6 Movies & Shows To Watch About Self-Discovery
There are two very daunting questions we ask ourselves often: Who am I? What do I want? We don’t talk about it often, but these two questions have definitely kept us up at night once or twice. We look at our peers and they seem to have it all figured out. But don’t let their appearance fool you; a lot of people are really just trying to pave their way as they go.
So rather than providing you lengthy explanations and sappy stories about my experiences, I wanted to share a few movies and shows that impacted how I viewed my entire self discovery journey.
Note: Major spoiler alert!
1. Moana (On heritage and identity)
Although it is an animation for children, it has very mature content (and of course, there is also The Rock). It talks about a girl, her island, and how she goes on an adventure to fight monsters to save her dying land.
From this movie, I learnt that sometimes, what we’re looking for might already be in us. Moana feels drawn to the ocean ever since she was a child. However, due to a traumatic experience, her dad banned her from stepping too far into the sea. Although she longed to be in the water, she refrained from it for years. When her island was beginning to deteriorate, she knew in her heart what she needed to do. So, she went for it.
There was also a significant moment in the movie where she discovers her lineage: her ancestors were voyagers. This changed her perspective on what she needed to do and greatly assured her of her calling! Similarly, our traditions and cultures play a hugely influential role in deciding who we want to be. If you are wondering what you want for yourself, perhaps you should revisit some of the things or activities you enjoyed as a child. Allow yourself to embrace it once again! You could also go on an expedition to rediscover your roots and try to find inspiration from them.
2. How To Be Single (On being alone)
*Warning: PG18 movie.
This is a story about a girl: right after a breakup, living in a new city, trying to find new friends. If you are a young adult fresh out of university, you might relate to all her transitions and struggles.
The movie starts with her wanting a short “break” from her college sweetheart to discover herself. This backfires when she realizes how daunting the world is, thus causing her to want to reunite with her ex-boyfriend… just to find out that he has moved on. Throughout the entire movie, she struggles as she tries to understand how to “attract the right crowd” or to be a better friend. She eventually realizes that it’s okay to be alone sometimes.
A lot of times, we get caught up with putting up a facade of a lifestyle we think will look cool. This can be in the forms of partying, owning expensive products or having the perfect relationship. However, life is hard. We might not be able to afford anything branded, not have the mental capacity for parties, or simply aren’t meeting the perfect match. This movie doesn’t have the typical “happy ending” of her finally finding “the one”. In fact, she goes on a hike alone – which is something she has always wanted to do. From this movie, I learnt that there is no point chasing fantasies to gain the praises of men. Rather, I should do what I truly want to do, even if it means I’d have to do it alone.
3. Soul (On the purpose of life)
Soul is Pixar’s latest animation and boy, is it mind-blowing! In less than 2 hours, it addresses some of life’s biggest questions: Where do our personalities come from? Where do we go after we die? What is the purpose of us being alive? Of course, it is fictional, but it does propose many thought-provoking concepts.
It is a bit hard to condense the sophisticated philosophies they introduced in the movie (here is a video summary that unpacks everything). So, I will just focus on one: life isn’t just about the “one thing” or the “one moment”. Joe heavily fixated on being a successful jazz player. His life, existence and purpose revolve around being a pianist. In a body-swap moment where 22 wrongly entered Joe’s body, it experienced life and was able to appreciate the little things. For example, leaves falling from trees, pizza, buskers in subways, happy families and wind.
We often live life feeling like we need to discover the “one thing” we are good at, such as being an artist, an amazing accountant, a CEO by 30 or a national athlete–just like Joe. After switching back into his own body, Joe plays at the gig and wasn’t as happy as he thought he would be. He must be thinking: I am finally doing what I love and wanted to do, now what?
In my journey of self-discovery, I’m learning to be more aware of what I am chasing after and, more importantly, why. In my pursuit of being better at a skill, I need to always remind myself that skills, good or bad, do not define me. As I create new memories, I am learning to accept those sad incidents are equally valid as happy ones. Just like 22, I am also learning to appreciate small moments: wind blowing through my hair, the taste of brownies, life in general.
