When thinking about individuality, what distinguishes you as a human being, you might think about your personality, style, interests, etc. What I am going to talk about in this article goes beyond the ways in which individuality can be manifested physically.
Each of us is born unique. Unfortunately, as we grow up, we are exposed to the conditioning of the rest of the world. It seems that this world comes with a set of rules on how you should behave and who you should be, in order to belong and as we get older, we start surrendering to these limitations.
How much of yourself do you think comes from within you, rather than from external conditioning?
We are all conditioned to do things based on other people’s reactions to it. We are taught not to do certain things. Not to be the way we are. Not to dress how we want, because someone won’t like to see it. Sometimes it’s just subconsciously there. Like when we stop ourselves from expressing our feelings because of how someone else might see us afterwards. When these limitations are so deeply ingrained, it’s easy to live our lives based on external judgement and to think that is who we are. True individuality, though, stems from within. It is built-in and unafraid of judgment. It is only through finding it that we actually learn who we are.
There are many ways to approach this. I am going to talk about the way that to me, seems quite challenging to master, yet reaps the most rewards. This is the process of detachment. This is a process in which you strip away every belief, every preconceived notion, every rule you have been taught. You separate yourself from them and ask yourself how they resonate with you. Do you believe in them? Do you follow them because you believe they allow you to be your best self, or simply because everyone else seems to be doing it? You start peeling away at the layers of your conscious beliefs until all you have left is a blank. Until you reach the subconscious. That’s where you get the real answers. What you often find is that you obtained your sense of self from these beliefs; but do they benefit you or anyone?
What does self-discovery mean?
This may seem like a complicated concept to grasp, and starting is always the hardest. But if you ask me – as someone who has gone through the hardest part of it – if it is worth it, my answer will always be yes.
The process of self-discovery is a continuous one. There is so much complexity to the human being; once you discover how to be free within yourself, you only keep uncovering more and more layers of your identity. As you grow and evolve, you will lose some and find new ones – our form is in constant flux.
This process requires you to have a deep level of honesty with yourself. To allow yourself to recognize that it might be that everything you knew wasn’t right for you. To be sincere enough to understand that there’s nothing wrong with relearning.
Where do you go after letting go?
After the initial process of detachment, it is normal to feel lost; you have just let go of all of the things you thought made you. But feeling lost is actually the key to self-discovery. This is when you allow yourself to relax and release the tension of having to fit in. Start asking yourself how you want to live, who you are and how you want to portray yourself, and answer from a place of unfiltered sincerity. This is when you redefine all of the important concepts in your own terms.
This takes an enormous amount of dedication – the old way of living feels more comfortable and familiar than the thought of reinventing yourself – but there’s beauty to this process though. Even if you go back to your old ways, once you’ve allowed yourself to have a taste of living freely, doing things according to previous conditioning gets progressively more uncomfortable. You are left with no choice than to be dedicated to finding yourself, for yourself. So, when you finally allow yourself to come back to the phase of rediscovery, forget everyone and everything. Imagine there were no limiting factors and ask yourself “Who is it that I want to be?” And you won’t have to think much about it. Your body, your mind, will tell you. You won’t have to use logic to obtain an answer because you’ve always known it, it has always been within you, you just had to let yourself see it.
Accepting your individuality
It is normal to question whatever conclusion you came to. Self-discovery is never a straight line; we might go back and forth several times. But if what you have discovered about yourself makes you happy, fills your heart with joy and gives you clarity, that is your truth. And if you go back, and your mind keeps bringing up the realisation you had, listen to yourself because that is your truth. A big part of accepting your individuality is understanding your freedom as a human being: you are free to explore and be yourself, just as others are free to be themselves.
Now, you can ask me, “If everyone is free to be who they are, why am I not free to think people should live according to societal rules?” and to that, I answer: Of course you are. The freedom referred in this question though, is not derivative of a place of truth, but rather of conditioning itself. When coming from a place of truth, we don’t need to follow anyone’s standards. We also don’t need to impose ours on anyone else. In the space of truth, we all come from a place of mutual respect for each other as humans, and an understanding that we are all free to be as we are. We don’t need to control each other because even when we live in different ways, we are all still humans.
In conclusion, finding your individuality can be resumed as unshackling yourself from the grip of conditioning, while simultaneously releasing control over those surrounding you. Owning your individuality is allowing yourself to be as you are, for no one other than yourself. And when you do that, you allow yourself to start truly living.
Written by Nahya Khan