How Well Do You Really Know Yourself?

by STEVE BLOOM

A Room of One's Own

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

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Comments

  1. My cousin and I whom I met for the first time when I went to London last December told me that a person changes every two years. What she meant was if you try to re-assess things, your wants and ambition two years ago have changed from today and i think it is true!

    Two years ago, I wanted to be employed in a multinational company with a high-paying job. It was in the middle of 2009 that I found my love for traveling. Now, I find it a struggle to update my resume and look for work. I just feel that it’s not for me anymore. Two years ago too, I wanted to have a boyfriend. I even told myself i MUST have one no matter what happens. Now, I find that thinking too funny LOL

    • I think two years is about right to really notice all the changes that you’ve gone through. I can remember to who I was two years ago and I notice some big differences. It doesn’t seem like much should be different, but it is.

  2. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. People change so much every year or so, at least in my experience. I imagine that it’s part of staying in tune with yourself that helps to stay connected with others. After all, we are all changing…

    • Very true. Everyone around is constantly changing too. So staying connected to others means always knowing yourself and others.

  3. Change is a constant in life that is certain to happen. I am not even the same person that I was a year ago. My personal growth has really caused me to change a lot.

    I have had moments/years in the past where I didn’t grow, therefore I didn’t change either.

    I’m a fan of the NFL and have been for many years. If they don’t strike a deal and play Football this year, I won’t care.

    • I agree that change is a constant in life. It’s good to have personal growth. I would just make sure it is positive personal growth.

  4. Hi Steve – Great post!
    I definitely know myself so much better now than even a handful of years ago. I can see how I have changed so I’m sure others who know me can. I know confidently the things I like and don’t like in life and make far better decisions these days! I think having only myself to rely on, on the road over the years has helped hugely and I strongly recommend people venture outside their comfort zone now and again.

    • Hi Liv,

      I think going outside your comfort zone is a good idea. It’s really a great way to know what you like and to know who you are. Being confident about what you like and don’t like is great. I think all your experience on the road would be an ideal way to get to know yourself.

  5. I feel like getting to know oneself is overlooked. We jump to the assumption that we already do and that it is time wasted. But if we really take the time to examine our behaviors and our attitudes towards them you’ll find some dissonance between the two.

    For me, I would be reading all these books suggested to me, that I didn’t really enjoy or didn’t really take anything away from. One day I stopped and thought, why I am a reading this then? It was a drag and I thought I was starting to hate reading, but it wasn’t reading I disliked it was what I was reading that made it particularly unpleasant. Now, self-awareness has guided my behaviors into the ones I want to engage in and a life I want to be living. So crucial! Great topic Steve.

    Did you slightly change the look of your site or am I just loosing it? If so it looks good!

    Cheers!

    • Hey Chris,

      Nope, I didn’t change anything major to the lookout of the site, but I’m glad you like the setup.

      I agree that getting to know yourself is overlooked. Some people seem to think that they should inherently know who they are. After all, they spend more time with themselves than anyone else. Thanks for your story, I think it’s a good example of getting to know yourself. I’m glad you cut out the bad books and started reading ones that you better engage with.

  6. I think sometimes it can be easier to remain in a state of ignorance about our true nature, because when you own it, you become responsible for it, also you may find out some things about yourself that you really don’t like. The benefits of really discovering, accepting and appreciating who you are far out way the cost of doing so though. Spending time with ourselves can be a tricky one as many people equate it with loneliness, but I have also found it to be that those who dislike their own company, tend to know and understand themselves, the least. Good topic

    • You make some very good points. Really discovering who you are can be a hard thing to do if you don’t like yourself. For those people, a state of ignorance could be preferable. Part of knowing who you are means accepting who you are.

      I can see how some people could see spending time with themselves as loneliness. But like you say, the benefits of really discovering yourself far outweigh the cost.

  7. very well said man.. especially the part that we are an ever changing being… couldnt agree more… sometimes its even funny to comment whenever friends tell me that i’ve changed…

  8. I like how you got a greater sense of who you are when you went to Asia. I think that happened to me when I packed up my car and moved away from home. 2,000 miles of lonely highway where you’re trapped with your thoughts and bad bad radio stations can really help you come to terms with yourself. Another great post Steve.

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