This is a guest article by Zach Walchuk.
Living as your true self is the great challenge of being human. It’s a hard task, unraveling which desires, values, and dreams properly fit, and which are hand-me-downs from your family, your friends, and the world you live in. The paths people take to become fully themselves are as unique as the people traveling; and it’s all shaped by stories.
We tell stories to find our place in the world. Some are public stories, designed for others to see and believe. Many are private, things you tell yourself and don’t give a damn if anyone else agrees. But whether they span years or a few weeks, they give you permission to grow in new directions.
Let me start with my story:
When I was ten years old, I desperately wanted to be an astronaut. I didn’t just want to be an astronaut, I did everything in my power to become an astronaut. I was convinced I needed to be on the fast track to space.
By high school, these galactic dreams were usurped by a passion for robotics. It would be impossible for me to count the hours spent in a damp basement room, perfecting the fine arts of building wire rat’s nests and burning my fingers with a soldering iron. I wanted to go to an engineering school and build electro-mechanical wonders.
Four years later, I was ready to give up engineering. It wasn’t a matter of difficulty, or even lack of interest; like so many times before, I felt a need to shed my skin. The story I used to wrap my delicate inner-self was fossilizing, growing increasingly protective and increasingly restrictive. Recognizing the need for a new story allowed me to accept a need for change.
Telling stories can help you grow and transform, and as you change, your stories will too. Embrace the change, and remember these five things:
1. Fully commit
Imagine you decide to learn the bagpipes. Progress would be slow if you told yourself, “I think I’ll give the bagpipes a try, but I wouldn’t want to commit too fully as I’m not entirely sure I’ll succeed.” A better course would be to say, “I am a bagpiper, and all that that implies.” This may include practicing for hours on end, learning new terminology, investing in draftier wardrobes, and killing your social life, all things that someone merely dabbling would probably avoid.
2. Don’t be afraid to pretend
A child may pretend to be a pirate, a tiger, a singer, or an adult. And with each act of imagination and imitation, this child internalizes some piece of that role. When you exhume a new passion, convince yourself that you are destined to play this part, be this person. How else could you throw yourself into the failure, the embarrassment, and the tedium that comes with learning anything new?
3. Keep true to your story
It’s tempting to stick to a simple story, one that only involves your professional ambition and recognized talents. It’s easier for you, and much easier for anyone who knows you. Even your most supportive friends and family have trouble understanding you beyond the story they’ve already seen. But to hold back the full, complex, beautiful story that is yearning to be told is to hold back your humanity.
4. Don’t stop telling new stories
Keep going, even when you think you have figured yourself out. Visualize your ideal future and tell the stories you want to be living. You have something close to 100 billion neurons in your brain, neurons which can be connected in nearly infinite ways! Each time you tell a story, they activate. The more you’re able to see things in your mind, the more likely it becomes your reality.
5. Remember the most important story
Your life is a story — it is being written and told. Being intentional with finding and telling your story is the key to finding yourself.
Zach Walchuk is a writer and software developer living in Denver, Colorado. He is a happy husband and expectant father. By sharing his personal experiments through writing, Zach hopes to help others become more truly themselves. You can find more from him on Twitter.