Unveiling Your Authentic Self: Strategies on How to Find Out Who You Are
Knowing yourself is one of the most important things you can do in life. By understanding your own identity, personality, values, and goals, you gain self-awareness and the ability to live an authentic, meaningful life aligned with your true self.
This article will walk you through the key steps involved in embarking on a journey of self-discovery to find out who you really are.
We’ll cover strategies like introspection, assessing your strengths and weaknesses, examining your life story, getting feedback from others, challenging yourself with new experiences, and more.
With active self-reflection and a willingness to explore, you can gain profound self-knowledge and uncover your inner self.
- Knowing yourself is a lifelong journey of self-discovery that requires ongoing curiosity and effort. Expect twists and turns rather than linear progress.
- Introspection through journaling, meditation and reflection unveils your innermost values, interests and patterns. Look inward to gain self-insight.
- Personality and self-assessments offer tangible data to complement your subjective impressions. Tests provide self-knowledge through psychology.
- Studying pivotal life events, key relationships and memories spotlights how your history shaped you. Your life story contains clues about your identity.
- Trusted friends and mentors serve as mirrors reflecting back your blind spots. Outside perspectives provide invaluable self-awareness.
- New experiences test your abilities and push you to grow. Challenges expose strengths and areas for improvement.
- Spiritual practices like meditation, journaling and retreats connect you to your purpose beyond the ego. Exploring existential questions expands self-understanding.
- Extend self-compassion on this winding journey. Confusion and setbacks are normal. Self-discovery requires lifelong patience, perseverance and care.
Steps to Finding Out Who You Are
1. Look Inward Through Self-Reflection
Getting to know yourself begins by looking inward and engaging in deep self-reflection. Set aside quiet time each day to simply sit with your thoughts, without the noise and distractions that often preoccupy your mind.
This is an opportunity to peer behind the curtain and have an honest conversation with yourself.
Ask Yourself Probing Questions
During this reflective time, don’t shy away from asking yourself the tough questions – this is the only way to cut through the surface and dig deeper.
Here are some examples to get you started:
- What are my most deeply held values and beliefs? What principles guide my life?
- What are my natural strengths and weaknesses? What skills and abilities come easily to me? Which do I struggle with?
- What makes me feel energized and fills me with passion? What are my true interests and areas of curiosity?
- What type of goals and dreams do I want to pursue? How do I envision my future?
- What type of purpose and meaning do I want my life to have? What legacy do I want to leave behind?
Probe your innermost thoughts and feelings surrounding these fundamental questions. Your responses will provide clues about your identity and what motivates you at the deepest level.
Identify Your Passions
An important part of self-discovery is pinpointing what you’re passionate about. Make a list of your interests, hobbies, and favorite activities.
Look for themes and common threads that capture your attention and get your juices flowing.
Then reflect – do certain passions align with possible career paths or areas of study? Do some represent untapped talents or dormant dreams you’ve been afraid to pursue?
Follow these passions, as they often lead to your true calling.
Keep a Journal
Pouring your thoughts and feelings onto paper is a powerful way to gain self-insight. Keep an ongoing journal where you can explore your inner landscape without limit. Some journaling prompts include:
- A pivotal experience from your childhood and how it impacted you.
- Your proudest accomplishments and why they brought you joy.
- Your regrets and lessons learned from past mistakes.
- Obstacles you currently face and how you plan to overcome them.
- What gives you hope during difficult times.
Jot down whatever comes to mind – there is no wrong way to journal. Let this written record illuminate hidden parts of yourself that you may not have been fully aware of before.
Try On Different Perspectives
To gain a well-rounded self-understanding, be open to seeing yourself from different perspectives. Imagine how a trusted friend or family member might describe you and your personality.
Picture yourself through the eyes of someone you admire. Or from the perspective of a future self looking back with wisdom.
This mental role-playing can unveil new aspects of your identity and lead to breakthroughs.
The practice of meditation creates space for self-reflection by calming your mind and fostering introspection. Even 10 minutes daily can work wonders.
Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. When thoughts arise, don’t judge them – simply observe without attachment.
Over time, this allows you to objectively witness even your deepest patterns and subconscious tendencies.
Making inward self-reflection a consistent habit is key to the self-discovery process. By exploring your inner world, you’ll gain clarity about what makes you tick.
2. Assess Your Personality and Temperament
In addition to introspection, you can gain tangible insight into your identity by taking personality and temperament assessments.
These tools provide an objective analysis of your inherent traits and dispositions. While introspection is subjective, assessments offer data-driven insights based on psychology and research.
Personality tests have become widely popular for good reason – they work! The most scientifically valid is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which categorizes people into 16 personality types based on traits like introversion/extroversion, thinking/feeling, and intuition/sensing.
After taking the MBTI or similar tests, you gain a detailed breakdown of your personality type and core attributes.
While these tools shouldn’t be taken as gospel, they provide powerful self-knowledge and help explain why you naturally think, feel, and act the way you do.
Beyond formal personality tests, there are many free self-assessments online that illuminate your strengths, weaknesses, work styles, skills, values, and more. For example:
- StrengthsFinder uncovers your top 5 talent themes.
