Whether you’re changing jobs, coming out of a relationship, or just struggling to find your way in life, having a little identity crisis is perfectly normal!
It can be hard to get to the know the “real you” when you’re always trying to do what other people want or expect of you, or when you’re trying to impress a new partner or friend.
Take some time to sit with yourself, reflect on your thoughts and behaviors, and find out who you really are…
What Do You Like?
Part of knowing who you are is about knowing what makes you feel good.
We all find pleasure in different things, and it’s important to experiment and find out what you like.
Being able to say, “I like this,” forms quite a large part of our identity, so take some time to figure out what makes you feel good.
It can be trying different cuisines, exercising, reading, working, travelling… whatever! Create a mental – or written – list of things that you enjoy; things which help shape you as a person.
Think about what food you enjoy eating, what you like doing when you’re not working, and who you enjoy spending time with.
Our hobbies say a lot about us, so think about how you spend your spare time and what it may say about you.
This isn’t a time to be critical, but simply to reflect. Do you like spending lots of time outdoors; do you prefer being alone rather than in a group; do you like physical activities or sitting quietly with a book?
Remind yourself of these things every so often. It’s so easy to get caught in a negative spiral of working too much and not sleeping enough that, before long, you begin to wonder what makes you feel good and what you actually enjoy!
Having a list handy can serve as an important reminder to prioritize your happiness and well-being.
Have you thought about trying something new? Why not sign yourself up to a new activity each month and try your hand at rock climbing, yoga, or Zumba? You never know, you might love it!
Or you might not, which is also fine, as we’ll explore now…
What Don’t You Like?
Knowing what you don’t like is also really important in finding out more about yourself.
We often try – or pretend – to like things that we don’t actually enjoy in order to fit in with other people. By trying to bend yourself into a mold, you’re going to end up feeling unhappy and untrue to yourself, which is no fun at all!
Rather than forcing yourself into situations that you know you won’t enjoy, learn to speak up when you don’t like something. This is a big part of your personality, so there is no shame in saying no to certain events that you already know you won’t like.
If you’ve not tried something before, definitely go for it and keep your mind open, but, if you’re already aware that it won’t be a good experience for you, learn to say no.
Become comfortable and confident in what you enjoy as well as what you don’t enjoy, and accept that some things just aren’t for you. It doesn’t make you less likeable or less fun to be around just because you don’t enjoy everything!
Be rational and realize that everyone has something that they don’t like eating or doing or talking about. It’s perfectly natural to have dislikes, and learning what they are helps you shape your life around what you do like.
By distinguishing between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (for you, at least), you learn about yourself and how to truly nourish your mind, body, and spirit.
Have you thought about making a list of things you don’t like – this isn’t as negative as it sounds and can actually help reaffirm your own personality to yourself.
Rather than trying to be someone you’re not, learn to be okay with who you are, dislikes and all…
What Matters To You?
We all grow up with a set of beliefs and values that are instilled in us by our parents or carers, our schools, and our friends.
As we grow up, it can be very easy to stick with these values by default and never really consider whether or not you still believe in them.
Getting to know yourself doesn’t necessarily mean accepting everything that you think you believe – learn to challenge your own opinions, especially those that have passively entered your life through your upbringing.
Many of us have a set of values that have been heavily influenced by our childhood and which may no longer be relevant to us.
Think about what actually matters to you and check that your perceived values are still relevant to how you live your life now, as an adult.
As a child, you may have thought you wanted to get married and have children, but that may now feel like a pressure looming over you as an adult.
If that’s still what you want from life, go for it! If not, learn to reshape your values to fit around who you are now, not who you were then.
You may want to focus on your career and not have children, so stop letting your teenage priorities hang over you.
Subconsciously, these past values that now clash with your current beliefs may be making you feel inadequate, so banish them from your mind. Find new values that fit in with your life now and work out what really matters to you.
Go on, do it; ask yourself what really matters to you. Write down a list of things you prioritize in life and reflect on why they are so important to you.
What Are You Good At?
This is a really big part of who you are as a person, so take some time and make sure you take yourself seriously.
Feeling successful comes in different forms for everyone, so don’t assume that your answer has to be related to your work or your wealth!
Think about what you do well, what people compliment you on, and what environments you thrive in.
Knowing what you do well forms a large part of your identity, so ask yourself what makes you your best self.
