Woman journaling on a notebook on her desk.

A complete guide on how to get to know yourself better.

If you don't know yourself well, it can be challenging to operate in the world and ultimately find true happiness.  In this guide, you'll learn step by step, how to know yourself so you can gain a better understanding of how you function.   This is important because studies have shown that getting to know yourself better can improve your well-being, your relationship with others, your self-confidence, and how you manage your tasks.  You'll also discover 10 different ways to know yourself, plus 100 questions & prompts to get to know yourself better.

Woman journaling on a notebook on her desk.

What does it mean to know yourself?

When you see that phrase, get to know yourself, do you get stumped?  I know I once did.  I remember way back when I made it my mission to know myself and thought it would be a quick exercise.

It turned out, it wasn't so quick, and I didn't really know myself as well as I thought.  I knew a few things, like being a chocolate addict, a coffee lover, and a bookworm.  Beyond this, I discovered wasn't aware of who I really was.  How did I come upon this revelation?  Here are some of the things I experienced that may clue you in.

Signs you may not know yourself well.

1. You have no direction and feel lost.

I remember a point in my life when I had been working for 10+ years as a dental hygienist while supporting my family and started feeling like I'd reached the plateau of my career.  I had accomplished all that I set out to do yet I felt lost because I was no longer chasing my next goal and didn't recognize the disconnect.

2.  Your motives are a complete mystery to you.

Not really knowing who I was also led to repeating behaviors that were self-sabotaging.  One of which was self-criticism, which kept me from doing things I know I would have enjoyed or at least gained experience from.  I wasn't aware of the millions of times I criticized myself and how it affected me mentally and physically.

3.  Discontentment.

You are no longer satisfied with your job, or your status, or where you are at right now in your life.

4.  Running on autopilot.

The things that you used to enjoy no longer excite you.  Mundane tasks feel like a drag and you don't even know how you got up out of bed, drove to work, picked up the kids, made dinner, or went back to bed.

5.  Feeling fearful.

You are afraid to make mistakes or of changing things up.  The decisions that you make are based out of fear, like deciding not to go back to school because it will be too expensive or declining a meeting with a potential client because you didn't feel confident enough.

6.  Feeling overwhelmed.

There is a constant anxiety that you can't seem to shake off because the things that used to come easy to you now feel overwhelming.

Getting to know yourself is something as old as mankind.  I'm thinking of this famous quote by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

Knowing others is intelligence;
Knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
Mastering yourself is true power.

Too often, we think we know ourselves better than we realize, but unless you've done some self-inquiry and soul searching, you're probably closer to oblivion than you are to self-awareness.

Does this mean you're doomed to live out the rest of your life in a state of ignorant bliss?

Of course not.  Getting to know yourself takes a little bit of candor, a dash of courage, and a sprinkling of curiosity.  Before we get into the whys and hows of knowing yourself, let's talk about the 6 VITALS of self-knowledge.

6 VITAL signs of self-knowledge

Knowing your "VITALS" will give you a pulse on who you truly are.  This was taken from an article in Psychology Today about the ways to understand who you are.  They are the key to helping you know yourself better to create success in work and in life.  VITALS is an acronym for:

  • V = Values.

Your values are what you believe in and can be intrinsic or extrinsic.  This means that they can come from within or are shaped by how you were raised and where you grew up.

  • I = Interests.

Interests are the things that captivate your attention or curiosity.  These can be your hobbies, passions, and anything that you enjoy learning about.  Your interests can help you gain knowledge about yourself and also the way you think and make decisions in life.

  • T = Temperament.

This is how you naturally react to others and your personal preferences.   For example, some people get fearful or stressful when they are facing a challenge or are undergoing change, while others get excited or motivated.

Or, you might be one of those people who likes to talk to others or is happiest when you are by yourself.  Knowing how you react and what you gravitate towards will not only help you know yourself better, but also help save you time and effort, because life is easier when you're not trying to go against your nature.

  • A = Around-the-clock activities.

This is your biorhythm.  If you pay close attention to your mood and energy, you can observe the times of the day when these are at their peak.  For example, you might be one of those people who likes to get up in the morning because that's when you are most enthusiastic and energetic.

Or you could be a night owl type who loves the stillness and lower energy of the evening.  Knowing how you operate can be a game changer because life will flow much better when you're aware of when you operate at your best.

  • L = Life mission and meaningful goals.

Think about the moments in your life that meant a lot to you.  They can help you uncover things about yourself that you may not have known before.  For instance, if there was a something that made a huge impact on your life, you can perhaps turn into something useful.