- VIA Survey reveals your character strengths like honesty and creativity.
- Holland Code matches you with work environments suited to your personality.
- Enneagram identifies your personality type and motivations.
Dedicate time to taking numerous self-assessments across different focus areas. Look for commonalities and discrepancies in the results. Piecing together these insights creates a mosaic that reveals your true colors.
Understand Yourself as a Whole
Once you have results from personality and self-assessments, reflect on how they align with your own self-perception.
Do the results ring true or clash with how you see yourself? Consolidate insights from these tools with your introspective observations to gain comprehensive self-knowledge.
For example, maybe you view yourself as highly empathetic based on introspection, and the Myers-Briggs confirmed your Feeling personality type.
Or perhaps you believe you are organized, yet the assessments pegged you as spontaneous – this discrepancy is useful to explore further.
Think critically about assessment results rather than taking them as immutable facts. Let them guide and inform, not define, your understanding of your multi-faceted self.
Recognize Your Emotional Patterns
Our emotional tendencies and triggers provide windows into our inner workings. Make notes about your typical emotional responses to help illuminate your ingrained patterns.
- Do you tend to get defensive when criticized? This may signal an underlying lack of confidence.
- Does it take a lot to make you angry or upset? If so, you may have high tolerance and patience.
- Do you cry easily during sad movies? You likely empathize deeply.
- Do you hate public speaking? This points to social anxiety.
Monitoring your emotions and moods provides valuable clues about your personality makeup.
Certain assessments like the Enneagram test dive deep into uncovering core emotional patterns that trace back to childhood. Becoming aware of these tendencies is powerfully eye-opening.
As you assess your personality and temperament through testing and emotional awareness, embrace the self-knowledge that emerges.
While our core attributes don’t change much, growth happens through acceptance, not resistance.
3. Examine Your Life Story and Memories
Your personal history provides a goldmine of insight into your identity. By taking a deeper look at the experiences, relationships, and memories that populate your life story, you gain perspective on the forces and events that shaped you.
Reflect on Pivotal Life Events
Make a timeline of the major life events you’ve experienced so far – both joyful milestones and painful setbacks.
Looking back, pinpoint a few pivotal moments that seemed to alter the course of your life or fundamentally change you.
For example, moving to a new city, going through a bad breakup, changing careers, losing a loved one, becoming a parent, etc.
How did these turning points impact your values, outlook, priorities and direction? Contemplate how you grew as a result of these junctures.
Examine Key Relationships
The people closest to you wield tremendous influence over who you become. Reflect on those who played formative roles in your story so far:
- Parents: How did your upbringing and your parents’ approach, values and character shape you? What qualities did you absorb or rebel against?
- Siblings: What role did competition, bonding or rivalry with siblings play? What lessons about cooperation or standing out did you learn?
- Friends: How have close friendships expanded your worldview or enriched your life over the years? What did these bonds reveal about yourself?
- Partners: Romantic partnerships mirror back our strengths, insecurities and capacity for intimacy. What did you learn from past relationships?
By studying these connections through the lens of self-discovery, you gain perspective on your own development.
Identify Coming of Age Milestones
Your transition into adulthood represents a particularly enlightening chapter. What events marked your passage into the adult world?
- Learning to drive, moving out on your own, first professional job, financial independence, committed relationship, marriage, new cultural experiences through travel, etc.
What did these milestones teach you about responsibility, hardship, resilience, and your evolving identity? The trials of early adulthood reveal much about our mettle.
Contemplate Your Memories
Memories both big and small have formed the mosaic of your life. Set aside time for nostalgic reflection about cherished moments from childhood, school days, early adventures and beyond.
Sit with these memories and consider how they shaped your personality, relationships, interests, values and more.
For example, introspect on your:
- Happiest memories
- Proudest moments
- Most painful or traumatic memories
- Earliest childhood memories
- Vivid adolescent memories
Our memories offer fragments of insight that we can piece together for a bigger picture of our life and self.
By purposefully traversing your life story and revisiting memories, themes will emerge that pull the disparate chapters of your life into one cohesive, integrated narrative.
This reflection allows you to make sense of the past, while bringing your history into greater focus.
4. Get Feedback from Others
While self-reflection provides critical insights, other people in your life see aspects of you that you may be blind to. Their perspective can serve as a mirror that reflects back your attributes, blind spots, and areas for growth.
Ask Trusted Friends
Have an open conversation with a few close friends to gain their honest input on how they would describe you.
Assure them you want genuine feedback, not just platitudes. Use open-ended questions to draw out thoughtful reflections:
- How would you describe my personality and temperament?
- What do you think my core values and principles are?
- What are some of my best and worst qualities in your view?
- How do you see me handling challenging situations or responding to setbacks?
- In what ways have you seen me grow or change over the years you’ve known me?
Thank them for their candour and resist the urge to be defensive. Absorb their observations openly to benefit from an outside perspective.
Consult Experienced Mentors
Seek out mentors like teachers, coaches, bosses or community leaders who have known you for years in a guidance capacity. Their wisdom and life experience can provide invaluable perspective on your journey.
