You lose yourself through compromise. In the beginning it’s only the small stuff – the dish you didn’t care for at dinner or the night you didn’t want to go out. But over time it turns to bigger things – the career path you could have pursued or the traveling you could have done, had you not had that person or that situation or that one inconvenience standing in the way. You don’t make active, conscious compromises but you let opportunities slide off your radar without a second thought – ones you would have, in another world, jumped at. Ones that could have made you more you.
You lose yourself when you listen too closely to what everybody else has to say. You let your family tell you what job to work, your friends tell you who you should date and television tell you what you wear and how you should act at all times. You pass each meaningless checkpoint with a sense of detached apathy and you’re not sure where you have displaced your passion. You lose yourself when you let other people decide who you’ll become and you end up becoming second-rate versions of them instead of a first rate version of yourself.
You lose yourself when you forget to make decisions – when the unlimited nature of options sends you into a paralysis that hastens you from choosing at all. When not deciding becomes your default mode because taking affirmative action seems too definite and you’d rather leave your options open. You lose yourself when the evasion of choice becomes the only choice you make and it is one that leaves you absolutely powerless.
You lose yourself when you refuse to be tough with yourself. When the concept of ‘self-love’ stretches too far and veers into the territory of making you into someone you can’t respect. You let yourself take a few leniencies here, a couple cop-out moments there and suddenly your entire life bleeds into one giant excuse not to try. You don’t want to be rough on yourself or harsh to yourself and you’re your own best friend, right? So you let yourself wallow when you need to be sad and stay home when you don’t feel like going out and suddenly you’re someone who never leaves their room or get things done and you’re not sure what happened to the person who you used to be.
You lose yourself when you refuse to take responsibility. You project all of your problems onto the world instead of asking yourself how to resolve them. You stew in a pit of your own issues and you reason that because they’re not your fault, they’re also not your responsibility to account for. And so you sit with those problems until they become the very essence of who you are. And you wonder when the world is going to cut you a break.
You lose yourself methodically. You lose yourself accidentally. You lose yourself in a series of tiny, scarcely noticeable moments that distance you from the person you wanted to become. You lose yourself passively and unintentionally. You lose yourself in the pursuit of not messing it all up.
There are an infinite number of ways in which we distance ourselves from the people we’d like to be and almost none of them are born from intention. We become accustomed to making the easy choice, the reasonable choice or the straightforward choice rather than the choice we’d actually like to see happen. It seems harmless day to day and yet it builds up over the years: spilling over into every imaginable facet of our lives. One day we wake up realizing ten years has passed since the day we graduated or resolved to quit that dead-end job and where have we gotten? Who have we become? Which day-to-day choices brought us to this point where we have no grasp on the life we planned to lead?
We have to be more conscious of the infinite tiny moments that rob us of ourselves. Each chance we don’t take, each move we don’t make, every time we teeter on the line of “Why not,” and “Why bother” and we end up deciding on the latter. These are the tiny moments that rob us of what could be our lives greatest changes. And to find ourselves again in the midst of it all, we have to start making those tiny, minuscule choices that flip the whole thing on its head.
The compromises that we refuse to give in to. The advice you decide not to take. The times you force yourself to go out rather than staying in to wallow and the chances you don’t let yourself pass up. Just as you lose yourself slowly and unintentionally, you find yourself that way, too. You re-create yourself. You re-define yourself. You make a series of small, incidental choices that reverse the direction you are headed. And slowly, unceremoniously, you find your way back to yourself.