The Importance of A Strong Sense of Self and How To Gain It

By: Dylan Buckley

Updated July 16, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Tanya Harell

A strong sense of self is vital, especially in this day and age. With so many external influences and variables that can change our lives in an instant and pull the roots out from where we stand, a robust sense of self is what keeps individuals grounded and on the right course. A strong sense of self allows us to go through any storm we may encounter without being swayed by the winds of change. But how does one go about gaining a strong sense of self? More importantly, what is a strong sense of self?

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A sense of self is defined as one's perception of oneself and an awareness of who you truly are. Each person's sense of self is directly related to how they feel about themselves, their levels of self-esteem, and their confidence or lack thereof. Each person's overall perception of self is critical because it lays the foundation for all other aspects and elements in our lives. A strong sense of self often breeds confidence and ambition during a fragile sense of self-engenders cowardice and lethargy. Consequently, a strong sense of self is utterly paramount, and so is knowing how to gain it. If this is something you seek to do, we will learn more about how you can accomplish this later throughout the article.

How to Gain a Stronger Sense of Self

The road to self-awareness begins with a few key steps and is a journey that is always evolving. If you are just starting or if you stumbled a bit and need some help to get back on track, here are some great tips to help you foster a stronger sense of self.

Believe in Yourself!

Self-belief and self-love are vital to attaining a strong sense of self. Self-belief is the defining factor of a strong sense of self. It is critical for each person to know who they are, trust in their strengths and abilities, and know they can accomplish anything they put their minds to and work for.

Self-belief is something that comes from within, not external sources. Encouragement and support from other people are great. However, what matters is what you believe, not what others think. This is especially true when you face critics and negative individuals. Not all criticism is bad criticism, but you are always going to encounter some people in life who will resent you for your opinions, beliefs, goals, and actions. Whether that resentment is rooted in intimidation or poor self-esteem on their end is immaterial as resentful, petty people will often work to discourage you or throw you off track. Regardless of what anyone else says, your power comes from within. With a strong sense of self, you know exactly who you are and what you are capable of, and no one else is able to tell you otherwise. People with a strong sense of who they are are able to remain unswayed by the energy of others.

A strong sense of self is first acquired by maintaining self-belief because confidence in oneself is powerful enough to overcome all kinds of hardships, struggles, and obstacles that will inevitably present themselves at one point or another. Individuals who know who they are and love that individuals are equipped to handle challenges and difficulties. Self-belief also produces hope and breeds positive self-fulfilling prophecies. Those who wish to gain a strong sense of self should first begin by believing in themselves and their abilities. After this has been achieved, the next step can be taken.

Know When to Say No!

Believe it or not, knowing when to say no is vital to each person's sense of self. Life is abundantly full of distractions, requirements, demands, and other obligations. Knowing when to turn down certain people, situations, and requests is imperative to acquiring and maintaining one's sense of self. The inability to please everyone and everything by always saying yes are extremely draining and self-destructive. It also causes the individual to lose sight of who he or she is as the pursue the hopeless endeavor of attempting to do it all.


Not only does the ability to say "no" help to avoid feelings of overwhelm or burnout, but it also helps a person learn more about who they really are. For example, a working parent is likely to have many demands and obligations. In addition to caring for their spouse and children, the parent must also tend to their professional duties. This might require working longer hours on certain nights, traveling, or attending office conferences and business meetings. While a busy schedule and well-roundedness can be fruitful and beneficial, they can easily turn toxic if taken to the extreme.

For instance, imagine the working parent above is asked to catch a flight to New York for a three-hour business meeting on a Wednesday. However, Wednesday is also the day of their son's soccer game. At this point, the parent is now faced with one of three choices. They can either attend the business meeting and skip their child's soccer game, appear at the soccer game and pass on the business meeting, or attempt to squeeze in both events.

Each of these options comes with its own set of consequences. Attending the business meeting and passing on the child's soccer game may hurt the feelings of the boy who is looking forward to his parent being there. Likewise, appearing at the soccer game while skipping the New York business meeting may make the parent's child happy yet irritate colleagues and the parent's employer. Attempting both endeavors could work, but after a while, if the parent continues to push themselves and say yes to everything or everyone, they will eventually burn out or experience other undesirable results.

Knowing when to say no is paramount to having and gaining a strong sense of self. It provides boundaries and helps you understand what is most important to you. It also seriously reduces stress and boosts clear thinking. Having a strong sense of self is heavily reliant on one's internal state of mind. Finally, knowing when to say no is a good thing. The people who are truly meant to be in your life will understand that nobody can always say yes to everything. Limits and boundaries are good for the mind.

Develop Your Hobbies and Interests!

Hobbies and interests are healthy, life-enriching activities. Not only do they reduce stress, boost confidence, and combat boredom, but hobbies also allow each person to discover more about who they are and what they like. Knowledge of self is critical to the perception of oneself. After all, how can you know who you are if you don't know what you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Hobbies are also great activities that can help you meet like-minded people who share similar interests. This, too, helps one gain a strong sense of self. Friends, associates, and other people with whom you share time with have a tremendous impact on how you do in life and how you view yourself. The age-old old saying "you are as good as the company you keep" remains truer than ever.

As you work to boost your self of sense, ask yourself what makes you happy. What do you enjoy doing? Are you into the arts or physical sports? Do you enjoy traveling and venturing to new places around the world? Once you pinpoint your hobby, practice it regularly, take a related class, and network with people who also enjoy your favorite activities.

No Matter What You've Experienced, You Can Develop A Strong Sense Of Self.
All You Need Are The Right Tools. Get Matched With A Licensed Counselor Online Now.


Take Some Time for Yourself!

Believing in yourself, knowing how and when to say no, and discovering your hobbies are all excellent ways to understand and gain a strong sense of self. However, one of the least commonly discussed yet ironically obvious ways to gain a good perception of oneself is having some alone time. This is not to be confused with self-isolation or cutting off family members, friends, or coworkers, but from time to time, spending time alone is healthy and greatly contributes to one's sense of identity as an individual.

Taking time for yourself is easier than it sounds. Occasional alone time can be as simple as taking a walk in the park, working up a sweat at the gym, going to see a movie, or even visiting a museum. Options are plentiful, and how you choose to take time for yourself remains entirely up to you. However, getting a healthy dosage of solitude allows for self-reflection, future planning, and a deeper understanding of life. Each of the aforesaid individual activities will sharpen your self-perception while improving your quality of life.

Cultivating Self-Awareness and Self-Confidence

Developing self-awareness is an extensive topic, and the exercises out there are numerous, which can make it hard for you to determine what you should be doing daily to ensure that you are on track. To get you started, here are three exercises you can do regularly to help you learn more about who you are and build confidence!

  1. Take Internal Inventory of Your Values, Beliefs, and Desires

Everyone has a personality but may not know exactly what that personality is comprised of. Take some time to sit down with a journal and some pen and paper and find out who you are. What do you believe in? What are your values? What do you want out of life? What are your strengths? Weaknesses? Learning more about every aspect of yourself will take time, but it is possible.

  1. Turn Your Purpose Into Action

We all have beliefs and reasons for doing things, but we will often put ourselves on the back burner in order to survive. Once you have a better idea of who you are and what you want, take action. Challenge yourself and take small steps each day to bring you closer to your goals. Everything worth fighting for takes a lot of effort, and you are worth it!

  1. Repeat Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations have become fairly popular in recent years and for a good reason. These daily affirmations help to boost your confidence and make you feel as though you can accomplish what you want. There are plenty of suggestions around the web, but you can also make some of your own as needed.


Life is an interesting journey, and we, as human beings, are always changing and evolving. As you work towards either strengthening or gaining a strong sense of self, believing in who you are, knowing how to decline certain offers, and taking up hobbies and alone time will serve you very well. However, we cannot always do it all on our own, and that is more than alright. Knowing when to seek out help from others is very good. This conveys strength and initiative, which are both critical elements of keen self-perception.

