Looking inward: A personal essay

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Almost all of us are looking to make discoveries and seek new adventures. While thinking about the question, “What is out there to discover?” our focus is mostly on exploring the outside world instead of our inner selves. Yes, there are plenty of different things to try, new people to meet and unique places to visit, but all of these experiences have one thing in common: They require us to be there to participate in them. 

To recognize and appreciate the world we live in, doesn’t it make sense to get to know ourselves first?

In a world full of external stimuli, it is not surprising to be interested in what is happening out there. Awareness of our surroundings is important, but there is a difference between interacting with our environments while maintaining an understanding of oneself and being disconnected from who we are. Discovering oneself may sound like a self-centered idea, but it is meaningful to realize that knowing and accepting ourselves can help us be more attentive and caring in our relationships and daily encounters. 

Nowadays, the time people spend in front of technological devices is increasing rapidly. Phones, tablets and computers are turning into artificial limbs that we carry with us almost everywhere. There are different possible explanations for this, and one is that these devices bring a feeling of comfort and companionship into our everyday lives. 

Through our phones, we can constantly be connected to the world and can find a sense of familiarity, even in a place we don’t know or don’t necessarily feel comfortable in. The stimuli we get from these devices decreases our feeling of loneliness. Connecting with devices is sometimes easier than connecting to new people. Perhaps this is because having a dialogue with someone requires more effort, and the outcome is less predictable.

Connecting with devices is sometimes easier than connecting to new people.

On the other hand, constantly seeking some sort of external stimuli can indicate that we do not necessarily feel comfortable being with ourselves. Ironically, we become isolated from our surroundings as a result of connecting with our phones to avoid loneliness. When we mainly look for new discoveries outside, we become less and less familiar with our inner selves. 

As someone who is open to new adventures and interested in exploring the world, I am not saying that looking outward to make discoveries is not valuable. I am just suggesting that we may be skipping a great step by forgetting to discover ourselves in the meantime. 

What do I mean by discovering oneself? That is open for everyone to experience and decide for themselves. It can be exploring: What do we enjoy? How do we think and behave in different situations? What do we value? More specifically, what emotions are alive in us during various circumstances? 

Discovering oneself is an ever-changing journey. I don’t think there is a specific end for this exploration, since we are evolving and transforming throughout life. Even though one may think self-discovery requires isolation, it is actually very possible to feel connected to ourselves while we are connecting with our surroundings. Self-exploration is not about forcing or pushing ourselves to do things that are not interesting to us, as genuine motivation and interest are essential for openly discovering anything.

So, what can we do in order to get to know ourselves more and relate to what is alive in us? Speaking from personal experience, I would first recommend thinking about this process as a state of being rather than an act of doing. Since we are all unique individuals, we will take away different lessons, even while experiencing the exact same things. 

Secondly, it is worthwhile to practice nonjudgement and be accepting of our experience as it is. Trying to discover oneself and learning to experience the moment is a journey with many possible paths. During this journey, events from our past, emotions or thoughts we suppressed, or questions and worries we have about the future may come to the surface. When this happens, we can try to observe our bodily sensations and be aware of our thinking and behavioral patterns. 

Although people have various opinions around meditation and mindfulness, any activity such as breathing, walking, dancing or drawing can become meditative if done with purposeful awareness.

Focusing on breathing, taking a walk in nature, creating art, writing reflectively, sharing different experiences with people, meditating, traveling solo and practicing gratitude and compassion are some ways to meet oneself. Although people have various opinions around meditation and mindfulness, any activity such as breathing, walking, dancing or drawing can become meditative if done with purposeful awareness. Self-discovery is not a competition to achieve a higher state of self-awareness but is a gentle process of growing and transforming. 

Why am I writing about discovering oneself? Because I am also walking my own path of self-exploration and acceptance. Practicing gratitude, focusing on the quality of my breath or simply sitting down and sorting my thoughts helps me to be more content in my everyday life. I am trying different tools to learn how to be more flexible, trusting and accepting, as well as sharing what I practice 

Self-discovery is a humbling journey in which one becomes more patient and loving, learns to stay calm in unexpected circumstances and appreciates what is present. There are plenty of different adventures to experience out there, and yet the first and most important discovery actually starts within ourselves. Listening and being in touch with our inner selves can help us have a wholesome experience in all the other adventures we have. Thinking that we can all set aside at least five minutes in a 1,440-minute-long day, it is possible to start this journey by creating some moments to just be and to focus on how we are feeling.

Contact Ceren Cingi at [email protected].

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