Trying to figure out who you are seems relatively straightforward. After all, no one spends more time around you than you. But answering the question of how well you know yourself is actually really tricky.
Imagine it like this. Some of the biggest characters in literature have volumes written about their motivation, issues, and relationships. And these are fictional people. If it’s impossible for hundreds of academics to fully understand Hamlet, what are the chances that you’re going to fully understand yourself?
Getting to Know Yourself Better
Fortunately, there are some great ways to get to know yourself better. One of the better ways is to spend time alone with your thoughts. Despite what this sounds like, it doesn’t mean just sitting in a chair thinking. You can do a lot of things as long as they don’t involve brain-numbing activities such as TV.
I personally do meditation, but you can also workout at the gym, run, read or even do yard work. Anything that gets you in a relaxed, but active state of mind will work well. This is the ideal state to learn about yourself.
Once you’re in this state of mind, you can start noticing and questioning your behaviors and actions. Focus on something you’ve done that you can’t fully explain the reasoning behind. These are the areas of yourself you don’t understand. I think everyone has done something at least once in their lives that they didn’t know why. It can take some time, but you’ll find it.
Try to view yourself as objectively as possible. See yourself not through your own eyes, but as if you are a different person. I did this recently and made a huge revelation about myself.
For many years, I’ve had friends who’ve told me I’m cheap. However, I refused to believe them. In my mind, cheapness was a bad trait and since I’m not bad, I couldn’t be like that. Eventually, I looked at myself objectively and realized that, yes, I am cheap. Before that realization, I had been unaware of a facet of who I am.
You Are Always Changing
As a human being, you’re constantly going through character changes. I’ll try to explain this without getting too philosophical about it. Imagine all the things you did and liked when you were five years old. More than likely there is a long list of differences between who you were then and who you are now.
For example, when I was younger, I hated bananas and now I eat one just about every day. When I was younger, I watched a lot of baseball and now I don’t. Can I really say that I’m the same person as when I was younger? In a sense, no.
Personalities change through time. Keep this in mind when you look at yourself. Your understanding of who you are now could be based on an older version of yourself. It might be time to update that understanding.
Another thing to remember is that you’re going to be continually changing for the rest of your life. It’s important to always be aware of who you are and who you are becoming. Who knows, maybe I’ll come full circle later on in my own life and start hating bananas and loving baseball again.
Self-Awareness Through Experiences
Getting to know yourself means understanding your behavior and responses to certain situations. That’s why experiences are so good at helping you understand who you are. The experiences I received through my first trip through Asia probably gave me the greatest understanding of who I am.
How well would you do in a speech for hundreds of people? What would you feel like after a white-water rafting trip? If you’ve never experienced these, then they are just hypothetical questions. Your answers might be right, but you’ll never know how you’d truly respond until you actually go out and do them.
The benefits of figuring out who you are through experiences doesn’t end with self-discovery. Sometimes what you expect you’d do and what you actually do are completely different. But that can be a really good thing. Sometimes you can surprise yourself in how well you’ve done something. And that feeling is simply amazing.
You’re much deeper and complex than you probably realize. Human emotions and behaviors can’t always be explained away in a few sentences. Think about what I wrote before about the volumes on Hamlet. That’s more along the lines of what understanding yourself is like. It’s a never-ending process. And ultimately, it takes a lifetime.
photo credit: outcast104