Self-awareness is at the heart of self-trust. The more invested you are in getting to know yourself, the better your decision-making and emotional intelligence will be. This is in part because self-awareness turns up the volume on your inner voice, making it easier to drown out all the external noise and pressure you're met with every day.
But actively participating in the lifelong process of figuring out who you are is easier said than done. It's not unusual to get distracted by who you wish you were and your assumptions about yourself, which obscure important truths about who you actually are in the moment.
So let me offer you some of my favorite tools, practices, and questions to help you dive deeper into yourself with intention and curiosity.
18 Ways To Get To Know Yourself Better
1. Take stock of your temperament. What are your natural preferences? Do you consider yourself to be introverted or extroverted? Do you embrace rules or rebel against them? Do you like to make plans or do you prefer to be spontaneous? Are you a big ideas person or a details person? What learning styles work best for you? What are your biorhythms (daily energy peaks and values, morning person vs night owl, etc.)? The more clarity you have about your organic traits, the easier it will be to work with them.
2. What are the voices you frequently hear in your head that aren't your own? Name the ghosts of self-doubt that are continuously haunting you and try to understand where they came from in the first place.
3. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Get honest with yourself about where you currently excel and where you currently struggle (remember: these things can be worked on). When it comes to your weaknesses in particular, consider some of the common themes from times you've felt disappointed in yourself or out of alignment in the past.
4. Investigate what makes you feel energized and inspired vs what makes you feel exhausted and depleted. Once you have a better sense of this, you may be able to rearrange your schedule accordingly or eliminate/delegate/trade some of the things that regularly wear on you.
5. What have been some of the most meaningful events in your life and why? What have you done in your life that you're most proud of? Consider what wisdom you can glean about yourself and your values from those events and instances.
6. Develop a journaling practice. I know not everyone likes to journal, but that's partly because people get caught up in thinking there's only one “right” way to journal, including doing it every single day. Journaling for you could be jotting down notes, making lists, free writing whatever comes to mind (even if it's just a stream of curse words), writing about your day, or responding to specific prompts, and you don't have to do it daily or even weekly if that doesn't work for you. No matter how you choose to journal, you'll likely benefit from opportunities to take things out of your head and put them on paper.
7. Determine your core values. What is the internal compass you're living your life according to? What do you continuously come back to as being important? Where did you learn these values?
8. Ask for feedback. Feedback can be scary, but it can also be illuminating. As humans, we have a lot of cognitive biases and don't always see ourselves clearly. Being open to feedback from others can help you round out your view of yourself as well as pinpoint areas you'd like to improve.
9. Work on your interoceptive awareness. Your body is the only relationship you literally have from the cradle to the grave, and that relationship needs to be nurtured just like any other. The more strongly you can hear your body's signals and respond to them, the better your relationship with your body will be. To increase interoceptive awareness, you can practice checking in with yourself regularly, learn how to do mind-body scans, become an intuitive eater, and make space for your feelings.
10. Consider what things you keep saying you're going to do but haven't done yet. Why do they remain incomplete? Do you really want to do those things? And if you do, do you also want to prioritize those things? Or is it time to let go of them to make room for other things that are more important to you at this point in your life?
11. Carefully assess how you spend your time. Many of us complain about not having enough time, but it's also common to have a warped view about how your time is being spent. It may be worth it to keep a time diary for a couple of weeks so you create a more reliable picture of where your time goes. You might be surprised by the patterns you find.
12. Think back to your childhood. What was your personality like as a kid? What kinds of things were you really into? If you're not into those things anymore, why do you think that is? If you can't remember much on your own, you can try speaking with your childhood caregivers or looking through photos or memories from that time to help you remember.
13. Make a list of the things people have told you that you're “too _____” of, whether that's too much, too sensitive, too smart, etc. When the word “too” is being thrown at us, that's often a sign of a gift that we have that doesn't fit into the qualities our culture has deemed desirable. Try to turn your “too's” on their head and see if you can find the power in them.
14. Engage with nature. You don't need to be an outdoorsy person to benefit from the natural elements. Some people feel rejuvenated from hiking or kayaking while others prefer smelling flowers or feeling the sunshine on their skin through the window. Regular engagement with the natural world can help you position yourself in the wider universe and provide grounding and healing.
15. What do you tend to lie about and why? While it's true that some people are 100% truthful, most of us lie or obscure the truth from time to time. What you lie about may hold a lot of information about your fears, triggers, and past hurts.
16. Spend quality time with yourself. There's a difference between being alone and spending intentional time with yourself. Allowing yourself unstructured thinking, dreaming, and being time can be enlightening. Taking yourself out on dates, going on solo adventures, and traveling alone can be uplifting. If you're resistant to spending time with yourself, that's worth getting curious about.
17. Make room for creativity. Even if you don't believe yourself to be a creative person, you can benefit from creative practices. Redefine what creativity means to you. If you don't like to paint, don't paint. If you don't like to bake, don't bake. There are endless possibilities for flexing your creative muscle. The goal is simply to stretch your mind and tap into parts of it that you don't often get to.
18. Question your first thoughts. Ever since I saw a Tumblr post years ago that carved out the difference between first thoughts and what comes next, I've continued to think about it. We regularly get bogged down in our first thoughts and believe they define us, but in reality, our first thoughts are usually our learned responses to the world around us. If you can make a habit of pausing to examine your first thoughts, that will help you inform the choices you make as a result of them.
Learning about yourself is a lifelong process because we're all in a permanent state of becoming. For every layer you peel back, you'll grow new ones. Which means you could come back to everything on this list time and time again and continue to learn more.
I wouldn't think of this list as a to-do list where each item should be checked off in order. Instead, I'd suggest thinking about this list as a warm invitation to learn more about who you are, and maybe start by picking one thing that resonates with you in this moment to explore further.
Remember: Your sense of self is not static—it's fluid. Whatever you glean from the items on this list reflects this point in time and your current lens. For that reason, I would recommend saving this list somewhere or printing it out so that it's easily accessible to you. That way you can reference it whenever you're feeling inspired to go deeper with yourself.
This essay was originally sent out to those who subscribe to my email newsletter, The Queer Agenda. To get more writing like this in your inbox each week, subscribe here.
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I’m a self-trust coach, writer, and podcast host with a mission to help people figure out who they are and what they value so they can come home to themselves.