The ultimate guide to knowing yourself and discovering who you truly are.
There is a lot of pressure to be someone you're not these days. We are constantly bombarded with messages telling us who we should be, how we should look, and what we should have.
Sometimes it's difficult to find yourself in the midst of all these expectations. This blog post will provide some tips on finding your identity so you can stop trying to fit in and start living your authentic life.
We all have a complicated relationship with our identity. It's the one thing that defines us most, yet we're never sure what it is exactly.
I struggled with my own sense of identity for a long time and it took me years to find out who I really was because my identity was conditioned into me. After I finally found the courage to discover my own identity, things in my life seemed to fall into place.
The path to finding my identity wasn't linear though. There were zigzags and backsteps along the way. Although I have a stronger sense of myself than I did when I first started, I don't like to attach my identity fully to anything.
I believe that we always have a chance to change, grow, and transform. If I never changed my identity, I think that I would be limiting myself and I would probably never evolve as a person.
Nevertheless, finding your identity is truly worthwhile; because I made the effort to do so, I was able to identify what I loved, my passions in life, and my purpose in life. I believe that knowing who I am at the core made me a stronger person.
So you don't have to struggle as I did, I will talk about what it means to find your identity, why it's important, and 9 ways to find who you truly are.
What does it mean to find your identity?
Finding your identity is ultimately about finding out what makes you, you. It means understanding who you are and what makes you tick.
You are not your parents, the place you were born, or what you do for a living, even though we tend to identify with these things.
Being an authentic person means having values, interests, and passions that make you unique.
Yes, there are outside factors that may influence your behavior, but they don't make up your core self.
How it feels to know who you truly are.
Knowing who you are gives you a sense of security. As a small child, and before my identity was shaped by external forces, I knew who I was, even though I couldn't explain it.
I knew what I liked and disliked without judging myself. If someone disagreed with me or teased me, I knew the truth about myself and it shielded me from getting emotionally and mentally hurt from bullying and insults.
There is a certain freedom and comfort in finding your own path in life. Finding your identity or sense of purpose in life can be as subtle as acknowledging that you have needs and desires that aren’t being met, or as dramatic as discovering your true calling in life and making a choice to dedicate your life to serving that calling.
Finding your identity and creating a life you love is not a one-step process. Nor does it happen overnight. There are no clear-cut rules that I can lay out here for you to follow, but if you’re truly dedicated to the process of finding your identity, then I can help guide you along the way.
Why is it hard to find yourself?
Everyone has an identity – a sense of self. But some people aren’t sure of who they are, or why they’re here. They're also not quite sure what they want to do with their lives.
Finding your identity can be hard at times because there are many different factors that contribute to your identity, from your friends and family, to your nationality, religion, or political preferences.
Maybe you’re just starting out on your journey through life. Maybe you don't know how to express yourself or what motivates you. Or maybe it feels like you’re stuck in a rut and have lost sight of your passion.
You may have even been on this personal journey to find your identity for years, decades, or even your entire life.
Whatever the case may be, it's never too late to find out who you truly are. This is important because getting in touch with your identity makes you a stronger person and allows you to better connect with the world around you.
Why it's important to find your identity.
In order to live a life that you love, it’s important to establish your identity. In this way, you can contribute not just to your wellbeing, but also to the world around you.
Reasons for finding your identity.
- When you’re confident in who you are, it makes living life on your own terms easier and more enjoyable.
- Knowing who you make you unique and stand out from the crowd.
- Having a strong sense of self enables you to feel comfortable in your own skin and accept yourself for who you are.
- Knowing yourself increases your awareness of how you react physically, mentally, and emotionally to the world around you, making you feel more connected to yourself and others.
"Be yourself; everyone is already taken." - Oscar Wilde
How identity is formed [in psychological terms].
In the world of psychology, identity can be influenced by many factors, including social ones.
According to Freud, what we understand as identity is divided into three parts:
- The id, which is driven by instinct and desire.
- The ego, which is driven by morality and values.
- The superego, which moderates the two and creates one's identity.
Erik Erikson is another psychologist who studied the subject extensively and proposed a theory of development based on the different stages of life. The theory rests on the notion that the "ego identity" (otherwise known as "the self") helps to merge all the different versions of the self into the collective whole of a person's identity so if any part shall fall, a person's sense of self remains stable.
Social identity theory, which was created by Henry Tajfel, proposes that individuals try to improve their self-image by enhancing their self-esteem based on:
- personal identity
- personal achievement
- social identity
- association with a successful group
Suffering from an identity crisis.
When you're unsure of who you are, you can suffer from what is called an identity crisis. Life can be confusing when you don’t have a strong sense of self, especially if what you identified with is being challenged.
For example, your gender, religious, or political preference might not feel like an accurate reflection of who you are or they just don't resonate with you anymore. You can become obsessed with finding or creating a sense of identity, which can distract you from finding true happiness within yourself.
Identity and relationships.
Your identity is what makes you both unique and similar compared to other people. These same similarities and differences can also cause harmony and discord in our relationships with others, depending on our world views.
Defining your self-identity.
Finding your identity can be tricky. When you're figuring out who you are, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- Your "natural self", or "real self", are the characteristics that do not change over time. It's the unchanging pattern of behaviors and interactions that make up the core of who you are.
- Whereas your "environmental self" is the part of you that changes and evolves since the day you were born. This includes your physical attributes, your mental & physical growth, and experiences in your immediate environment.
What can influence your identity.
Your self-identity can come from different levels [steps] that build upon one another and subsequently evolve over a period of time.
- Step 1: this is a mix of your fixed nature and ongoing acquired nature.
- Step 2: building a system of values based on one's nature, experiences, and interactions with others.