4. Start Up (On forgiving yourself)
A Korean drama about entrepreneurship, love, family, friendship and self-discovery. There are many elements to this drama, but I want to focus on the constant comparisons between Do-San (main male character) and Ji-Pyeong (supporting male character). These two men were both stuck in a love triangle with Dal Mi. A lot of people were #TeamJiPyeong (myself included) because of how smart and well-collected he is (he is also very handsome). We forget that he is in a different phase of life compared to Do-San and has it all figured out because of his age and experiences. Whereas throughout the drama, we get to see Do-San’s character arc where he eventually grows into a mature young man.
I felt like there were two main drivers that allowed his character growth: forgiving himself for his past mistakes (or lies) and truly living as himself. Do-San was a winner of the Mathematics Olympiad, but it was later revealed that he actually cheated. On the other hand, his relationship with Dal Mi started because of a lie. These two incidences made him feel like a fraud, and he was struggling with Imposter Syndrome for most of the drama. It was only after confessing his cheating to his parents and being honest to Dal Mi about the lies, where he could finally live honestly and freely (after a lot of typical Korean-drama crying).
If you’ve made mistakes or put up a fake face, it is time to be honest, embrace them, seek forgiveness and forgive yourself. Just like with Dal Mi, the people who are meant to be in your life will eventually forgive and accept you for who you are.
5. 500 Days of Summer (On romantic relationships)
*Warning: PG18 movie.
This movie has beautiful cinematography and story-telling. Fortunately (or unfortunately), it is not a typical love story. Tom Hansen is a hopeless romantic. He believes that he will never truly be happy until the day he meets “the one”. However, Summer Finn does not share the same sentiments. The entire movie was about their relationship–or the lack of one–and what they learnt about love and life from being together.
A lot of times, we depend on others for our happiness or sense of purpose. This becomes dangerous because we rely on others to fill our voids or save us. This in turn makes us people-pleasers. Sometimes, this snowballs into us not knowing our own worth or value (which has ripple effects like settling for a job we hate). If you find yourself constantly yearning for a relationship, pause and ask yourself why you want what you want. Make it a priority to love yourself first. Things will fall into place when you are ready.
6. The Social Dilemma (on the impacts of social media)
This is a documentary that breaks down the algorithms behind social media platforms and how they distort reality. It features interviews with Tim Kendall (former Facebook Executive), Sean Parker (former President at Facebook), Bailey Richardson (Early Team of Instagram), Guillaume Chaslot (former engineer at Youtube) and many more. Through these, we can catch a glimpse of how these technologies operate and how fake news can skew our perceptions.
Social media platforms have greatly impacted how we access information and the behaviours that occur as a result. It also forces us to make decisions based on availability heuristics–information that comes to mind quickly is deemed significant–rather than reality. This can be in terms of developing political stances, understanding the latest trends and more importantly, self-perception. Social media has many inaccurate representations of lives and is therefore an unreliable benchmark of our milestones.
For example, just because my peers are graduating or receiving promotions doesn’t mean I am any lesser for achieving these later. If we allow the “realities” of social media to shape who we are or should be, we will suffer. As such, I always take what I see on my screens with a pinch of salt. I am more careful about how I allow these data to shape who I am. Sometimes, this means I unfollow or mute people who make me feel insecure. Also, rather than feeling pressured by others’ accomplishments, I learnt to adopt a growth mindset and to challenge myself to grow and do better.
This journey of self-discovery is life-long, and we can only grow through experience. So, if you haven’t got it all figured out, fret not, you’re not alone. Be it movies, books or testimonials, there is a lot to learn about life from others. It simply starts with awareness and wanting to create a sense of purpose for ourselves. We will make mistakes along the way, but we will only come out of it stronger.