Finding yourself – the search for you

Searching for yourself.
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Finding yourself – the search for you

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Who are you?

Trying to find yourself is a challenging task. I remember back in the 1960s when a large portion of the student body at the local college and colleges everywhere were psychology and/or sociology majors. In retrospect, I think that most people were either trying to figure out who they were or they were trying to fix what was wrong with them.

In these uncertain times, with the world changing yet again, it’s never been more important to get a clear picture of who you are and what really matters in life. Let’s look at some of the challenges you face when trying to find yourself.

One personality test won’t define you.

It’s tempting to try to divide people up based on one or more theories of personality. We used to try to define people by specific personality characteristics. For example, you could take a test and find out if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Increasingly we find the answer to who you are is much more complex than one or even a dozen personality tests.

The characteristics we use to describe personality are far more likely to be on a continuum rather than discrete categories. People are extroverted in certain situations but behave more like introverts in others. You may be anywhere along the continuum of introversion – extroversion, or you might be better described as an ambivert, someone who sometimes likes to be around others and other times needs to be by yourself.

Who you are will change as you grow.

Long-term research has also shown us that personality types are not fixed. Basic personality characteristics change slowly across the lifetime. One research article I read suggested that changing a personality characteristic takes about five years of intensive work. On the other hand, reading a book such as Learned Optimism and following the principles can change your level of optimism in a very short time.

The basis of cognitive behavioral therapy is that changing your thinking results in a change in feelings which will alter how you behave. Those connections also work in reverse. Changing your behavior, say you start exercising more frequently, will begin to change your feelings, and those new feelings we’ll begin to alter your thinking.

Whether you prefer the Big five personality characteristics, Myers Briggs categories, Enneagrams, Character strengths and virtues, or attachment theory, there’s much more to defining yourself than selecting a label from a theory.

You can’t define yourself by your occupation.

There was a time when almost everyone could answer that they were a farmer. Some families, for generations, would define themselves as soldiers. Today our occupations are much more diverse, but still, if you ask most men, they would define themselves by their occupation. We have subdivided the occupation of merchant into many categories. Is anyone hoping to become a redsmith or a cordwainer?

Women used to routinely describe themselves by their relationships. They were either a wife or a mother or both. Over the last 100 years, more or less, the options for what women could do has expanded. With more choices than ever before, it has become difficult for many women to define who they are.

In your life, you will fill multiple roles.

Who you are will be both defined and shaped by the roles you fill. In various settings, you will perform the tasks of these various roles. You will spend a certain amount of your life as a child, an adolescent, an adult, and eventually a senior citizen. The role of senior citizens is changing also. In your lifetime, you are likely to also be a student and possibly a teacher. Most of us become relationship partners, and many people will fill the role of parents.

Roles such as parents are becoming increasingly nuanced and harder to define. Parenting goes beyond being a mother or father. Some people also become stepparents or spend part of their lives in a blended family.

During various times in your life, you may be called upon to be an employee, a supervisor, a manager, or a business owner. While none of these roles is the whole of who you are, filling those roles can shape or define your understanding of yourself.

You’re not your problems or disorders.

The more we learn about neurodiversity, the more we realize that everyone has potential that can be developed and that we all have challenges to overcome. We should think of people as more than the sum of their challenges.

It’s better to think of people as someone with bipolar disorder or who has depression or experiences anxiety rather than the bipolar or depressive or whatever other label might be applied based on your challenges or disabilities.

How do you define yourself?

Spend some time learning about who you are. While you’re going to be you for your entire life, that person has the potential to change and grow.

Staying in touch with David Joel Miller.

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Which part of you wants that?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.


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Are you fighting yourself?

Do you ever feel like there are two parts of you that are arguing about things?  One part of you wants to do something and the other part doesn’t.  Part of you likes your job and wants to stay there and part of you would like to get a new job.  Part of you likes to hang out with friends and part you would just like to stay home and be alone.

