The importance of self-discovery

Self-discovery is important because it can be a very powerful tool to help you live a life that feels more authentic and meaningful.

In my experience, going on a self-discovery journey meant being completely honest with myself.

It also meant:

  • being more self-aware.
  • being more intentional.
  • letting go of limiting beliefs.
  • adopting new ideas that align with my soul.
  • uncovering my authentic self.
  • and so much more.

Self-discovery doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

If you’ve never been on one before, I’ll share with you my tips and tools to help you succeed in your self-discovery journey.

I’ll cover why a self-discovery journey is important as well as what it means, how it benefits you, how to succeed on your road to self-discovery, and so much more.

What self-discovery means.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, self-discovery is defined as the act or process of achieving self-knowledge. 

The American Psychological Association describes self-discovery as the process of searching for and finding one’s unique self or identity.

For me personally, self-discovery meant having more clarity and awareness about myself.

One of the reasons why I embarked on a self-discovery journey was being clueless about who I was when I turned 40.

Even though I had a great job and a comfortable life, I felt lost and afraid.

Those were just a few of the factors that led me on the road to self-discovery.

Factors that lead to self-discovery.

Fear was just one of the factors that led me down the road of self-discovery.

When I started to pay attention to the reasons why I felt lost and scared, it created a trajectory in my life that felt more aligned with who I truly am.

I felt more connected to my past and the world around me.

It made me realize how everything was connected to each other and how it affects me on a personal level.

Because I knew more about myself, I was able to step out of my comfort zone, face my fears, and overcome them.

New ideas and opportunities opened up and my life felt more intentional and less haphazard.

Here’s a list of factors, or reasons, that can lead a person down a path of self-discovery.  See if any of them resonate with you in the table below.

Fear of not fulfilling one’s dreams.Follow a passion or passions.Answer a calling.
To gain more self-confidence.To discover your unique gifts and talents.Have more focus by setting boundaries and priorities.
A means to figure out personal values and beliefs.Gain a deeper understanding of yourself.Find your purpose in life.
Gain more clarity and awareness.A need to express yourself.Create more meaning in your life.
Feel more connected to yourself.A means to achieve your dreams and goals.Life more authentically.

Knowing my true self changed my life for the better in so many ways, which is why it’s important to discover who you really are.

The importance of self-discovery.

“It’s important to discover who you really are because if you don’t know yourself, you can feel lost, especially if you’re starting out in life.”

In the book, A Journey of Self-discovery and Personal Development, the author Lisang Nyathi wrote,

To understand yourself as a young person entails to knowing your interest, passion, desires and aspirations. Young people should know what they like and the things they want to do, achieve, attain and as well as who they want to be in future. This will enable them to pursue their dreams to the right direction with vision.

Knowing yourself can give your life more direction and purpose. It allows you to navigate your way through life with more focus and clarity.

You don’t have to be a young person though to go on a self-discovery journey.

In my own experience, you can embark on a self-discovery journey, even if you’re well into your adult years.

When I turned 40, I was working almost full-time while raising 3 kids with my husband.

My work was great and it paid me very well, so I was living very comfortably.  But something inside of me wasn’t.

Instead of exploring the feeling of discomfort, I ignored it.  I didn’t realize it at the time that I had fallen into the trap of comfort.

There’s nothing wrong with comfort, but it hampered my creativity and growth.

I felt lost and everything was changing in ways I had never seen or felt before.

The old coping mechanisms that worked when I was a young adult were failing miserably.

It felt like everything in my life was changing too fast; my mindset, values, emotions, and even my physical capabilities.

Yet at the same time, I was reluctant to leave my cushy life.

It took a serious health scare and a couple of medical challenges to give myself permission to discover the real me.

When I embarked on a self-discovery journey, I:

  • was more open and honest with myself
  • explored my life with more curiosity
  • opened up my creativity
  • uncovered my old beliefs
  • adopted new ideas
  • let go of limiting beliefs

During this time of self-reflection and exploration, I felt like a creature transforming inside a chrysalis.

It was a period of tremendous growth and change that was both enlightening and challenging.

Though I wouldn’t say my journey completely transformed me because I still carry some of my old beliefs and values, it did change the way I perceive myself and live my life.

I have a deeper understanding of who I am.

By discovering the real me, I was able to:

  • Connect and align with my true self.
  • Create better boundaries.
  • Embrace imperfection.
  • Set priorities.
  • Accept me for who I am.
  • Gain self-confidence.
  • Find my purpose and passions.
  • Continue to grow and change.
  • Use my time and energy more efficiently.

Benefits of self-discovery.

Self-discovery can benefit you in many ways.

According to a study from the European Journal of Psychology, having a sense of self-connection can have a positive effect on your mental health and well-being.

In the book, “The Midlife Self-Discovery Workbook”, the author & licensed counselor, Lynn Louise Wonders, wrote that self-discovery allows you to reflect

“on past experiences to understand how you arrived where you are and to inform how you will forge a meaningful path moving forward.”

Here are examples (in the table below) from the book about the ways you can benefit from self-discovery.

Identify your deficits and challenges.Identify your strengths, desires, and valuesUnderstand the nature of your own core values and use them to align with your goals and plan.
Examine your perceptions about life and the world as you know it.Evaluate the strength of your relationships.Determine how you wish to experience the rest of your life.
Gain more clarity about yourself and how you want to live your life.Accept your full nature.Reflect on past events and experiences.
Prioritize the people and experiences that Align with who you really are.Establish a new map for your life.Gain more confidence about who you are and what you are doing with your life.
Confront negative beliefs and turn them around.Reconnect you to who you truly are and what your life is about.Capitalize on your positive beliefs to overcome and replace negative ones.

Knowing who you are is beneficial but the journey of self-discovery is not always a clear and smooth path.

Why self-discovery can be challenging. 

Self-discovery can be challenging because it takes time and requires honesty.

Here are other reasons why self-discovery can be difficult.

  • You might experience difficult emotions.
  • Others may not like the fact that you’re changing.
  • You might be afraid of discovering something about yourself you don’t like.
  • It takes too long.
  • It requires too much effort.
  • You’re afraid that it will be a waste of time.

Self-discovery can be pleasant for some and uncomfortable for others; it can be a short sprint for some and a long marathon for others.

My personal journey of self-discovery took a while and wasn’t a clear & straight line. My path looked more like a zigzag line.

I encountered all of the challenges I listed above and I experienced imposter syndrome once I thought I had found myself.

I had doubts that I discovered the real me and questioned whether or not I had made the right choices.

For all of its potential pitfalls, I want you to know that discovering your authentic self is worth the effort.

I also want you to know that all of the feelings that you might experience, whether positive or negative, are valid.

You can always ask someone to help you out, like a trusted friend or a professional.

If you’re ready to begin your self-discovery journey right now, read my tips and tools in the next section to help you get started.

Starting a self-discovery journey.

A self-discovery journey starts with asking the question, “Who am I?”

When I started my own self-discovery journey, I thought that this question would be simple to answer.

But when I began to write, I paused.  My brain actually froze because when I thought about it, I didn’t really know who I was.

So instead, I turned to books to help me discover more about myself and learned that there are so many ways to start a self-discovery journey.

Here are 5 powerful questions that I learned over the years to help you start your own self-discovery journey.

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want to change about myself?
  3. Why do I want to change this?
  4. What is holding me back from taking the next step?
  5. How do I want to move forward?

Just remember when you’re answering these questions to be completely honest with yourself because it will make the process smoother.

If you feel unpleasant or uncomfortable at any point, you can always stop and come back to them later when you’re ready.

To help you succeed with your self-discovery journey, I’m going to share some of my favorite tips to add to your self-discovery toolbelt.

11 Tips to help you discover yourself.

Here are my tips to help you succeed on your self-discovery journey.

1. Increase your awareness.

Knowing yourself on a deeper level can help you discover things that you may not have been aware of.

As I mentioned before, self-discovery helped me become more aware of myself.

It also helped me become aware of the complex layers of my experiences, make sense of my past, connect deeper to myself, and create a life I truly love.

2. Journaling freestyle.

Journaling is a great way to learn more about yourself.  The key is to stay consistent.

One of my favorite ways to journal is a method I developed from the book, “The Artist’s Way.”

I set a timer in the morning for 5 minutes and then write down whatever flows out of my head without filtering, thinking, or judging what I am writing.

Then I go back and look at what I’ve written to help me process my thoughts, reflect on what I wrote, and learn more about myself.

If this sounds like too much work, you can do journal prompts, and I will explain what they are in the next section.

3. Journal prompts.

Journal prompts are another way to discover more about yourself.

They’re usually exercises that are in the form of questions or prompts that you answer.

Here’s an example of a self-discovery journal prompt:

What is your favorite thing to eat and why?

If you need some help with journal prompts, I have a guide you can download and print, which is full of prompts to help you discover more about yourself.

Just fill out the form down below and click. 

4. Learn your likes and dislikes.

A simple way to discover more about yourself is to make a list of your likes and dislikes.

Just grab a piece of paper and make two lists. One for your likes and another for your dislikes.

Here’s an example to help you get started.

coffeesweet drinks
librariesextremely loud places
chicken stewraw bell peppers

5. Become more self-aware.

Being self-aware is being present with yourself.  This might sound simple in theory but this is a practice that can take time to build.