  • S = Strengths

Your strengths are the things that you're great at.  They can be your skills or talents.  Or what others say about you or come to you for help with.  Or it can be something you do because you love it and have mastered it.  This is important because you're increasing self-confidence alongside self-awareness.

Conversely, you can make a list of your weaknesses because you can establish boundaries from them and learn about your limitations.  It will help you eliminate things that you're wasting energy on.  Or improve on something that you've always been interested in.

Why it's important to know yourself.

Knowing your true self is good for your well-being and can even have a substantial impact on your day-to-day functioning.  Here are some of the benefits of increasing self-knowledge & self-awareness that are evidence based and that I experienced myself.

Benefits of knowing yourself.

  • More clarity.

Knowing yourself is getting clear about the workings of your inner world, how you respond to the world around you, and the way you interact with others.  Thus, it makes you more aware of how your behavior & thought patterns affect your mood.

  • Deeper connection to yourself & others.

Being more aware of yourself can deepen your relationship with others by making you aware of how you interact with them, how they react to you, and how it affects you emotionally, mentally, and physically.

  • Increase self-confidence.

Employees who participated in a self-awareness intervention had increased confidence, as well as greater appreciation of diversity & improved communication with colleagues.

  • Enhanced self-reliance.

Students with higher levels of self-awareness were able to recognize and articulate their mood and monitor it accordingly.  People with higher levels of self-identity were also less likely to rely on the feedback of others.

  • Better decision making.

Students who developed a high degree of metacognitive awareness and were able to set clearly defined goals, improved their performance on decision making tasks.

  • Increase self-esteem.

People with reasonable self-standards in regards to self-awareness experienced higher levels of self-esteem, as well as greater acceptance of different perspectives, self-control, and creative accomplishments.

How to know yourself.

10 ways to get to know yourself better + 100 questions to become more self-aware.

1. Get to know your core values.

Your core values are what you believe to be true.  They can also be shaped by your experiences, your environment, and the people around you.  Knowing yourself, by knowing your values, can impact how you make your decisions and create goals in life.  Here are some questions to make you more aware of your values:

  • What is the most important thing to me right now?
  • Why did I choose my career?
  • What makes me excited?
  • If money was not a factor, where would I go?
  • Think of something that brings me great joy?
  • Who do I look up to or admire?
  • Why did I choose my partner or significant other?
  • If I had all the time in the world, what would I do right now?
  • How would I describe myself in one word?
  • Where do I like to relax and why?

2. Know your life vision and mission.

Knowing your own personal life vision and mission is important because it maps out the path and destination of how you define success in your life.  It also keeps you from getting distracted and from focusing on setbacks or challenges.  Here are questions to help you learn your life vision and mission.

  • What aspect of my life energizes me?
  • Can I identify the most urgent and important thing in my life?
  • How would I describe my big why?
  • What feels like an energy drain in my life?
  • If I could plan my perfect vacation, where would it be?
  • What makes me feel happiest and healthiest in mind, body, and spirit?
  • Who are the people in my life that I like to spend my quality time with?
  • If I was close to retirement right now, where would I want to live?
  • What would my ideal workday look like?
  • In 10 years, what would my life look like?

3. Write in a journal.

Journaling is one of the best ways to get to know yourself and all you need is something to write with and write on.  Or you can use your electronic gadget.  Here are some journal prompts to know yourself better.

  • What would I like to be remembered for?
  • Where do I like hanging out whenever I have free time?
  • Name 5 places in the world I would love to visit?
  • What do I like to spend my money on?
  • Do I want to get married someday?
  • Would I like to have children in the future?
  • What is the biggest purchase that I have made so far?
  • Who is the most important person in my life?
  • If I had to leave my house right now without ever coming back, what 3 things would I take?
  • What would I say to my 7-year-old self?

4. Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is important because you'll learn what you are most effective at and where you need to improve or eliminate something.  Here are questions and prompts to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Think of something that others always say about me.
  • What am I the best at?
  • Identify one thing people always praise me for.
  • What task do I loathe even when thinking about it?
  • Is there something that makes me scared?
  • Where do I like to spend my creative energy?
  • What makes me doubt myself?
  • Where and what am I able to keep my focus for long periods?
  • Where am I feeling overstretched in my capabilities?
  • What has made me feel successful?