Having struggles and conflicts within yourself is a common occurrence.  I’m not talking about severe mental illness or split personality, but just that human quality of being of two minds at the same time.  Sometimes there may be six or seven parts of your mind wanting to take you in a whole variety of directions at once.

Can’t make up your mind?

Having difficulty trying to make up your mind?  Sometimes this is the result of having choices to make and not knowing how each of those choices might turn out.  Wouldn’t it be great if we knew how all of life’s choices were going to end before we make them?

Other times difficulty in making up your mind may be that you simply don’t know what all the choices available to you are.

I’m not talking about Freud’s theory of the conflict between the id that wants to have its own way and be gratified and the super-ego that is responsible and wants to do the right thing.  Most of the time life is not as simple as choosing between the moral thing you should do and the bad thing that you really wanted to do.

Many times you have to choose between two alternatives, both of which have good and bad parts.  Below are some reasons that the emotional parts of you may be having difficulty with their choices.

Life is not yes or no choices.

One reason you may be having a conflict about two choices is that much of life is not simply yes or no choices.  Sometimes you have a whole lot of options, stay on your current job, go look for another job or go back to school to further your education.  Each one of those options come with a range of possible choices.

You have way more parts than you think.

When it comes to these conflicting parts of you, there may be a lot more of those than you think.  Each of us has many roles to play in life and sometimes those roles are in conflict.  You have your role as a partner and your role as a parent. Also, you’re a child of some other parents and on top of that, you’re an employee or boss.  You may have political or religious affiliations also.  Each of these parts if you have conflicting claims, for your time, your money, your energy, and your emotional commitments.

You also have emotional and personality parts of you.  What interests you, what will make you happy, what you feel you should do, what you really want to do, these can all be in conflict.

You may need all those parts of you.

Sometimes you have a part of you that makes you uncomfortable.  Anxiety may be a friend that keeps you from danger.  That anxiety could also be a bully who keeps you from doing things which might make you happy.

Sadness can be a consequence of feeling connected to and in love with other people.  Too much sadness and you become depressed, it immobilizes you.  Not being able to feel sadness results in being numb and you lose your connection with other people.

The trick is keeping your parts in balance.

The difficult part often is keeping all these many parts of you in balance.  Couples are often at risk of getting their life parts out of balance.  Too much time spent on that job interferes with the couplehood.  There can be a tendency to spend all your time and energy on your children.  It’s hard to balance those child-rearing responsibilities with the effort you needed to put into being a couple.  Sometimes you feel like these various parts of you, the roles you have to fulfill, are in conflict.

Each part needs to know its role.

Sometimes parts try to assume a role that’s not theirs.  Anxiety is supposed to protect you from danger but it may get in the way of you doing things that might be fun and enjoyable.  Sadness should tell you that you have lost something.  The part you that wants to achieve should motivate you to do more and better things. Sometimes that achievement part tries to crowd out your relationships with family and friends.

Your parts need to respect each other.

Your many parts, your roles, your skills, your interests, your relationships, all need to work in harmony.  When one part takes over and becomes your sole mode of existence the other parts suffer.  The work part needs to respect your family life part.  The part of you that feels the guilt needs to learn to respect the part of you that needs to grow.

You can’t keep discarding parts of yourself.

It’s tempting to start discarding parts.  You don’t like feeling sad so you try to avoid anything that might involve more risk.  Your fear of losing something prevents you from ever having it.  Some people cut off feelings.  Others may discard memories, skills, and hobbies that they used to love.

Too much healthy food can make you sick.

I thought I should include this warning.  People who have been through difficult times, who think of themselves as being in recovery, are often tempted to binge on healthy activities.  Too much hard work can take away all the pleasures of life.  Be careful that in your effort to improve your life and be healthy, you don’t avoid everything that might be fun and enjoyable or those activities that could be a growth-promoting opportunity.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel