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

By Dylan Buckley

Updated March 24, 2020

Reviewer 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?

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.


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.

Counselor Reviews

"Marysue has been a great support to my path of self-discovery and healing. She is kind, patient, professional, and above all, a pleasant human being that cares. Thank you."

"I can not express how much Cindi has helped me in the past few weeks that I have had her as my counselor. She's helped me understand more about my conditions, helped me settle some things from my past, and has given me brilliant coping techniques that I will use in the future. I've been to many psychiatrists, but no one has ever been as wise, caring, or considerate as Cindi. She's helped me realize things about myself that I have never known. Cindi, if you ever read this, thank you so much for everything you do. You're amazing."


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!

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