Becoming a Detective to Your Own Experience

I remember, very clearly, a time when I realized this:

I don’t even know what I like.

I knew what other people liked.

I knew what the people in my life preferred.

I knew how to do it so that I got an A.

I knew what the right way to do things was.

But I didn’t know how I might do it, if I were given the choice.

I had never given myself a choice before.

This extended to so many areas of my life: food, work, daily schedule, sex, getting dressed in the morning, choosing activities to do with myself.  It felt quite global.

I also didn’t like myself much, but, who would like a complete stranger?

Slogans like “become your own best friend” or “love yourself completely” didn’t resonate with me, because there was nothing to ground it. It was like being told to fall madly, truly, and deeply in love with the person sitting next to you on the subway – they may be peripherally attractive or may possess some indicators of intrigue – but they are still strangers.

Also they may disgust or turn you off completely.

I thought: how can I be expected to love this person? I have no idea who they are.

Since like attracts like, I have been attracting many clients like this in the last couple of months, people who look at me with a mixture of bewilderment and incoherence when I ask what it might be like to go on a date with yourself or do something just for you.

Because the truth is, it is impossible to do something just for you, when you don’t even know what you like.

The question remains, how do you get to know yourself?

This actually can be a very pleasurable process, as long as you can muster up the sense to giggle when you find yourself at a meet-up group for 30-something lovers of Wes Anderson movies and realize that it’s totally not your scene.

This process requires some trial and error.

Think about the things that have given you joy over the course of your life. Write them down. These can be the things that you liked when you were 5, 14, during your “punk phase,” or when you were in college.

There may not be many of them – this is OK.

Now, think about all of the things that you’ve seen other people doing, the things that stopped you and made you wonder, would I like doing that? Write those things down.

This is a running list, so please add to it as you are moving about your life. I guarantee to you that half of those things you want to try won’t live up to your expectations, but some of them will.

The point here is to hop into your life, and muck around a bit. Test the waters. Try something ridiculous.

Get comfortable doing something imperfect in the presence of others. This in and of itself, while not easy, is ENORMOUSLY beneficial to living a full, exciting life.

Now, feel free to replicate this process with food, sex, or any area of your life that has you wanting more – more connection, more laughter, more excitement, more fun, and more intrigue.

Develop a system for yourself for determining how you felt about something that you’ve done, ask yourself:

  1. How did this make me feel?
  2. Would I do it again?
  3. Did it fill me up or empty me out, emotionally?
  4. Were there parts that I liked? (Because the Universe loves specificity.)

Repeat, many, many times.

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13 thoughts on “Becoming a Detective to Your Own Experience”

  1. Great ideas! Another way that I think is a fairly simple way to be a detective in your own life is to get an inspiration journal (any notebook or journal) and write down things you are drawn to, and also gather clippings of what inspires you maybe it’s a color, shape, meal, word whatever it is, glue it down in your inspiraiton journal. YOu will start to notice clues in this process. Also an online site like Pinterest is good for this type of thing as well.

    • I absolutely love Pinterest for this Heather. One of my favorite uses for it is to document all of the places that I want to travel – looking at that board just fills me up with excitement and wonder. Thanks so much for the reminder. xo

  2. Oh man. I’ve been working through this same idea for the last few years. I based everything on what was RIGHT, what made OTHERS HAPPY, what I SHOULD DO, and could not figure out what I wanted (I thought I wanted to be right, do what I should, make people happy, make people like me, etc.). Even when I was dating someone briefly recently, it’s like some tunnel vision came over me and I couldn’t even figure out if I liked her or if I just liked that she liked me (I think it was the latter and I ended up breaking it off, thankfully)! I’m working through it though, and finding partnered queer country dancing has lifted me up and filled me with joy and pleasure. And it makes exploring/determining other things I like to do/people I enjoy… easier 🙂

    • YES!!! Have you ever seen the scene in Runaway Bride where she is sitting at a table of eggs trying to figure out what it is that she likes? That image perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to be lost in love – even glorious, fun, and exciting love. It can be really hard to get your way out of it, but it sounds like you’re doing wonderfully! xo

  3. First time commenter here…I just wanted to say that there is a really helpful book out there that engages with finding out who you are and what you like: Style Statement, by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte. There are loads of questions and prompts and inspiring people and images – it massively helps you to work out what YOUR preference and response is, and validates that your response is what matters! Highly recommended.

  4. Wow, right into my soul, this post. I feel exactly like that – like I have no idea who I really am inside. What drives me, what are my dreams and my goals? No clue. I’ve been fighting so hard for so long, that I seem to have forgotten developing as a person and trying out. That phase of trial and error; I just kind of missed it.

    It takes a lot of courage to get out there and DO things, try stuff and then decide whether or not it’s your thing. And frankly, I’m kind of terrified. But not terrified enough not to do it. And it’s the little things, the small shoves and the tiny pushes that make me get to a point where maybe – just maybe – I can try out new things, and eventually get to know myself.

    As always, thank you for being incredibly inspiring.

  5. I just had this conversation last night with my husband. I am so worried about my “label” or what little box I fit into that I don’t actually think about exactly what I like. Very often, I also ask his opinion of things to try and figure out what I like; how crazy is that? With this self-exploration, I find a sense of guilt about spending so much time on myself. For me, that has been the biggest challenge.

  6. I’m a bit late here, but THANK YOU for writing this. I am struggling with this very dilemma at the moment. I am working through Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” program, and she encourages you to go an a weekly “Artist’s Date” with yourself to replenish your creative energy. You can do anything you want on these dates, as long as its something that feeds your creative soul. I was crushed to discover that I had no idea what fed my soul! I had never really thought about what I actually enjoyed doing, only what I should be doing. This is liberating and also terrifying!

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