How well do you know yourself?
Do you have a strong sense of identity?
Do you know who you are, what you believe in, what matters to you, what you feel, what you want?
If not, read on to learn how to get in touch with your true self.
Who are you?
Developmentally, we wrestle with “finding ourselves” as teens and young adults. Then we often revisit these questions in middle age. It’s both normal and essential to seek self-understanding. In order to accept ourselves and establish a sense of belonging, we need to understand who we are. A strong sense of self helps us navigate life and brings meaning to our experiences. Without it, we feel “lost.”
Why do we experience a loss of identity?
- We put everyone else’s needs before our own. When we focus on others and neglect ourselves, we fail to recognize and value ourselves and our needs. We minimize who we are and what we need.
- We’re disconnected from our thoughts and feelings. We commonly keep ourselves so distracted and numb with alcohol, food, and electronics that we miss important information about who we are. How often do you reach for your phone or a snack whenever you get even slightly uncomfortable? These things keep us from knowing ourselves because we don’t allow ourselves to be curious and ask ourselves how we’re really feeling.
- We experience life transitions and changes in our roles. Experience like a divorce, retirement, job loss, death of a loved one, or other traumatic events can also result in losing our sense of self, especially the parts associated with our roles.
- We feel ashamed and unworthy, and consequently bury parts of ourselves. We were told that we’re bad, strange, ugly, stupid, or unworthy. We were criticized or teased. Maybe you loved to play chess as a kid, but were told that it’s not cool to join the chess club. So you quit. Or perhaps you were shamed for your sexual orientation and tried to deny it. We’re told we have to fit a certain mold if we’re to fit in. So, we squish our square peg selves into round holes and try to be something we’re not. After years of doing this, we lose track of who we really are.
I’ve created some questions or journal prompts that can help you rediscover yourself.
Questions to help you know yourself better:
- What are my strengths?
- What are my short-term goals? Long-term goals?
- Who matters most to me? Who are my support people?
- What am I ashamed of?
- What do I like to do for fun?
- What new activities am I interested in or willing to try?
- What am I worried about?
- What are my values? What do I believe in? (consider politics, religion, social issues)
- If I could have one wish, it would be ___________
- Where do I feel safest?
- What or who gives me comfort?
- If I wasn’t afraid, I would ___________
- What is my proudest accomplishment?
- What is my biggest failure?
- Am I a night owl or an early bird? How can I arrange my life to better suit this part of my nature?
- What do I like about my job? What do I dislike?
- What does my inner critic tell me?
- What do I do to show myself self-compassion and self-care?
- Am I an introvert or an extrovert? Am I energized being around others or being by myself?
- What am I passionate about?
- What is my happiest memory?
- What do my dreams tell me?
- What is my favorite book? Movie? Band? Food? Color? Animal?
- What am I grateful for?
- When I’m feeling down I like to ___________________
- I know I’m stressed when I ______________________
Rediscovering yourself is a process. You don’t need to rush through all these questions today! I suggest answering only one or two per day so you can explore them in depth. But work at your own pace–perhaps one per week is more realistic for you. There is no judgment and this isn’t a race.
You may also want to revisit these questions in a month or two. You are continuing to evolve and grow, so some of your answers will change, as well.
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start to think of ways to put your self-knowledge into action. How can you live more authentically? How can you pursue your goals, do things that interest you, and exhibit your values?
- Managing Anxiety When You’re a People-Pleaser and Perfectionist
- Self-Abandonment: What It Is and How to Stop
- Choose Yourself: You Matter
©2021 Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Canva.com.
Ditch Your Rigid, Perfectionist & Self-Critical Thinking
Do you hold yourself—and perhaps others—to extremely high standards? Do you have a nagging inner-critic that tells you you’re inadequate no matter how much you achieve? Do you procrastinate certain tasks because you’re afraid you won’t carry them out perfectly? If you’ve answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, chances are you’re a perfectionist. And while there’s nothing wrong with hard work and high standards, perfectionism can take over your life if you let it. So, how can you find balance?
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