Do you sometimes feel like you don’t know who you are?
Do you struggle to identify what you want in life?
Do you not know how to be yourself because you don’t really know anything about yourself?
If you answered yes to these questions, this article is for you. It’ll help you to discover your identity – or rediscover it if you have lost it.
But first, why don’t know you know who you are? Well…
It often starts in childhood.
The process of self-development begins as a child.
A child who grows up in an emotionally healthy environment will learn new things that shape their personality by interacting with their environment and the people around them.
An emotionally healthy parent who is practicing good parenting skills will encourage, nurture, and correct the child when they decide to do things that may harm them.
That helps the child sort out who they are as they grow.
Not everyone is fortunate to be raised in a positive environment, however. Parents are fallible people who can easily make the wrong decisions.
Not all parents are good people, either. An abusive home for a child stunts their ability to explore, understand, and grow themselves into the person that they would naturally be.
An abusive parent isn’t providing meaningful direction because they are not encouraging or guiding the child in a way that aligns with living a healthy life.
Domineering and controlling parents are worse than absent parents for this. A controlling parent deprives the child of the ability to make decisions and explore life to the best of their abilities within the context of their situation.
They may prevent the child from making important decisions, experience the repercussions of those decisions, and then find a way to deal with those repercussions.
A helicopter parent is someone who spends excessive time hovering around their child to make their decisions for them.
The helicopter parent will shield and protect them from anything other than what the parent wants.
This type of parent stunts their child’s personal development by preventing them from making mistakes and learning how to fix them.
It’s a significant problem because the child doesn’t get an opportunity to develop their own individual nature.
These are just a few basic reasons why a person may not know who they are, but they are not the only ones.
A person may find themselves disconnected from who they are because of traumatic experiences, mental illness, substance abuse, or even just the general grind of life.
It’s easy to fall into a rut and lose touch with the person that you actually are.
Perhaps you work a high-stress job that requires you to always be professional and on point when you have more of a casual personality. The gravity of responsibility can pull you away from your authentic self.
Whatever the cause, having an unfinished picture of who you are as a person can be extremely stressful and can lead to an existential crisis.
With all this in mind, what can you do to figure out who you are?
1. Try everything that you’re able to try.
Don’t miss out on opportunities to try new things by telling yourself that you’re not the type of person who does those things.
Instead, just try it out once or twice to see how it appeals to you.
Say yes to more activities and options that you may not have otherwise considered, particularly if you don’t think you’re “that type of a person.”
Maybe you are!
You might not have been before, but people do grow and change with time.
Don’t be afraid to experience new things, particularly if you find them intimidating. Growth is often uncomfortable.
2. Get in touch with your core principles.
Every person has a moral compass, though some can be drastically skewed or warped.
Do you know what is important to you?
What are you most passionate about?
What do you think needs changing in the world?
Work to align yourself with your core principles and beliefs.
If you don’t feel like you have any strong views, it may be worthwhile to dive into the surface levels of philosophy to find a method of living that feels right to you.
Philosophy can provide a framework to better explore your life without necessarily conforming to a particular belief or system.
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3. Eliminate negative distractions in your life.
Life is far from perfect. We can’t always avoid negativity because sometimes negative things are just going to happen, and we need to deal with them.
What you can do is make a priority of eliminating negative distractions that you willingly subject yourself to.
That includes negative things like toxic social media, friends, relatives, and even work environments.
Erecting and enforcing a boundary around you prevents other people from exerting undue influence on your character and choices.
If you are an ethical person, then you don’t want to be in a position that forces you to do ethically questionable things, whether it’s with family members or at work.
4. Surround yourself with people you can admire.
People are complicated, but we can learn a lot about ourselves from others.
Finding more time to be around admirable, supportive people can help boost you up and get in better tune with who you are and who you want to be.
They may have qualities that you do not have and want, so you can learn from them how to better align yourself with those qualities.
It may help to join a community that is working toward a particular goal that you want to be apart of to find new people.
5. Follow the nondestructive things that make you happy.
Nondestructive is the keyword here.
Yes, it can feel amazing to chase adrenaline, down a couple bottles of wine, or party hard. Destructive habits can feel good in the present moment.
But they will have long-term negative repercussions that can pull you farther away from who you actually are and want to be.
Look for things that make you happy and bring you peace, not chaos or intensity.
It’s fine to cut loose and have some fun from time to time, but the hedonistic treadmill gets really old, really fast.
And at the end of the run, you find out you’ve gained little to nothing from all that time spent. After all, we don’t get more time. Every hour is precious.
6. Grant yourself permission to change and grow.
People will sometimes cling to the idea of who they think they are and stubbornly refuse to let go, even if that idea no longer feels agreeable to them.
Other times they can have a perception of who they are forced onto them by the opinions of other people.
It’s impossible to remain unchanged by life as we get older, have new experiences, and gain a new perspective.
We can kick, scream, and drag our heels all we like to try to avoid it, but that’s not the way it works.
Embrace it. Grant yourself permission to change and grow. Look forward to the experiences that will be ahead of you so you can become a better version of you.
And if you are not in tune with yourself, learning these new things provides an additional framework within which to develop your identity.
A tragedy that you experience in life may show you how important it is to be passionate and care about other people going through that tragedy.
A new job or project may push you onto another career path that is more exciting and interesting.
Life itself is a long learning experience of self-development. You aren’t doomed to be the person that you were yesterday or are today.
Be curious. Question why you love what you love, hate what you hate, and work to find the things that are important to you.
Positive self-growth and exploration isn’t just an internal process. It’s also learning how you best fit into the world by exploring the world itself. Keep exploring and pay attention to the things that resonate strongest with you.
Curiosity is a wonderful catalyst for growth.