I’ve noticed a troubling trend. When faced with adversity, setbacks or the like, a lot of people decide to go off and “find themselves.” You’ve probably heard it too. The vision you and I have is someone trekking off into the woods for a month and then suddenly emerging as a “new man” or “reformed woman,” or something like that.
Well, if you’re thinking about doing this, let me tell you: it likely doesn’t work.
Let’s start with what should be obvious: when you leave, everyone else’s life continues on without you. I remember the first time coming off a long deployment and being shocked that people had grown, changed and done stuff while I was gone. I mean, I wasn’t there, you’re supposed to just freeze in place until I get back! When you’re gone, you lose that influence, and even though you might change to fix one situation, you will probably come back to a totally new challenging situation.
Another negative is that while you might think you’ll come back all triumphant and reformed, most people probably won’t notice your glorious “return,” and even worse, will simply be annoyed that you’re back. Think about it. From their perspective, you abandoned them. They kept moving forward and had to do it without you. Then suddenly you come back and things are OK? After my deployment, it took my wife a week to adjust to having me around again. Even something stupid like me doing the laundry would annoy her, since it messed up her schedule. It sounds crass (why wouldn’t she be happy that I’m back? I’m even doing the laundry!!), but it’s a challenge regardless.
Probably my biggest argument against finding yourself is that if you search and think long enough, you’ll realize that you’re a loser. It’s true. If you hold yourself up to the standard in your head and really look close, you fall short. Every. Single. Time. Unless you’re some sort of narcissist, you’re not going to be happy with the person you find.
But in this negative is a great positive. Most people don’t hold you to that high standard. Sure, some internet trolls and you’re annoying mother-in-law might, but the people that matter in your life are probably OK with your actions and who you are most of the time. That high expectation of yourself normally gets you to improve over time, so it’s a good thing to keep. It’s just not meant to dwell on for too long.
Please don’t “find yourself.” It’s not like the movies. You aren’t the man in the arena. You are in fact cowardly running away from your problems. Instead, when you encounter problems, sit down with those you love and build a plan to overcome it. Maybe it takes you a weekend or a retreat to figure out, but pulling back from all human interaction isn’t a healthy coping mechanism.
Adversity is a team challenge, not one to be faced alone.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. It’s not aimed at any particular person. I’ve known plenty of people that “find themselves,” most often alone and in worse shape when they are done.
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