My self-awareness practice began when I was able to observe myself while talking to someone. 

While I was talking to this person, I noticed that I was trying so desperately to get her to see things my way and gain her approval. 

As soon as I recognized this, I stopped.  I learned a valuable lesson about self-awareness and self-discovery in “real time”.

I can either act on what I’m feeling in the moment and pay the consequences later.

Or I can create a space of awareness in the present moment so I can discover possibilities that are more conducive & effective to myself and those around me.

The best way to do this, I discovered, is to pause, take a deep breath, and allow whatever comes up to pass.

6. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a type of awareness practice that is rooted in Buddhism and Hinduism.

The main function of mindfulness is to help you practice non-attachment.

Non-attachment is being in the present moment without attaching to thoughts, feelings, or sensations.

Like self-awareness, mindfulness takes time and practice, but it’s worth it because you can discover so much about yourself. 

Mindfulness can help you see past the layers and filters that you have learned & attached to over your lifetime.

You can see yourself more authentically and notice that you are not your past, actions, behaviors, and what other people think or say about you. 

7. Find your identity.

One of the best ways to discover more about yourself is to find your identity.

Your identity is made up of a multitude of things because it starts forming from the day you’re born.

I’ll use myself as an example. I am a working mom who lives in Southern California.  Of course, this is just a tiny snippet of my identity.

To go deeper into your identity, you can go all the way back to when you were born.

You can add things like the people who raised you, where you were born, your gender, race, group, hobbies, job, where you live, your beliefs, and your personal values.

8. Ask someone to describe you.

If you want to discover more about yourself, sometimes it’s easier to ask someone else to describe you.

The reason is, sometimes it’s hard to see yourself for who you really are.

Other people might know you better than you know yourself.

If you’re brave, you can start by asking a family member or a friend to describe you honestly.

9. Start a meditation practice.

Meditation might sound intimidating but it’s a great tool to help you discover yourself.

People think that meditation is about clearing your mind or calming yourself down.

Meditation is a discipline that trains your mind, body, and spirit.

Like self-awareness and mindfulness, it helps you be more present with yourself without attaching emotions or thoughts.

It can help you connect to yourself and gain more clarity about who you are.

There are so many ways to practice meditation but my favorite method is to sit in a quiet room for 5-10 minutes and pay attention to my breath.

Every time my mind wanders, I bring my attention back to my breath.

I do this over and over until my timer goes off.

If you’re just starting out, you can download my free 5-minute breath meditation down below.

10. Consider the 8 essential areas of the self.

Learning the 8 areas of life can shed light on parts of yourself that you may not have been aware of.

They are:

  • Physical: your physical body.
  • Emotional: emotions and feelings.
  • Social: your community and social circle.
  • Financial: your wealth and money.
  • Spiritual: your higher self.
  • Mental: your mind and thoughts.
  • Occupational (or Vocational): what you do for a living.
  • Environmental: your personal space and where you live.

The reason why you want to think about these areas is that they can help you create a more balanced life.

It’s a good reference point to help you prioritize the areas that need the most attention without neglecting the other essential areas of your life.

11. Own yourself.

I mentioned before that you might experience imposter syndrome on your self-discovery journey.

You might also have doubts about whether or not you found your true self.

I’ve been on a self-discovery journey for a long time and sometimes I’m afraid I haven’t found my true self or have doubt that I have it in me to become the person I want to be.

If you’ve come to this point in your journey, congratulations, you are on the right path.

Each feeling you have on your self-discovery journey is valid.

What you don’t want to do is jump on every negative feeling that comes up, become attached to them, and limit yourself.

I know it’s easier said than done because if you’re like me, you have beliefs that limit you.

With practice, however, you can break the cycle and try owning yourself.

Owning yourself is accepting yourself for who you truly are, and staying connected to your inner self.

It’s easier said than done if you’re like me and you have beliefs about yourself that keep you stuck.

With practice, it does get easier and you’ll find out that taking the risk to own yourself was worth it because you are worth it.

More ways to discover yourself.

If you want more tools to help you discover yourself, check out my article, How to start a self-discovery journey with 5 powerful questions.

I dive deeper into the “5 powerful questions to ask yourself”, that I mentioned in the section, “Starting a self-discovery journey.”

If you like to journal, but don’t know where to start, I have a printable pdf with self-discovery questions that you can answer to get to know yourself on a deeper level.

If you want a guide to help you on your self-discovery journey, I have some self-discovery journal prompts that will help you whether you’re starting out or you’ve embarked on a self-discovery journey for the nth time.

I hope you found my guide to understanding the importance of self-discovery helpful.  Wishing you the best on your self-discovery journey!

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