empathy

Tips for figuring out who we are

Artwork by Alana Dee Haynes

Artwork by Alana Dee Haynes

We spend a lifetime trying to figure out who we are and some people still don’t know. After that lifetime we may still be asking ourselves “who am I,” but an answer isn’t guaranteed. I’m trying to answer this question myself before my life is over. What could be the mistakes that delay our journey to self-realization?

I haven’t lived quite enough to discover all of them but I may have found out a few things:

1. I now know that one of the worst mistakes is to try to meet other people’s expectations instead of your own; to care what people will think about the things you want to do, fearing they’ll call you crazy. Don’t do that. Don’t shackle your own mind for others. Pursue your dreams, regardless of whether people might trivialize it.

2. Stop saying you are not good enough and start doing things that might prove how good you can actually be. Sometimes underestimating your capabilities is just ingratitude.

3. Learn how to love. Over time I discovered that love is at the center of everything in this universe. Every feeling is related somehow to it; be it fear, ambition, greed, or thoughtfulness. Even hate is related to love.

According to author and director, Paul Auster, “You can’t hate something so violently unless a part of you also loves it.”

If we are not taught how to deal with love in all its different forms, we might lose a big part of ourselves and, consequently, a part of what we’re trying to realize.

4. Appreciate time. Older people value it; times where they had enough health and vivacity to do things they longed for, to go after young love and to travel whenever they wanted to, to make mistakes and change their mind the more they grow up and not to be ashamed of it, because that is what growing up is like. Observing older people might get you to realize that you’ll remember lacking the guts to do one or any of those things when you’re their age. They overthought things they should have done right away and stressed over things that actually come easily.

5. Learn to have enough courage to go after the things you love in life. Expect failures, but don’t let them stop you.

6. Don’t just work, also plan ahead. It’s easy to start sometimes, but the challenge usually lies in finishing what you started, especially when you’re bogged down by disappointments, worries, and even apathy. But what will get you going is believing in what you are starting – remember that.

When you run, you won’t realize how hard it is. Sometimes you don’t realize you are tired until you stop. The only thing that could get you back on track to finish your run is believing that you are running towards something worthwhile; by the end of the race there’ll be something that is worth every drop of sweat.

We spend a lifetime trying to figure out who we are. Although there isn’t a plan for what we should do, there are always signposts along the road. If you pay enough attention and look out for them, maybe that feeling of being lost will get smaller and smaller through time and experience.

Mariem Sherif is an Egyptian medical student who believes that words can heal a wound, that in each and every one of us there is something special and that in details lies another great different life for those who notice.