Questioning your existence can lead you to a deeper understanding of yourself
By Priscilla Kwateng
Student at the Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago
What is an existential crisis? An existential crisis is a psychological moment in which an individual questions if their existence has any purpose or value.
You don’t have to be super philosophical like Socrates to have an existential crisis. We’ve all had one at some point in our lives. It can’t be helped that curiosity comes with the brain. These moments often come during a complicated or crucial time in our lives. We ask ourselves introspective questions such as “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” and “What is the meaning in all of this?”.
Pondering such questions can seem meaningless when it looks like there are no clear answers, but here’s some good news. Knowing who you are isn’t another assignment with a deadline set two weeks from now. Your teens and twenties aren’t the only periods in your life where self-discovery is available. Change is unpredictable. You will be a different person five years from now. Heck, you might be a different person in a few hours! Self-discovery is a continuous and sometimes arduous process–but it’s definitely worth it. Knowing who you are is a vital component to living the best life for you. You must strengthen your individuality before you identify yourself as a part of a whole. The risks of not knowing yourself include underestimating your gifts, lacking direction, and being taken advantage of by not-so-nice people who see the things you don’t see in yourself.
College encourages us to take a look at who we are or who we would like to be. The type of career we choose may answer to what kind of impact we would like to make on the world we live. These sorts of heavy questions are overwhelming for a young adult to figure out. So where do you begin?
Listen To Your Gut
I’m serious. Quiet your mind and listen to your gut. Others might call this intuition.
We live in a quick-paced world full of distractions. Whether it’s the media we watch or the people around us, there’s always someone to tell us what to do and where to go. But why be quick to assume that others know what’s best for us? If it’s your life, then why look elsewhere for answers on what it should be? Deep down, we know what choices and paths we want to take. Self-doubt and pressure from others can get in the way of our own wisdom.
For example, you might be a junior majoring in psychology. You know your parents would love for you to become a doctor of any sort, but you have a burning passion for theatre. Especially since you’re not sure where a degree in theatre would take you, your stomach recoils at the thought of your parents’ disappointment. However, it recoils even more at the thought of never giving theatre a chance at all.
It’s not easy going against expectations, but in the end, you will never regret following your heart and doing what you feel called to do. This is not to say that logic and the advice of others are completely useless. Think smart, reflect, and only heed the advice that sits right with your spirit. You will know what’s right for you.
Spend Time With Yourself
Perhaps you’re not sure of anything. For whatever reason, maybe you haven’t built a strong foundation on your wants, needs, dislikes, etc. That’s okay! There’s always a place to start.
Spend some time alone so you can get to know yourself. Take yourself out on a date and explore the world around you! Yes, this step requires you to have some courage. Spending time with yourself inside your home is comfy and tranquil, but the outside world isn’t always a grim place filled with monsters waiting to devour you. There are countless experiences to run into. Interact with gadgets at a science museum or watch dogs play wrestle at your local park. Cook a new recipe or visit a new restaurant. Maybe you’ll encounter a sushi place for the first time and learn that you love sushi–or not!
Everyone has a personality. Yes, even boring people! You’ll be able to detect your own personality soon enough. Once you do, it will get easier for you to gravitate towards the relationships and opportunities that are meant for you. You might even be pleasantly surprised.
Oh goody, more reflection! This step can go hand-in-hand with listening to your gut. Evaluate your life from a third-person perspective. Try to assess your circumstances with both emotion and rationale. And most importantly, be honest with yourself!
Do you love the life you’re living? What makes you love it or hate it? How do you feel about the people you’re spending your life with? How do they feel about you? What are some goals you would like to achieve? Are they manageable and what steps are you taking to accomplish them? If you’re not taking any steps, why? What’s holding you back? What kind of person do you see yourself being one day? Or are you that person now?
Don’t get overwhelmed. Remember, self-discovery is a process. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. These questions are just a few examples. You can even change the questions to ones you feel are better suited to you. The main point of this self-evaluation is to cross out whatever is not resonating with you and help you find what is. Sometimes, when you take a step back from a situation, it all becomes much clearer. Lord knows clarity is the least we could get.
This road is not easy. Having an existential crisis is not a one-and-done episode. You are bound to confront some hard truths. You may have to confront them more than once. There will always be changes in your life that call for you to reinvent yourself in the smallest or most drastic ways. Sometimes, the answers to our questions won’t be as clear as we would like them to be, but it’s worth the struggle. The reward for self-awareness is transcendent. Understanding yourself allows you to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and improve into the best version of yourself. You are here for a reason. You are a valuable part of the web we call life. Your self-discovery is guaranteed to lead you to a happier life than your self-neglect. There is a resounding peace waiting for you that would be unattainable otherwise.
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