Selected Poems

14 Powerful Poems About Finding Yourself

Last Updated: January 21, 2023

There’s something very special about poetry. It has the ability to capture our thoughts and feelings in a way that few other things can. And when it comes to finding yourself, few things are more powerful than poetry.

In this post, we’ve collected some of our favorite poems about finding yourself. These poems come from various poets and perspectives, but each speaks to the experience of discovering who we are. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!

1. The Cities Inside Us by Alberto Ríos

You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city
Inside us, and inside us

Depicting the human consciousness as a city, The Cities Inside Us is certainly a captivating piece of poetry. Rios wonderfully executes this extended metaphor, conjuring up pictures of people’s memories, experiences, and choices as the locations, automobiles, and citizens of the inner cities.

The metaphor compares how a person’s personality develops with how a city is built. Someone’s identity has been shaped by every interaction with people they have encountered, including every moment, experience, and person. That idea is captured beautifully in The Cities Inside Us.

2. I Know My Soul by Claude McKay

Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.

In his poem I Know My Soul, Claude Mckay stresses the need for self-honesty if we are to experience true tranquility. The poem also addresses the fact that we may never fully comprehend our wishes, but that making an effort to do so is vital in order to find happiness.

Instead of constantly fretting about life’s difficulties, which we have no control over because they are fundamentally in God’s hands, McKay advises spending some time confronting our anxieties about ourselves.

The poet also talks about the human soul and underlines that one may only find serenity if they are aware of who they are and, more significantly, if they are aware that there are mysteries in the world that perhaps even humans are not capable of comprehending.

3. I Have This Way of Being by Jamaal May

I have this, and this isn’t a mouth
           full of the names of odd flowers

May explores how people develop physically and psychologically, exactly like how flowers grow, in I Have This Way of Being. They all start out looking alike, banal, and uninteresting, but as time passes, they each acquire characteristics and attributes that set them apart. When the flowers’ life is at its maturity, they bloom into unique and magnificent flowers.

In order to produce a beautiful flower, one must work tirelessly and meticulously for numerous hours while the scorching sun beats down on their back. Similarly, finding one’s self-identity is a difficult and time-consuming process. However, as a result of their efforts, one develops into an authentic person who is aware of their true selves and projects this unaltered version of themselves into society for all to see.

4. The Mind in State by Fady Joudah

Does consciousness exist only when
you name it?  Was the double helix a
stranger, the nucleus the  first brain?

Joudah discusses the existential theme of finding yourself in The Mind in State. Finding yourself is a difficult task, but it is essential if you want to live a fulfilling and successful life. In its simplest form, self-discovery entails understanding who you are and where you come from. It involves exploring your feelings and emotions, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. And finally, it requires accepting the things about yourself that are difficult to change or accept.

5. I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260) by Emily Dickinson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?

I’m Nobody! Who are you? is the name of one of Emily Dickinson’s most well-known poems, and it’s also one of her most famous lines. One very brief summary of the poem would be that it’s actually rather lovely to be a Nobody rather than a Somebody. To Dickinson, fame or public attention is not preferable to anonymity.

Nobody can stick together and enjoy their anonymity, but when you’re in the spotlight, it can be more difficult to find a friend and an equal. It’s lonely at the top, as the saying goes. Dickinson rejects the notion that fame and distinction are inherently desirable and instead sees anonymity as a benefit. Instead of claiming to be special, the poet openly exposes her ordinariness and similarity to everyone else.

6. Self by James Oppenheim

So I swore I would be myself (there by the ocean)
And I swore I would cease to neglect myself, but would take myself as my mate,

Self, which is a self-reflective work, is narrated by Oppenheim. He is looking for a place to rid himself of the weight of his burdens because he is exhausted from his daily responsibilities. Oppenheim appears to be drawing the conclusion that we are all similar as a result of introspection. He is gradually letting go, finding solace in his own identity, and realizing the power of that freedom.

It seems as though the more words he writes, the more introspective he becomes. He vows in silence that he will take care of himself in the future. He will maintain his inner serenity by reflecting on himself. Self-doubt is a struggle to handle because it is part of human nature. Oppenheim demonstrates to the readers how to approach solving this issue in Self.

Overall, this poem is about a person who is feeling overburdened. That proves that we all experience times when the world around us seems overwhelming, whether it be today or a century ago. Nevertheless, despite everything going on, it’s crucial to learn to love oneself and to work hard to keep that love alive every day.

7. Moments of Vision by Thomas Hardy

That mirror
         Which makes of men a transparency,
             Who holds that mirror
And bids us such a breast-bared spectacle to see
             Of you and me?

Thomas Hardy’s poem Moments of Vision highlights the moments in a person’s life when they are compelled to think back on who they are and what they have done.

In the opening lines, the speaker of the poem introduces a mirror that has the power to make mankind transparent. The speaker expresses great interest in learning who has the power to make someone see themselves in this way. “Who holds that mirror”?

The speaker describes how easily one’s layers can be broken down by the mirror. The mirror is especially useful at night when one is most immersed in the “ache” period. The speaker questions why man cannot always perceive his deepest self while awake.

