How to Discover Yourself

Being You!

"A man who wants to lead the orchestra
must turn his back on the crowd."
Josiah G. Holland

When we’re young, we have a tendency to value the opinions of our friends more than we value our own. We tend to think that many of those around us have things all figured out. We feel that they really know what they’re doing, while we’re still trying to determine what life is all about. This is a feeling, or perspective,  that almost everyone has at some point in their life.

The truth is that almost all of those around you - even those who appear to have their act together - have some of these same concerns about their own life. They might not talk about it openly, but inside where it counts, they have questions and concerns. It's important for you to understand that almost everyone around you is trying to "figure things out" just like you are. So, you have to be careful about letting these people give you real insights into your own life and how it should be lived.

Instead, there's a much better way to chart your future course.  Although you may not fully realize it at this moment, there’s a special "person" within you who, over time, can provide you with this direction. As surprising as it might seem right now, you’ll need to listen to that inner person to determine the best course and direction for your life. In fact, you’re probably already hearing that person speak to you as you become interested in certain subjects at school or as you begin to enjoy certain extracurricular activities. If you’ll pay attention to this "being within yourself"  - and make good choices along the way - you will come to understand what you should do with your life.

“Before I can tell my life what I want it to do,
I must listen to my life telling me who I am.
This does not come from a voice ‘out there’
calling me to be something I am not.
It comes from a voice ‘in here’
calling me to be the person I was born to be.”
Parker Palmer

Be Your Own Friend First

While the points outlined above stress the importance of being independent and following the beat of your own drum, it’s perfectly natural for us to want to have a special group of friends. Who doesn’t want that? Everyone wants to be a part of a close circle of friends…a "go to" group of individuals that you enjoy talking to and being with every day. 

This is a very important group…yes indeed.

Within your "go to" group, and possibly within other groups that you participate in at school, there are young people who are nice, who make good choices and who seem to be trying to do the right things. We sometimes refer to them as the “the good guys.”  In addition, there are “the wealthy guys” who seem to have it all – the clothes, the latest versions of the iPhone and all of the social accounts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Then you have “the less fortunate guys” who don’t have as much as most of the others around them. Within these groups, there are those who are loud and those who are quiet…those that make good grades and those who barely get by…those that seem to care about others and those that don’t. The point here is that – even at this very early age – you are encountering all kinds of people. One of the early, but most important choices you need to make is...which of these individuals will you let influence your life in some way?

Possibly you’ve already been working your way towards being more like some people in one or more of these groups, believing that is the place to be. Maybe you’re in the process of getting the right clothes, the right cell phone and the right social media accounts so you can be just like them. If you get all of these things, they will like you more…right?


The problem with copying others is that it takes your focus off of what is truly important and of interest to you. Trying to be like others will start to change you and begin to shape you into a person you were never intended to be.

The quote at the top of this article is as true as a statement gets. To become who you really are, you have to turn away from many of the influences that other young people may have on you. You have to focus on who you are, what you like and what you want to do with your life. Only you can determine exactly what that is.

Discover Your Inner Voice

“Be yourself; everyone else is taken.”
Oscar Wilde

You know deep down that copying others or trying to be like someone else is not the best route to take. It’s tempting to try to walk it at times, but you already know that it won’t help you become the independent individual that you are meant to be. Unfortunately, you’ll see others--maybe even some of your close friends, who’ll do things, say things and think things only because others are doing so. This copycat approach to life never works for the long term.

Please don’t let your sense of self-worth come from the opinions of others; let it come from within you. You’re an important person of great value. You can accomplish great things with your life!  But, if you’re going to achieve the goals you have for yourself, and develop a meaningful life, you must listen to your inner voice and keep your focus on the true you.

“No one will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding,
except when he listens to the whisper which is heard by him alone.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Listen to the Beat of Your Own Drum

Maybe you’re a young person who hasn’t been overly influenced by others. Maybe you’re already marching to the beat of your own drum. If so, that’s great, and we wish you the best as you make the choices that’ll allow you to accomplish the goals that match your intended purpose in life. However, if you feel that you may be living too much under the influence of others, here’s a test that you can take to see which way you’re leaning:

  • Do you (and others) consider yourself to be an independent thinker?
  • Would you say that you’ve stayed true to the person you are over the past 2 or 3 years?
  • Do you dress in your own personal way instead of trying to dress like many other people at school?
  • Have you refused to be involved in any smoking or drinking activities when some of your friends asked you to do so?
  • Have you sat down by yourself recently and thought seriously about what you might want to do with your life over the next 20 to 30 years?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of the subjects you like best (and least) in school?
  • Do you think you’ve come to understand yourself better over the past year or two?
  • Do you have important goals that you want (or already working) to achieve by the time you get out of high school or college?
  • Do you generally form your own opinion about things rather than pattern your thinking after others around you?
  • Do you think that there are other people who want to be like you?

This isn’t a scientific test by any means, but it can give you an indication if you’re managing your life independently or tending to go along with the crowd and thoughts of others. Here’s a scoreboard that you can use to rate yourself:

  • If you answered yes to all 10 questions, you’re an exceptional young person and well on your way to living a life of your own choosing. 
  • If you answered yes to 7-9 of these, that indicates that you’re making good progress toward being yourself and, with a little more work, you’ll most likely become the person you’re intended to be.
  • If you answered yes to 6 or less, this puts you in the copycat zone. You should give careful thought to whose life you’re really living.

Be Yourself

We all know that it isn’t easy to live without being influenced by friends, but there’s one last consideration we should keep in mind relative to this…your mix of friends will change over time. Over the years, you can easily lose track of your best friend in high school or that special person you worked with on your first job. A person exerting influence over your life today may not even be around or even considered to be a friend months or years from now. The important point…your group of friends will change over time. Therefore, you must work now to make choices that are right for you over the long term, not necessarily right for the friends you have today.

“Choose not the easy way, 
or what other people do. 
But choose that very special route, 
that was designed especially for you.

Written by Shawn Jackson and Michael Nelson

Copyright 2014 / Good Choices Good Life, Inc. / All Rights Reserved

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” Josiah G. Holland