Whether you’re questioning your identity or just haven’t taken the time to develop your own identity to begin with, getting to know you is an important part of living a full and happy life. Here are some helpful tips to get to know yourself. Keep in mind to approach this as a fun adventure. These tips can be used in any order, as they’re all about finding your voice and comfort zone.
1. Seek the journal
I’m not talking about the Wall Street Journal, what I mean is the all-about-me journal. Oftentimes, people who have always focused on others feel selfish to take time for their needs and wants, hence their lack of defined identity. Time to get over that misconception and designate a journal that’s just about you and for you. Yes, it’s OK that this is about you. That’s the point. If it’s uncomfortable at first and you don’t know what to write, that’s perfectly fine. Start with a list of things you like, such as your favorite food, time of day, perfume, where you’d love to travel, favorite song or film—anything. Just let it flow. This may sound sophomoric, but it truly releases the flood gates and introduces you to your most basic self. Your list could also include things that you don’t like. That is oftentimes just as telling when establishing an identity.
When I began this exercise, I didn’t know my favorite flower, TV show, or many of my most basic preferences, never mind what I wanted as a career and traits in a quality partner. These baby steps helped me learn about me, allowing me to keep growing and establishing my identity. This can be liberating and accomplish success, thus igniting the desire to continue on the exploration of who one truly is at their core.
2. The wish list
This is actually not wishes but authentic wants. List 50 or 100 things you want. The quantity is important, as it really forces you to search yourself. When I did mine years ago, I easily hit 20 or 30 and then really had to dig deep to reach 50 and above. This was suggested by an advisor many years ago. I still have my original wish list from 2004, as well as subsequent ones from 2008 and 2013. It’s amazing what such an exercise reveals immediately and later on. Happily, this acted as a goal list, unbeknownst to me at the time, as well as a great identity development tool. It feels wonderful to look back and see that I accomplished wants, or dare I say unidentified goals, just by making this list and anchoring them in my heart and mind.
3. Character development
Another tip to getting to know oneself is to consider what characters you admire and what you like about them. It could be someone you know, a movie character, activist, anyone whom you admire or find interesting. As a 30-something woman, I realized that my identity was based on what others wanted and that I acquiesced or adapted to other’s hobbies and interests. So, when divorcing and facing life alone, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. Not an easy feat to figure out. It was easy, however, to think of people that I admired and what specifically I liked about them, which provided real insight into what I actually possess or like about me. It’s a creative and different way to learn about you, especially if you’re not a list maker.
4. Take action
It’s important to look at this like an exploration or adventure. You’re on an expedition to discover yourself, like Indiana Jones searched for the Holy Grail. Embark on your journey. This is great for hands-on people. Do whatever piques your interest. If you like art, go to a gallery and see which pieces of art you like. Investigate those pieces and artists. Whatever your interest, just do it. Try things. I like to take field notes when I discover new places. Usually, there’s some little nougat that I uncover from such treks, even if as a whole I didn’t enjoy the adventure. If you’re more introverted, you can still dive in and search online for your interests. I encourage trying new things with a learning approach. You’re out to gather information—your likes and dislikes. I now know from escapades that I don’t care for opera and would like those 3+ hours of my life back, however, I do thoroughly enjoy poetry slams—especially judging them. That identity information was gleaned from taking action.
I encourage staying positive and in exploration mode. Learning what one doesn’t like and the journey of self discovery can be just as valuable as quickly knowing what one does like. Everything is a learning experience. The most important thing is to be aware and present. You are the subject, and a very worthy subject at that. Be open and try new things. You will be rewarded for it.