- Step 3: placing values into a hierarchy and creating a philosophy of life, with the archetype [top value] at its core.
- Step 4: shaping your identity character traits out of your philosophy of life.
- Step 5: creating your personality from your character traits, which is influenced by interactions with the outside world.
- Step 6: producing bodies of work based off of your character and personality.
Your core identity is shaped by many factors. It's based on your unchanging self, and the parts of you that are influenced by your environment and society.
"I don't cover my face because I want to show my identity." - Malala Yousafzai
How to find out who you are.
There are many questions we could ask ourselves when we begin to explore our identity. Who am I? What have I done? What do I want? The answer to these questions can help define us as individuals.
At the same time, knowing who we are allows us to see the connections between different aspects of our identity which can help us make better choices in life.
As humans, we naturally look for ways to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the herd. This can involve exploring your personal history, values, beliefs, and actions.
It can also include looking at the larger picture and asking how our actions affect others around us. Finding your identity is never easy, but here are 9 ways to help you build a stronger sense of yourself.
9 ways to find your true identity.
1. List your strengths.
One way to find your identity is to make a list of your strengths. Your strengths are what you excel at or have an aptitude for. For example, you can be good at a particular sport, cooking, caring for others, or creating works of art.
When you identify your strong points, you'll be able to see how those strengths can be applied in different roles, projects, and aspects of your life.
You also want to make a list of your weaknesses. These are the things that need improving. Looking at what you don't excel at will also give you a chance to decide if you want to eliminate something that isn't serving you.
2. Identify your core values.
Your values are what you believe in. By identifying your core values, you discover who you are and what makes you tick. These are enduring qualities that will help you forge a strong sense of yourself.
Your identity is the center of your story. Who are you? What do you want? Why do you do what you do? They may be little things – like the way you greet people or your comfort level with strangers – that seem inconsequential but actually make a difference in how you feel about yourself.
Here are some examples of core values:
3. What are your beliefs?
Your beliefs are your perceptions or what you accept as truth. Research shows that our beliefs are formed from our experiences which, in turn, are shaped by our family, school, friends, media, etc.
Your identity is made up of what you believe and how you act on those beliefs. This affects the way you live your life, how you react to your environment, the way you approach your relationships. It also affects your values, actions, goals, and any plans you have for your life.
Identifying your beliefs will also help you let go of any that are holding you back.
Some examples of limiting beliefs are:
I am too young.
I am too old.
I don't have the right skill set.
My looks are below average.
I will never find love.
Meditation is about getting to your center and is not always the easiest thing to do, but it can help you get deep into the core of yourself to find your identity.
All you need is some time and a quiet place so you can quiet your mind and relax. You also lessen the chance of being distracted and you'll be able to ask yourself who you are and "hear" the answers easier.
5. Practice mindfulness and awareness.
Mindfulness is about becoming aware of what is within and around you. It goes hand in hand with awareness and allows you to be in the present moment.
Being mindful and aware is important because most of the things you do in life are automatic. When your brain learns something new, over time, it becomes a habit and you don't need to spend energy learning it anymore.
This is not helpful if you're not aware of who you are and how you interact with others and your environment. Being aware and in the present moment connects you to yourself and others with greater ease so you can find what it is that makes your identity.
6. Accept who you are.
Accepting yourself for who you are can help you find your identity because you're not judging yourself or measuring yourself with someone else's yardstick.
Oftentimes we criticize ourselves because we don't look the way we're supposed to or we don't fit in. I know that this is challenging because it can feel lonely to stick out.
But you don't really gain anything by going with the crowd, and it will be hard to find out who you truly are if you can't accept yourself.
7. Journal for reflection on the past and future.
Reflecting on your past and what you want to do in the future is a great way to discover who you are. You can use a journal or a diary to help you get your memories and thoughts out of your head.
Going back into your past will allow you to reflect on the highlights of your life. You'll be able to see your accomplishments and how far you've come in life.
Imagining, or reflecting on, your future self is also helpful in getting better acquainted with yourself. What you think about your future self is really important – not because what you say or do will shape what happens in the future, but because it will shape how you feel about yourself right now.
8. Take a personality test.
A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of taking a personality test. Don’t be. It isn’t as scary as it seems. Taking the time to find out who you are is incredibly important in finding your identity.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator [MBTI] is a type of test that assesses your personality based on how you make decisions and react in certain situations. According to the MBTI, there are 16 personality types.
Knowing what your personality is can be a tool that helps you gain insight into who you really are. The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to find out who you are.
Maybe you are an introvert or an extrovert. Maybe you are a think-outside-the-box kind of person or a follow-the-rules kind of person. Each personality type is meaningful in its own way, and understanding your personality can make it easier for you to understand how you interact with the world around you.
9. Get help
If you feel overwhelmed, overly lost, or confused about finding your identity, then getting help may be the smartest thing you can do.
Discussing your life with someone else, like a confidante or a professional, can be very beneficial. There is power in knowing that you are not alone.
Talking with an expert or someone close to you might help you gain a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. Getting support for what’s important to you can take the stress out of making big decisions in your life and provide you with clarity and peace of mind.
"Identity is a prison you can never escape, but the way to redeem your past is not to run from it, but to try to understand it, and use it as a foundation to grow." - Jay Z
Finding your identity can be tricky because there are so many factors that shape who you are. Not having a strong sense of self can lead to confusion and feeling like you're lost.
Though it takes time and effort, it's worthwhile to find out who you are because it can help you become more resilient and boost your confidence. There are effective ways to go about it like making a list of your strengths, writing in a journal, or meditating to gain clarity.
Being knowledgeable and aware of who you are may help you feel more peace, satisfaction, fulfillment, and connectedness with yourself, other people, and the world around you.
I hope that these tips help you find your true self. Let me know what you think!