If you or a loved one are ever in need of additional help or guidance throughout your journey of self-discovery, please do not hesitate to reach out to BetterHelp. Our trained and talented team of social workers, counselors, and therapists are here to assist you as you gain a stronger sense of self and identity. Additionally, online counseling gives you the opportunity to skip the office and get help on your own schedule from licensed therapists who have received valuable feedback from their clients.

Find a Therapist or Treatment Center to Help Develop a Sense of Your Identity Issues

Our world has become so complex that it’s no surprise people don’t know their true values and they’re having identity issues. Developing a strong sense of personal identity is an area of personal growth that many people have a desire to work on.

When you have a weak sense of your identity, it can hold you back in your education and your career. It can also weaken your relationships with family members. If you’ve decided to pay attention to your identity issues and start developing a strong sense of who you are, you don’t have to do it alone and you don’t have to wait until it develops into a full-blown identity crisis. All you need to do is find a therapist or find a treatment center and ask for an evaluation for dealing with identity issues. Generally, all you need to do is fill out the required fields on a questionnaire. This is your first step toward developing personal growth. Your therapist may also help you to find a support group to help you in between appointments.

People with eating disorders tend to have a poor sense of identity. Eating disorders are a serious issue and family members should pay attention to the signs and symptoms of unhealthy eating in people they know because it could be a matter of life and death. There are specific types of therapy and a specific type of treatment center that specialize in eating disorders. Someone dealing with an eating disorder should find a therapist that specializes in those disorders. Part of the therapy program may include helping with developing a strong sense of identity. There are also very good support groups available for people with eating disorders and their family members.

Because there are many different therapy types for eating disorders and identity issues, a therapist will find a treatment program that’s customized to the patient’s needs. Some types of therapy for eating disorders includes psychodynamic psychotherapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, family-based treatment, evidenced-based treatment, dialectical behavior therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. If these types of therapy, which are home and community-based types of therapy, aren’t sufficient to resolve the eating disorder or identity issues, there are other people and places to get additional help for the eating disorder and develop a sense of identity that’s stronger. In the search to find a treatment, it may be appropriate to find a treatment center that’s inpatient or a treatment center that’s partially in-patient.

Once you begin sorting out the therapy types, you will eventually develop a sense of your identity and find a support system to keep it strong. The most important consideration is to get help if you need it and follow through with your prescribed course of treatment.

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Self-discovery and confidence will take time and energy to acquire, but the results will be more than worth the time spent. With confidence in your abilities, a strong direction, and valuable life goals, you will be unstoppable in your life, actions, and beliefs!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does it mean to have no sense of self?

When a person feels like they have no sense of self, they may not understand who they are as an individual. A person may feel lost or out of place in society. Sometimes a person may have mental health issues to address to help define who they are as a unique person. Having no sense of self may leave a person feeling weak, empty, or codependent of others.  You may doubt yourself and your abilities while not knowing much about the capabilities you possess that make you unique.

Without a sense of self, you’ll maintain low self-esteem, feel disconnected from others, and are more likely to be taken advantage of by others. A person may not have a clear identity of who they are, making it challenging to set goals, manage priorities, and even separate their thoughts and feelings from others.

What does it mean to have a strong sense of self?

Having a strong sense of self means you’re able to distinguish yourself from others. You accept the fact you are different while being more self-aware. You know how you want to use your time, the people you want to be in your life, and how to make decisions that will help you reach your goals. Someone with a strong sense of self understands how to connect to their inner self.  Before responding to a situation, they take a step back and assess their options before responding. They know the consequences of their actions, especially if they rush the decision-making process. Their self-awareness leads them in a direction that keeps them connected to their inner self to reduce the risk of making decisions they may regret later.

You’ll see challenges as a way of self-improvement and getting to know more about who you are. As you learn more about yourself, you value personal attributes you want to incorporate into your daily living, such as your ideas. You’re okay with people disagreeing with you, but you look beyond such obstacles and focus on actions that align with your intentions.

Why is identity important to a person?