5. Find your purpose in life.

Your purpose in life is your big why.  It is what gives you meaning in life and the reason why you get up each morning.  Knowing your purpose will help you know yourself, and vice versa.  Here are some prompts and questions to help you find your purpose in life.

  • Name one thing that made you feel powerful.
  • What was one thing that really challenged me?
  • Name something that made you feel accomplished.
  • What did I love doing when I was 9 years old?
  • Is there something that I do that makes me forget to eat?
  • If I were to walk into a room of distinguished people, what would I want them to say about me?
  • What would I wish for from my Fairy Godmother?
  • When and where do I feel happiest?
  • If I knew I couldn't fail, what would I do?
  • If you won the lottery right now, how would you spend your money?

6. Explore your passions.

Our passions are the things we have a strong desire for.  Knowing what your passions are will help you understand why you do the things you do and the driving force behind them.  Here are some ways to identify your passions.

  • What would I do even if I wasn't getting paid for it?
  • Is there something that I'm always talking about that I never get tired of?
  • What are some things that I am already doing that light me up inside?
  • Name something that makes me feel free.
  • What makes me lose track of time?
  • If I could have a superpower, what would it be?
  • What do I think about constantly?
  • Is there an activity that I would pay anything for?
  • What is one thing I would put on my bucket list right now?
  • What makes me stay up late at night?

7. What do you love?

You probably already know what you love.  They are things that warm your heart or ignite a fire from within.  However, you might have a hard time articulating what exactly that is, so knowing what you love will help you connect with yourself on a deeper level.

  • What makes me want to leave my bed right away in the morning?
  • What does my heart desire most right now?
  • If I was stuck in my house for a month, what would I do every day?
  • What would my ideal day look like?
  • How would my life look like if I was doing what I loved?
  • Is there something I've itching to learn?
  • What was/is my favorite subject in school?
  • Where is my go-to place for fun?
  • What would be my dream job?
  • What was my happiest memory?

8. What would you like to change?

Change is good, even if it looks and feels scary sometimes.  It's important for your personal growth and evolution, however.  Here are some questions and prompts to help you identify what you would like to change, improve, or even eliminate in your life.

  • What change would I like to make in my life in general?
  • What makes it hard for me to move forward in life?
  • If I could change one thing in my life right now, what would that be?
  • What is in my life distracts me right now?
  • If I inherited money right now, what would I spend it on?
  • What am I interested in learning more about?
  • Fill in the blank:  I wish I could change _______.
  • With whom would I trade places?
  • If I knew I couldn't fail, what would I do right now?
  • What do I see myself doing in 5 years?

"Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom." - Aristotle

9. What do you stand for?

Why is this important?  This is important because there are some things in life that are bigger than ourselves and even worth fighting for.  This is where knowing what fills your cup and brings meaning to your life is going to make an impact, not just for yourself, but for the greater good.  Here are prompts and questions to help you figure out what you stand for.

  • What challenge were you able to overcome?
  • Is there something you do that makes you feel 10 feet tall?
  • If I could hear my heart whisper, what would it say?
  • In what ways am I like other people?
  • Thinking back on my life, what adversity did I face?
  • If I could change one thing in the world, what would that be?
  • What is my calling?
  • If I had a super power, what would I fix in this world?
  • What is it that lifts up my spirit?
  • If I could take on a role that made me feel powerful, what would it be?

10. What are your goals?

Your goals in life are the things you want to accomplish.  They give you direction in life and help you stay focused on your mission.  Your goals are also what keeps you motivated to keep moving forward, especially when the going gets tough.  Remember to keep your goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

  • Where do I see myself in 6 months?
  • What makes me feel overwhelmed?
  • Where would I like to be in a year?
  • How do I like to spend my time and energy?
  • What would I write in the last page of my memoir?
  • If there is a hurdle in my way, how would I get to the other side?
  • If I could write just one sentence about my life, what would that be?
  • What would my ideal career be?
  • What is it that I always want to learn?
  • If I could create anything, what would that be?

"One's own self is well hidden from one's own self; of all mines of treasure, one's own is the last to be dug up." - Friedrich Nietzsche

Last thoughts.

Knowing yourself is more than knowing what you like and dislike.  It's about being aware of how your mind works, your behavior, and how you express yourself in the world.

It's important to know who you are because studies have shown that it is great for your wellbeing and helps you in your everyday functions.

It takes some digging around to learn about yourself and what makes you tick, but it is a worthwhile endeavor because you will gain information about yourself, become more confident, and learn how to better manage yourself and your life.

I hope you found these tips helpful.  Let me know what you think!

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