We begin to find and be come ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be. The only problem is that there is also so much other stuff, typically fixations with how people perceive us, how to get more of the things that we think will make us happy, and with keeping our weight down. So the real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t? How do we relieve ourselves of the false fronts of people-pleasing and affectation, the obsessive need for power and security, the backpack of old pain, and the psychic Spanx that keeps us smaller and contained?

Here’s how I became myself: mess, failure, mistakes, disappointments, and extensive reading; limbo, indecision, setbacks, addiction, public embarrassment, and endless conversations with my best women friends; the loss of people without whom I could not live, the loss of pets that left me reeling, dizzying betrayals but much greater loyalty, and overall, choosing as my motto William Blake’s line that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love.

Oh, yeah, and whenever I could, for as long as I could, I threw away the scales and the sugar.

When I was a young writer, I was talking to an old painter one day about how he came to paint his canvases. He said that he never knew what the completed picture would look like, but he could usually see one quadrant. So he’d make a stab at capturing what he saw on the canvas of his mind, and when it turned out not to be even remotely what he’d imagined, he’d paint it over with white. And each time he figured out what the painting wasn’t, he was one step closer to finding out what it was.

You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.

I can’t tell you what your next action will be, but mine involved a full stop. I had to stop living unconsciously, as if I had all the time in the world. The love and good and the wild and the peace and creation that are you will reveal themselves, but it is harder when they have to catch up to you in roadrunner mode. So one day I did stop. I began consciously to break the rules I learned in childhood: I wasted more time, as a radical act. I stared off into space more, into the middle distance, like a cat. This is when I have my best ideas, my deepest insights. I wasted more paper, printing out instead of reading things on the computer screen. (Then I sent off more small checks to the Sierra Club.)

Every single day I try to figure out something I no longer agree to do. You get to change your mind—your parents may have accidentally forgotten to mention this to you. I cross one thing off the list of projects I mean to get done that day. I don’t know all that many things that are positively true, but I do know two things for sure: first of all, that no woman over the age of 40 should ever help anyone move, ever again, under any circumstances. You have helped enough. You can say no. No is a complete sentence. Or you might say, “I can’t help you move because of certain promises I have made to myself, but I would be glad to bring sandwiches and soda to everyone on your crew at noon.” Obviously, it is in many people’s best interest for you not to find yourself, but it only matters that it is in yours—and your back’s—and the whole world’s, to proceed.

And, secondly, you are probably going to have to deal with whatever fugitive anger still needs to be examined—it may not look like anger; it may look like compulsive dieting or bingeing or exercising or shopping. But you must find a path and a person to help you deal with that anger. It will not be a Hallmark card. It is not the yellow brick road, with lovely trees on both sides, constant sunshine, birdsong, friends. It is going to be unbelievably hard some days—like the rawness of birth, all that blood and those fluids and shouting horrible terrible things—but then there will be that wonderful child right in the middle. And that wonderful child is you, with your exact mind and butt and thighs and goofy greatness.

Dealing with your rage and grief will give you life. That is both the good news and the bad news: The solution is at hand. Wherever the great dilemma exists is where the great growth is, too. It would be very nice for nervous types like me if things were black-and-white, and you could tell where one thing ended and the next thing began, but as Einstein taught us, everything in the future and the past is right here now. There’s always something ending and something beginning. Yet in the very center is the truth of your spiritual identity: is you. Fabulous, hilarious, darling, screwed-up you. Beloved of God and of your truest deepest self, the self that is revealed when tears wash off the makeup and grime. The self that is revealed when dealing with your anger blows through all the calcification in your soul’s pipes. The self that is reflected in the love of your very best friends’ eyes. The self that is revealed in divine feminine energy, your own, Bette Midler’s, Hillary Clinton’s, Tina Fey’s, Michelle Obama’s, Mary Oliver’s. I mean, you can see that they are divine, right? Well, you are, too. I absolutely promise. I hope you have gotten sufficiently tired of hitting the snooze button; I know that what you need or need to activate in yourself will appear; I pray that your awakening comes with ease and grace, and stamina when the going gets hard. To love yourself as you are is a miracle, and to seek yourself is to have found yourself, for now. And now is all we have, and love is who we are.


  1. Gerry Wieder says:

    Inspiring and totally common sense (when you stop to understand what Anne is saying). Thank you! This will give me something to think about for more than just the time it took to read.

  2. Richard says:

    Love the imagery of uncalcifying our soul pipes.

  3. Celeste says:

    “You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! Thank you for this.

  4. ian says:

    hi Celeste- yes its one of my favorite lines too. I will check your site. Looks interesting.

  5. Janet King says:

    I think the knowing it was a mistake is the wake up call.. Working in an office for 12 years, and then ill with work related stress, that was a BIG mistake. Now I work for the community and I am appreciated, that was a BIG ‘un~mistake’ – Knowing I had to get it wrong to get it right, is gratifying. Affirmation. I am the boss of me. My heart and soul is mine again.

  6. ian says:

    Nicely said Janet. How liberating!

  7. Mo says:

    This is  poignant, freeing and incredibly HONEST!
    I love it.
    Thanks for writing!