Identity is vital to a person because it defines who you are and the direction you want to go in life. It is essential to developing a sense of self because it influences your thoughts and behaviors. It is an aspect of how you view yourself and reflects personal beliefs. It tells others the kind of person you are. How you identify yourself shouldn’t be connected to material things or how others label you. Understanding your identity allows you to evolve as a person through characteristics that define your identity such as intelligence, power, and creativity. How you perceive yourself plays a role in what you believe about yourself and how others receive it.

How do I get a strong sense of self?

Acknowledge personal values and use them to make decisions in life. Think about the values you possess that will help you get to where you want to be. They should provide self-confidence, energy, and help you stay focused on being productive. Establish boundaries by knowing your limits and standing up for yourself. It may include saying ‘no’ and understanding how to balance your time and priorities. Avoid letting the opinions of others guide your actions. Pick and choose your influences, so you’re not a people pleaser.

People will want to be around you when you are happy. Understand your self-worth to reduce codependency. Learn to accept yourself and give it time. Focus on doing actions that keep your emotional and physical behaviors in the right direction. Put negative thoughts in their place by learning how to confront them through measures such as talk therapy and mindfulness. Enjoy spending time alone by doing activities like journaling to reconnect with your inner self and raise self-awareness.

How do you love your self?

You love yourself by accepting who you are as an individual. Learn to accept things about yourself you can’t change. You have respect for yourself by making decisions that benefit your wellbeing. You identify as having a unique perspective of yourself, and to others, it reflects as having a positive self-image. You can explain in your own words why you love yourself if someone asks and not be ashamed of your answer.

Loving yourself includes making the best decisions that allow you to live a healthy, happy life. It involves taking care of your body, mind, and soul. You are aware of who you let into your life. You are aware of the actions that follow the decisions you make. Self-love shows others you believe in yourself, which is essential to having healthy relationships and meeting personal goals.

How do I stop being so insecure?

How to stop feeling insecure includes confronting negative thoughts you have about yourself. Such thoughts affect many areas in life, including social, emotional, and physical behaviors. You have to understand the necessary ways to change how you perceive yourself. Focus on things you do well and the ways you have helped others. Take care of yourself by eating right, taking time out to treat yourself, and explore self-compassion to build self-worth. Accept being different and making mistakes. Learn to laugh off embarrassing moments and be comfortable in your skin. Learn self-forgiveness, how to stand back and view your thoughts, and how to focus on positive aspects of a negative experience.

Surround yourself with people you love and people who will accept you the way you are. Walk away from situations that trigger low self-esteem and negative feelings. Reflect on good things that happen in your life, such as compliments from others, accomplishments achieved, and what you appreciate about yourself. Engage in activities that bring happiness from hobbies to learning skills and helping others. Work on building your self-esteem over time. Work with a counselor or therapist to conquer fears and gain tools to benefit your mental health.

How does loving yourself change your life?

Loving yourself changes your life by opening up new possibilities and opportunities. Self-love helps you open up to things in the world around you. You’ll meet new people, try new things, learn more about yourself, and further your potential. You’ll see there are people just like you trying to establish themselves through self-love.

You gain more self-confidence to be yourself, building your self-worth. It helps you accept the love and care others give you. You won’t settle for less and want what you deserve. You allow yourself to be happy by doing things that bring you joy. You gain strength that helps you stay connected to your emotions, even when you feel sad. Your thoughts and actions help you collect the courage you need to get through life.

How do I find my true self?

Finding your true self includes tuning into your inner voice, acknowledging who you are, and accepting yourself as you are. Find value in the skills, talents, and interests you possess. See the value in what you are good at doing and what others value about you. Be aware of people around you and how they influence your thoughts and behaviors. Recognize when you feel good about yourself. Note unhealthy thoughts and actions of people you know. Learn to let go of perceptions people have about you. You don’t have to please others to be happy.

Spend time with yourself through mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Use alone time to focus on positive thoughts, personal truths, and ways to feel wholeness. Learn how to be emotionally and mentally healthy. Work on building your self-esteem and self-worth. Talk to a therapist or counselor to help you navigate the self-exploration process. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Surround yourself with people that want the best for you. Spend time with people who can be role models for where you want to be in your life.

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