When I started college, I had no idea what I was planning to study, no career in mind, no particular goals. I just wanted to learn and absorb and understand. So, when I discovered that Philosophy translated to a love of wisdom, I was sure I found my place. I was lacking meaning and purpose, and this subject seemed to offer me all the answers I was looking for.
Four years later with a degree in Philosophy, and some hefty student loans, I was just as lost as ever. I read the books and studied the great thinkers, but I was still lacking a sense of meaning. I wish I could say that has changed now, but that wouldn’t be entirely true. Although now I’ve learned to revel in the journey of meaning and purpose, seeing it more as a voyage than a destination. I’ve started to reject the idea that somewhere lies ‘the answer’, and I’m working on accepting the unknown. For me, this has proven to be ‘good enough’.
In many ways, this is why I chose to become a social worker, and now a therapist – because much of my meaning rests in human connection, self-discovery, and a continued pursuit of knowledge. This is my purpose; these pursuits give me meaning. This is not to say that I am walking around on a rainbow of bliss every day, but it does give me some hope and freedom, and sometimes that’s really all we need.
Often, we get so caught up in looking for ‘the answer’ to our struggles, that we get stuck. And when we become stuck, we lose our connection to meaning and purpose. We get angry and upset, we judge ourselves, and we create narratives to support the idea that we have no purpose.
The unfortunate piece is that when we create these false narratives, we deny ourselves the simple pleasure of being. This blocks our ability to discover and live in our purpose.
I think one way that we can begin to discover our purpose and meaning is to radically accept ourselves for being the perfectly imperfect humans we all are. The idea of radical self-acceptance comes from Dialectal Behavior Therapy (DBT), founded by psychologist Marsha Linehan, and in its essence it’s a fairly simple concept: a complete and total acceptance of who we are, the reality we occupy, and that we are all bound by the same rules of nature. Perhaps most importantly, radical self-acceptance encourages us to recognize that pain does not need to turn into suffering, and that life is worth living even during moments of hardship. This is not to say that we should accept things that we can change or allow others to cause us hurt or harm; it simply means that once we accept ourselves and the world around us, we can see clearly, and when we have clarity, we can begin to recognize our purpose.
There is no doubt that life is filled with struggles. It’s also filled with joy… and so much more. Every day is filled with its own unique ups and downs. The journey to finding meaning and purpose is a daily practice, as is radical acceptance. Challenge yourself to consider what it might look like to begin accepting yourself for who you are, your flaws and talents, your good days and rough ones. You may just create enough space to discover your true meaning and purpose.
Samantha Camerino (she/her) is the owner of Nomad Therapy Services. She uses a “Person in Environment” approach, addressing not just the individual, but also exploring the environmental, societal and historical components that may be impacting self-growth. She has nearly a decade of experience working with persons struggling with an array of challenges such as depression, anxiety, anger, low self-esteem, trauma, et. al. Currently, Samantha conducts sessions in the office or online, and she also encourages ‘walk & talks’ and meeting in outdoor settings. If you are interested in learning more about the Nomad approach, visit her website at www.nomadtherapyservices.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.