it. But you can also ask yourself questions like ‘why does this bother me?’ or ‘what would make me feel better right now?’ and then write until you have some kind of answer or at least until your mood has shifted.