For some people, being good at their job will be at the top of the list; for others, being a good listener and being compassionate will be what they think of first.
Sit down and take the time to evaluate your life and yourself, from what you do, to your personality traits, to how you act around others.
If you’re really struggling, ask a close friend or loved one for some help. Remember that this activity is meant to be positive!
Ask yourself what personality traits you possess that hold value to you. Think about the things that people admire in you, such as being a good friend, having a great singing voice, or being reliable and trustworthy.
Make as long a list as you can; reflect back on it when you’re having a bad day or when you find yourself questioning who you really are!
It can be all too easy to get wrapped up in wondering why we’re not as interesting or exciting as all the people we follow on Instagram, but it’s a dangerous way of thinking.
Many of us feel insecure or threatened by what other people are doing with their lives, and it’s not just through our phone screens.
We question why someone else got the promotion we wanted; why the person we have feelings for chose somebody else; why we can’t seem to lose weight as quickly as everyone else.
Part of getting to know yourself is letting go of unhealthy expectations and pressures and just celebrating the way that you are.
Stop trying to be the person you think others want or expect you to be, and come to terms with who are you are, right now, in this moment.
It’s easy to get caught up in other people’s lives, but use this to your advantage – work out what, if anything, you’re actually envious of and either work toward achieving something similar, or learn to let it go.
If getting that promotion really matters to you, speak to your boss and ask for feedback so that you’re ready next time, rather than wallowing in self-pity. Find ways to turn that jealousy into something constructive!
Making lists is such a good way to get in touch with yourself, so think about the questions we’ve gone through so far and celebrate all the aspects of your personality and life that you love.
The way we act depends on a lot of things, and it massively shapes who we are as people.
Think about what motivates you to act in certain ways – is it financial, is it to do with compassion, or is it a personal desire to be the best?
Whatever the driving force behind what you do with your life, learn to value it and reflect on it. By learning what pushes you forward, you can find effective ways to motivate yourself in new activities or projects.
Think about your daily routine and what propels you through it – do you wake up early every day or do you desperately ‘snooze’ your alarm until the last minute; do you work well under pressure, or are you a meticulous planner; are you satisfied easily or does it take a lot to make you feel like you’ve done well?
Thinking about these aspects of your life is really important, as it allows you to see what type of person you are.
It also gives you the chance to reflect on your current life choices and how healthy they are for you. Working out what really motivates you in life (be it work, friendships, or relationships) can have a huge impact on your well-being, so it’s well worth considering.
Write down a list of things that really drive you forward – it could be your competitive edge, or making your partner happy, or even the glass of wine you treat yourself to after a long day!
Why Do You Do What You Do?
Who we are now tends to be heavily influenced by our younger selves. Your experiences during your childhood and teenage years will have hugely impacted how you see the world now, and how you act in it.
Your relationships with your family and friends will all play a big role in who you are as an adult. This can be positive (such as “my dad was very creative and now so am I”), but it can obviously have detrimental effects too.
Reflect on your current behaviors and how they could be attributed to past events – this can help you put together more pieces of the puzzle that make up you.
Working out why we act the way we do can be an upsetting journey at times, but the questions we ask ourselves that provoke emotions are often the ones that most need asking.
By uncovering things from your past that you’ve potentially hidden in your subconscious, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about yourself.
Try journaling – map out certain behavior patterns and try to find links to past occurrences.
If this feels too hard, do it with a close friend or loved one by speaking out loud and working through what you can remember from your childhood. You may be surprised to find what crops up!
At the end of the day, you need to have faith in yourself
Your self-belief often results from your general values in life and what you believe to be important, as well as what makes you feel good about yourself and what pushes you to do more.
Remember that you are a human being with the power and freedom to change – your ‘self’ is fluid in many ways and it is never too late to make changes to the way you live your life.
The permanent fixtures in your life are down to you – you can choose to carry on believing in your religion, or chasing the dream of owning your own business one day, or choosing to fill your spare time with exercise instead of painting!
Part of knowing yourself is feeling content and satisfied with the choices you make, and this comes with the acknowledgement that everything is temporary unless you choose to make it a permanent fixture.
Lucy is a travel and wellness writer currently based in Gili Air, a tiny Indonesian island. After over a year of traveling, she’s settled in paradise and spends her days wandering around barefoot, practicing yoga and exploring new ways to work on her wellbeing.