We Already Hold The Key To Everything We Want To Know

We’ve come to identify who we are and measure our growth by looking at external cues from the world. The truth is, everything we’ve ever needed has been much closer to us than we might’ve thought.

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We live in a world where we are constantly told that we need this product or that service to truly tap into our inner selves and reach new levels of growth and accomplishment. That is complete B.S. and it feeds the insecurities of our inner critic. If anything, this serves as a distraction from doing the real, internal work that is needed to grow. 

Conventional wisdom tells us that we can actually measure success in terms of things like money, job titles, houses, degrees, and other tangible things we acquire. We evaluate our own life performance to make sure we’re doing a “good job” based on what other people think about us—think promotions, raises, invitations to social events. But, life isn’t a performance or a show for others to watch; we’re supposed to be living, experiencing, engaging, and thriving.

Like many other people, I went out into the world chasing those things, perhaps subconsciously to test this hypothesis. Could I measure my own success and feel secure in knowing I have tangibly acquired what everyone sought? Four years after graduating from Yale and three jobs later, I still felt like something was missing, and it wasn’t something small or insignificant. On the contrary, I felt scared and more vulnerable than ever in my state of confusion, because it felt like I was missing something important, deep, and integral to finding a better way to live.

I realized I wasn’t even asking the right question. Rather than asking could I measure my success in terms of tangibles and how many of those things had I managed to get, maybe I should have been asking myself what I really wanted to accomplish? And yes, while we are all chasing happiness at some fundamental level, that word alone doesn’t quite encompass the full feeling of the thing I felt like I had begun wanting to pursue.

I’m still piecing together the vocabulary to describe what exactly it is that I want, but here are a few words that come to mind: wholeness, purpose, belonging, wellness, unconditional love, space to [fail, experiment, try over and over again]. What if we measured progress and time well spent in units other than the ones we were told to pursue growing up? Rather that focusing on hours spent working to be “successful,” what if we thought about kindness, gratitude, love, or courage? Or perhaps, self-discovery, compassion, integrity, or authenticity? Those things are much harder to quantify or even to evaluate, but they feel like important ingredients to living a meaningful life.


Each of us is born, just as we should be. Think back to how free you were as a child—filled with love, joy, adventure, curiosity, and an openness to embrace everything life had to offer. As we grow up over the years, we collect stories from the outside world, including other people, and we take those stories and weave them into our own narratives about ourselves, until one day we’re adults with an army of stories that we believe to have always been our own. I should look like this. I should have that kind of career. I should make a lot of money. I should date these kinds of people. The thing is, these are just stories. They don’t have to be true unless we make them.

I’ve spent the past few months working on beginning to truly let go of all the stories I’ve gathered, especially the ones that I know don’t reflect what I value or believe in. In this process, I’ve spent a lot of time alone to create space within myself to observe, experience, and reflect. Rather than actively looking for all of those things that I want listed above, I found that the way to move closer to that version of me and my life was to let go. I needed to let go in order to return to myself— my original, true self.

I imagine myself as this ball of light that over time got covered with so much stuff that I forgot that all I ever needed to guide myself to the next place was myself. When I started to remove all of the expectations, external pressures, and social demands that covered up that light, I cried, in gratitude that my light led me back to where I needed to go all along—myself.

It’s challenging to remember that we already have everything we will ever need inside of us already, especially when we live in the real world where there are new stories being created every moment of the day. We cannot isolate ourselves and the challenge lies in honoring our true selves while living in a world that demands otherwise. However, once you have made the connection that you are not the sum of all of your accomplishments, but just you, it becomes easier to manage how your internal and external worlds meet. And yes, you’ll likely ignore just how bright a light you are from time to time, but because it’s always there, you’ll never truly forget. You were meant to take this path that you’re on. Move forward with confidence that you’re exactly where you should be.

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