“I Don’t Know Who I Am”: Five Tips For Discovering The Real You
Regardless of your age or stage in life, the journey of self-discovery is never completely over. It can take years or decades to gain a solid understanding of yourself, and it’s not uncommon to still unearth new facets of your identity as you move through different relationships, jobs, places, phases, and experiences. These discoveries can feel disorienting, but they can also provide opportunities to get to know yourself even more deeply. Whether you feel like you’re not sure who you are or simply want to dig deeper, the tips we explore here may help.
What does it mean to get to know the “Real” You?
There’s a lot of talk culturally about finding the “real” you in order to live an authentic life and have a better understanding of what you want. What exactly this means, however, is often unclear. What does it mean to find the real you—and does that version of oneself even exist?
That said, some elements that are commonly considered to be part of your true self include:
- Your unique strengths and abilities
- Your personal goals, dreams, and desires for your life
- Your memories, knowledge, and experiences, which inform the story you believe and tell about yourself
- Your perspectives, beliefs, and values
Depending on your philosophical and spiritual beliefs, you may also believe in a core or essential self that remains unchanged, regardless of your life experiences. Others may view their “real” selves as more fluid and subject to change in response to new life events and perspectives. However you define the “real” you, getting in touch with the most authentic version of yourself may help you understand your full power, appreciate your abilities, and connect more genuinely with other people.
Tips for discovering who you are
If you’re in the process of discovering or rediscovering your “real” self, it can be difficult to know where to start. First, it can be helpful to recall that self-discovery work can’t be finished in a day—and in fact, it generally spans a lifetime. Being patient and gentle with yourself along the way can make the process go more smoothly. Next, you can get familiar with the following five strategies that may help you get to know yourself better.
1. Make sense of your life story
A person’s sense of self is often largely informed by their past, beginning as early as childhood. According to one research study on the topic, “Childhood personality holds lasting influence on important life outcomes.” That’s why you might consider reflecting on who you were as a child or younger person and seeing how you relate to those traits now. For example, you could ask yourself:
- What activities gave you joy or captivated your interest?
- What were your favorite games, books, movies, etc., and might they relate to your favorite hobbies today?
- What places, moments, or people were most important to you then? Do any of them continue to impact your life today?
- What stories have you heard about yourself from family or friends who knew you as a child or young person?
The answers to questions like these may help reveal formative moments or key turning points in your life that could have shaped your current career, relationships, values, desires, political views, and more. By carefully considering them, you might be able to find the threads that run through your life and potentially follow them to the next phase.
2. Focus on your strengths
Identifying what you’re good at can be another way to get to know yourself. You might think, again, about your childhood and the early aptitudes you showed. These could be specific activities or skills, like playing soccer or doing math, or broader personality traits or abilities, like showing empathy toward others or being naturally personable or imaginative.
If you have trouble identifying your own strengths, you might ask those around you for their impressions. Friends, family members, coworkers, and teachers could all have useful input that could help guide your self-discovery process. There are also online resources that are designed to help you uncover where your strongest abilities may lie, like High5 or the Via Character Strengths Survey.
3. Embrace silence
In the buzz and busyness of daily life, still or silent moments are sometimes hard to come by. However, those moments can provide important opportunities to check in with yourself and get in touch with your feelings and needs, so it may be worth making time for them.
Engaging in mindfulness strategies is one method that may help you become more comfortable with silence. According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of your personal experiences without judgment. Importantly, mindfulness is a state and not a trait. You can practice it virtually any time, from anywhere—even if you only have a moment or two to tune in.
Once you’ve learned to tap into this state, it may become easier to sit in silence with yourself, notice your needs and emotions, and respond to them without judgment. Even if you only sit in silence for five minutes a day, these windows of time can help you reconnect with your mind and body and think about what the “true” you really wants and needs.
4. Identify where you find meaning
Identifying the activities in which you find a sense of purpose or meaning can help you learn more about yourself. It can also give you insights into how to spend your time in ways that you find rewarding. Plus, recent research suggests that those who feel a sense of purpose tend to feel less lonely, which can help decrease certain health risks and improve quality of life.
If you’re not sure where to start, you might think about when you feel most alive, energized, peaceful, motivated, connected, or excited. The activities that make you feel like this could tell you something about yourself and give you clues as to where you might invest your time in the future. Some examples could include spending time with family or friends, engaging in a hobby, creating some type of art, helping others, spending time in nature, etc.
5. Work with a therapist
While you can begin therapy for any reason, many people view it as a chance to get to know themselves on a deeper level. A trained therapist can help you come to understand your needs and desires in order to strengthen your sense of self, self-esteem, or relationship-building skills, or to pursue healthy growth in other areas. This type of therapy can take place in person or online. If you have a busy schedule or don’t feel comfortable meeting with a provider in person, online therapy may be worth considering.
With a platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of home. Current research suggests that online therapy can be just as effective as traditional face-to-face options for addressing a variety of mental health concerns. One 2018 literature review, for instance, suggests that videoconferencing psychotherapy may be an especially promising method for delivering mental health services based on findings from 33 studies. Whether you’re living with depression or anxiety or simply want to learn more about yourself, online therapy can be a more convenient way to find support.
What if I don't know who I am?
Exploring core beliefs, values, and interests may help if you feel uncertain about who you are. Consider reflecting on how different situations have shaped you and engaging in activities that matter to you. Exposing yourself to new ideas may also be beneficial.
What to do when you don't know yourself?
Taking time to practice mindfulness and self-reflection may help create a stronger sense of who you are. You might want to consider your core values and beliefs, treating this feeling as an opportunity for self-discovery. A self-awareness journey can lead to a solid sense of self.
How do I know who I am as a person?
Many individuals benefit from reflecting on the core beliefs, values, and interests that shape their lives as they explore their true selves. This practice may help you develop greater self-awareness so you can learn more about who you are as a person. Working with a mental health professional during this process can be helpful by giving you an outside view of yourself through an unbiased party.
Why do I have no sense of self-identity?
A lack of self-identity or an identity crisis might be related to low self-esteem or a recent change in core beliefs. Sometimes, this feeling becomes apparent during decision-making for a meaningful life choice.
Why is it important to know yourself?
Having a healthy sense of who you are can be beneficial when making informed decisions and living authentically instead of following social pressure. It can give you the foundation for a solid sense of self-identity.
What does it feel like to not know yourself?
Not knowing yourself may feel disorienting or contribute to a sense of aimlessness. It might also lead to struggles with decision-making or a lack of confidence.
How can you know yourself better?
Working on a journey of self-knowledge might require self-reflection and exploring your core values. It may help to be mindful and expose yourself to new ideas. If you feel that you've changed and need to know the "new you," consider the areas in which you have the same core beliefs and those in which your values might have changed.
What is the focus of understanding the self?
Exploring core beliefs, values, and interests is often the focus of self-exploration and understanding. A therapist might emphasize self-awareness, mindfulness, and reflection to help you build a solid sense of self and navigate life authentically.
In what ways can you become more aware of yourself?
Self-reflection, exploring core beliefs, practicing mindfulness, and actively pursuing activities that genuinely interest you are potential ways to become more aware of your true self.
What does it mean to have a strong sense of self?
A strong sense of self often involves a detailed understanding of your core beliefs, values, and interests. This can lead to a healthy sense of self-identity that enables you to make choices that align with your true self for a more fulfilling existence.
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