All men will be put to the test by this mirror, which is either guided by God or by man himself, according to the poem’s conclusion. It may come as a surprise to one, but it will nonetheless occur. No matter how wonderful or awful a life’s acts were, they will be reflected back to the world.

8. I Am by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I know not whence I came,
I know not whither I go
But the fact stands clear that I am here
In this world of pleasure and woe.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem I Am contains a strong message: everyone has a role to play in this world, and it is our responsibility to improve it. Everyone matters because we all have the potential to have a beneficial or harmful impact on society. And it doesn’t take much. Our world can be improved by just one modest, kind act.

Numerous influences in today’s culture have the potential to alter how we behave as people. Any statement made by a prominent figure has the potential to spark debate and pit members of our society against one another. In order to create the best possible world, it is up to us as individuals to be able to communicate with one another and cooperate.

9. On a Columnar Self by Emily Dickinson

On a Columnar Self—
How ample to rely

On a Columnar Self by Emily Dickinson transforms the concept of the self, which is essentially abstract, into something physical and vivid. Dickinson believed your sense of self will sustain you if it is as strong and durable as a stone column. You can rely on it even in challenging or uncertain circumstances, even if you feel like the only person on your side.

Doing the right thing, however you might define it, is all the rewards that we need in and of itself. You feel as though there is a sea of people behind you, supporting you because you know you are doing the right thing. And God, the ultimate source of comfort, is not far from this fictitious group too. As a result, when you do the right thing, it feels as though God and the entire world are behind you.

10. Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue   
Pour of tor and distances.

Sylvia Plath’s Ariel was first released after her death in February 1963 in a collection of the same name that was published in 1965. In the poem, the narrator narrates a horseback ride early in the day. While the speaker’s trip starts off as a very physical one, it progressively shifts to a more spiritual or even supernatural one that is less sensory.

During her ride, the speaker lets go of everything holding her back and starts to feel like she is a part of the vivacious natural power she observes in the surroundings and the horse. The speaker’s physical ties to her surroundings transform into spiritual ties as she travels further along her path, and she unites with her inner inclinations.

The speaker also makes a suggestion that this is a risky procedure by calling dew “suicidal” as it flies towards the scorching sun, the “cauldron of morning.” In other words, the speaker’s horseback ride serves as an example of the blissful transcendence that happens when people let go of their physical limitations and allow their natural impulses to take control.

11. Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

The lengthy poem Song of Myself combines a biography, a sermon, and a literary reflection. The title Song of Myself wasn’t given to this poem until the 1881 version. It had previously been referred to as Walt Whitman, an American Poem or just Walt Whitman.

The poem’s changing title gives some indication of Whitman’s themes in this work. The poem examines the potential for interpersonal communication as Walt Whitman, the particular person, dissolves into the abstract “Myself.” Whitman attempts to show that he both embraces and is inseparable from the cosmos by working from the premise that “what I assume you shall assume.”

The self-concept, self-identification with other selves, and the poet’s interaction with the natural world’s elements and the cosmos are the three main themes. The self is believed to be a spiritual being that endures through and within the shifting flux of thoughts and experiences that make up its conscious life. The most important feature of Whitman’s thinking and work is his conception of the self.

12. A Dialogue of Self and Soul By William Butler Yeats

I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch

W. B. Yeats’ intense investigation of the ideas of Soul and Self, which are at the center of, among other things, Christianity, is found in A Dialogue Between Self and Soul. Contrary to what the religion’s morals and ethics claim, the Soul appears to be losing in this conversation with the Self. In this poem, Yeats highlights his antithetical ideologies, which are further developed in many of the other poems he wrote.

Both the Self and the Soul discuss their traits and demonstrate certain truths about themselves in the poem, and on the basis of that, there is a discussion and dispute. This poem is one of Yeats’s favorites, and what makes it so extraordinary is how it expresses a passionate individual, direct, and immediate sense of the ultimate validity of life itself.

13. I Am! by John Clare

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:

I Am! by John Clare is a stunningly melancholy poem in which the speaker reflects on his life and wishes to rest with God. The poem’s speaker, who is frequently thought to represent Clare himself, tells about the worst times in his life in the first stanza. He feels that no one understands him despite the fact that he is conscious and present in his life.

He is derided and his worries furiously race through his mind. They haunt him, as does the realization that the people who were once closest to him in his life are now “strange.” The speaker believes that leaving this world and entering the next, where he will live with God in Heaven, is the only way out of his problems. He’ll finally be able to fall asleep like a child there.

14. The Self-Unseeing by Thomas Hardy

Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!

In The Self-Unseeing, Hardy—or at least Hardy’s speaker—visits a location he previously knew, probably his childhood home. He recalls how things were when he was there with other people. The speaker has some regrets about those previous, good times.

It’s not too difficult to understand The Self-Unseeing from the first reading. The poem does, however, pose several issues that are challenging to resolve. It’s about not appreciating what you have, especially your family when you’re young and taking everything for granted.

Final thoughts

As you read through these poems about finding yourself, take some time to reflect on your own journey. What are the moments that have helped you find who you are? What has been most challenging in discovering and accepting who you are? Allow these poems to be a source of reflection and contemplation as you continue on your own path of self-discovery.

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