In search of the true self: why we need to declutter ourselves

The journey towards a simplified, decluttered life, involves far more than just our physical spaces.

As we go through life, we create and acquire labels, images and identities along the way, many of which don’t belong to us, and certainly shouldn’t define us.

There’s much to be gained by digging below the external version of ourselves, decluttering the identities that we’ve collected, to reveal our true selves within.

The process is a deep, rich, and often challenging journey to discovering the truest version of ourselves. Easier said than done. But absolutely worth it.

Here are some of the most common aspects of our selves that are worth reflecting on, addressing and decluttering:

1. Job title

We are not what we do. And while work may be a big part of life, we are so much more than a job title. Anyone who has experienced a job loss, or become a stay at home parent for a season, or other similar circumstance, knows how much of our identity we often attach to what we do. When finding ourselves having to live without a title, we’re suddenly forced to discover the self beneath the title.

When I married at 24, I left my job as an engineer to travel full time with my husband’s band. It sounded glamorous, but for the most part was far more of a challenge to my ego and sense of self than it was glam. I went from having a job, a role, and a sense of purpose, to being on the sidelines without a role or identity. Suddenly having no external title, no particular role, and no real sense of purpose, forced me to unearth the real me beneath the external facade.The 14 years since have been a long journey of discovery (that I’m very much still on – aren’t we all?) that I am not what I do. It’s been incredibly tough at times, but so worth it.

2. Image and appearance

For many of us, entering the teenage years goes hand in hand with creating an image for ourselves, in order to fit in or stand out. We either try to go with the crowd and conform as much as possible, or we go for the nonconformist “different is cool” approach. And we so often drag this skewed focus on image into adulthood.

But there’s freedom in realising that we are so much more than our appearance. The more in touch with our true selves we become, the more our personality has a chance to shine through any external packaging we’ve come up with.

It’s not about ditching self expression; I’m the first to admit that I love a beautifully curated (and minimalist of course!) wardrobe. It’s just about realising we are so much more than our external appearances. Where fashion used to be an all important expression of who I was, I now see it creative, artistic expression of one aspect of my personality (and sometimes all it’s expressing is the fact that I’m far too tired or busy to care about what I look like that day!)

3. Reputation / Personality traits

We often gather certain reputations as we go through life, e.g. “the responsible one”, “the party girl”, “the quiet one”. These may have once been representative of you. But they are simply labels.

If you think you still hang on to labels, reputations or personality types that you no longer identify with, it can be helpful to journal your thoughts. Try making a list of who you are now, what you’re good at, what are your strengths and what you love. Make another list of some of the labels that you’ve held onto but want to let go of. Reflect on what you’ve written, where you’ve come from and where you’re heading. The simple act of writing, and seeing things for what they are can help us step more boldly into a truer version of ourselves.

Lets keep digging for the real version of ourselves underneath all those layers. It’s worth the effort to discover the gold within.

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