  8. Kim Patron says:

    Oh my, what a beautiful article!  I love that she says, “You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t….You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.”  Mistakes can be so painful, but this is a great reminder that they are an essential part of the journey!

  9. ian says:

    thanks Kim. I agree. I think its an amazingly positive way to think about experience.

  10. […] Read this: Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start by Anne Lamott Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Research: Using […]

  11. […] was quoted by Anne Lamott in her gorgeous, kickass essay about becoming who you are meant to […]

  12. […] Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start by Anne Lamott […]

  13. This resonates with me deeply, after 2.5 years of loss & change (brother, 3 animals, home, marriage, job). It is quite something to feel so lost and broken and yet simultaneously, so free and full of possibilities. For a lengthier read along the lines of Ms. Lamott’s theme in the above post, I highly recommend Elizabeth Lesser’s book Broken Open: How Difficult Times Help Us Grow.

  14. This is exactly how I feel right now! I love Anne Lamott which is why I clicked on here to read this. (BTW-saw the link on twitter.) I am printing this out and re-reading it. I will also use it in my ezine this week to share with my women readers. If they read it carefully, it could change so many things for them.I love the humor and the freedom I feel when I when I am reminded about choices. Thank you. Diana Fletcher http://www.dianafletcher.com

  15. Irina says:

    Thank you Anne!  This is so awesome! Such a deep incites! Love and Light! Irina

  16. Gerry Wieder says:

    Insight is powerless unless it incites you to take action.

  17. So many times I read your words and I envision myself sitting at your feet with my hands cupped catching your wisdom, drinking from your well of love. So many times I think I’m going to know this woman, become more like this woman – the parts of me that already here – that you touch. So many times I’m humble and expanded by your thoughts, and your sharings. And never have I told you. So I tell you today that you exhibit the divine, the glorious and the irreverent with great swashes of color and I appreciate you.

  18. Natasha says:

    This will finally help me to forgive my mistakes.  And value them.  All the times I have resented being shown my mistakes, I realize perhaps others were trying to get me to remember those mistakes, and own them as the gifts they truly are. 

    Hiding mistakes is like throwing a rug over an elephant in the room – it’s ridiculous, and kind of funny.  Refusing to acknowledge mistakes has always made me feel small.  Mistakes are meant to be made to help us find the right way. 

    P.S.   My elephants and me are running away to join the circus. 

  19. […] Lamott’s article (first posted on oprah.com,  and shared on Soulseeds) is called Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  20. Giles says:

    A great post this is. Informative articles such as this I love to share. This completely resonates with my life pattern.  Thanks

  21. When my kids first started trying their hand at creative writing, used to tell them all of the time that sometimes you have to write what you don’t want to write before you can write what you do what to write.  It’s just the way it is.  I like Thomas Edison who said, “I have found 10,000 things that don’t work” when someone questioned the worth of what he was doing. 
    Good article!

  22. Jane says:

    A beautiful article.   The inner voice we hear, if we allow ourselves to be very quiet, tells us .. has always told us .. that we are unique and perfect beings, but we don’t always trust our inner voice.   When another’s mind articulates it, we believe it.  Even believing it for only a moment is a door opening experience.

  23. lerato says:

    I needed this I have been going through such a hard time and everything looks a mess…I love it

  24. […] Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start by Anne Lamott. One of my favorite quotes from this is “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice […]

  25. Dan says:

    It is tough to live in the essence of your thoughts.   

  26. Michelle says:

    Love IT! So INSPIRING, so well written!

  27. Kenneth Vogt says:

    “No is a complete sentence.” Wow. That was worth more than the whole rest of the article, and the rest was gold. So many people have worked so hard to become “reasonable” and are now trapped at the level of reason. If you are there, know that there is a greater understanding awaiting you if you can suspend your disbelief for a moment. Consider that your reasons are not in charge: http://www.veraclaritas.com/a-day-without-because/

  28. Anonymous says:

    Totally spellbinding,superbly glorius…dare i hint @ a past life of mediocrity,reverses,setbacks,losses etcetra when i would try to muddy my waters,but just like a phantom i met myself & i relish that moment in my life when the finger of truth pointed out the light for me,it was like a fishing rod bringing out the prize catch from the miry depths…i appreciate your love and your towering intellect & great reseivours of spiritual insight and wisdom.

  29. I was fine right up the to “beloved of god” reference. Anne no doubt turned off a lot of non believers at that point. Which is a shame because so much of what she wrote rings so true. I always suspect the motives of true believers when they thrust god into a conversation. The comment was jarring. 

  30. […] Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start by Anne Lamott. […]

  31. embbody says:

    You have a great way of looking at life, truth & love, and best of all you help people laugh through it, you lighten it up.  Thank You! Hazeena x …. I will put  your link on the FB page for all the embbodies to see, benefit too!

  32. […] love Anne Lamott.  She’s hilarious and always spot-on.  The quote at the top is from this piece she wrote on ‘becoming the person you were meant to be’.  I love the bit about making […]

  33. Silva says:

    I just found this post and I think I could also use a complete stop in my life and rethink the future. Thank you for sharing!

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