Ask them questions like:
- What do you see as my defining characteristics? How have you seen me apply my strengths?
- What lessons do you think I still need to learn at this stage of my life? In what areas do I have room to mature?
- As you reflect on our work together, how would you say I’ve grown over time? What changes have you observed in my character or abilities?
- What advice would you give me about my path going forward? Do you have any concerns or encouragements?
This dose of mentorship provides critical outside insight that you can integrate into your self-understanding.
While we don’t choose our relatives, family knows us in a unique way. Ask parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles, or cousins for their take:
- What qualities or values of mine remind you of other family members?
- How am I similar to or different from the rest of the family?
- What do you think I inherited from mom/dad – temperament, talents, quirks?
- How have you seen me handle the family dynamic and influence of my upbringing?
Family patterns span generations and discerning your place in the lineage provides perspective.
Counseling and Therapy
For deeper insights, work with a professional counselor or therapist. Their specialized training equips them to ask probing questions and offer clinical perspectives into your psychology, emotions, and past.
Take notes during sessions and review them afterwards to crystallize insights.
Make the most of this outside feedback by synthesizing it with your own self-knowledge. Our loved ones provide mirrors that reveal our blind spots and areas of growth.
5. Challenge Yourself Through New Experiences
Stepping outside your comfort zone and exposing yourself to new situations that test your capabilities can uncover hidden aspects of your identity and potential.
By challenging yourself, you gain self-knowledge through experience.
Travel Somewhere New
Few things illuminate the contours of your inner world like traveling somewhere completely foreign.
The sensations of navigating a new culture and way of life isolates you from the familiar, jolting you out of ordinary patterns.
Reflect on what you learn about yourself:
- How did you handle the uncertainty and discomfort of being a fish out of water? Did you embrace it or feel anxious? This reveals your adaptability.
- Were you curious about and open to new customs and perspectives? Or did you judge new things harshly through the lens of your own culture? This uncovers your open-mindedness.
- Did you connect with locals and forge new relationships outside your comfort zone? Or did you retreat inward and cling to fellow travelers? This shows your inclination toward introversion or extroversion in unfamiliar contexts.
Use travel to reveal your strengths and areas for growth. Keep a journal while abroad to capture pivotal insights about yourself.
Take On a Big Goal
Choose a big, hairy audacious goal that forces you outside your comfort zone – one that requires perseverance through setbacks.
Use the journey of pursuing this goal to reveal your inner resolve, resilience and capacity for self-doubt. Reflect on what the process shows you about yourself:
- Do you tend to catastrophize initial failures and give up easily? Or believe in yourself and bounce back from mistakes? This spotlight’s your persistence and self-belief.
- Are you able to stifle the inner critic and negative self-talk that sabotages progress? Or do these thoughts immobilize you? Your self-motivating powers become clear.
- How do you respond emotionally to major obstacles and intolerable frustration? Do toxic emotions hijack you? Or are you able to channel setbacks into productive grit? Your emotional intelligence and mental toughness are tested.
Use the battle scars incurred pursuing challenging goals to uncover and strengthen aspects of your character.
Learn a New Skill
Exposing yourself to unfamiliar knowledge and skills outside your expertise activates neural growth as you absorb new information. The learning process grants illuminating self-knowledge:
- Are you naturally curious and have an innate love of learning? Or does learning feel like a chore and cause frustration? This reveals your attitude toward intellectual growth.
- Do you possess the focus and discipline to commit to daily skill-building? Or do you lose interest when the thrill wears off? Your grit and follow-through are exposed.
- Do you shy away from activities where you won’t excel immediately? Or embrace the vulnerability of being bad at first? Your response to failure becomes clear.
Approach learning new skills with mindset of self-discovery rather than mastery. Value progress over perfection.
Join a Local Group
Seek out a club, class or volunteer group centered around an activity outside your existing social circle. Use this as an opportunity to connect with people different than yourself and reveal aspects of your identity:
- Are you able to confidently introduce yourself to new people and make conversation outside your comfort zone? Or does striking up new connections fill you with dread? Your natural extraversion or social anxiety emerges.
- How do you mesh your existing perspectives with people who may have different worldviews, backgrounds, and life experiences? Do you open your mind or argue defensively? This tests your empathy, adaptability and openness to diverse viewpoints.
Immersing yourself in new groups tests your social abilities and requires exercising emotional intelligence. Use this exposure to expand your self-understanding.
The path of self-discovery requires the courage to venture outside the familiar. Use new experiences as springboards for accelerating your growth and illuminating blind spots.
The limits of your adaptability often lie further than you imagine.
6. Engage in Spiritual Practices
Exploring your inner world and place in the broader universe through spiritual practices can unveil deeper aspects of your identity and purpose.
These activities seek to transcend the mundane and awaken higher understanding.
Meditation quiets your busy mind, allowing for clarity and introspection. By focusing on your breath and detaching from constant mental chatter, space opens up for gaining self-insight.
Over time, regular meditation reveals your core patterns and tendencies. Become an impartial witness to the contents of your consciousness rather than getting wrapped up in it.
This mindfulness aids self-discovery.
Reflect Through Journaling
Journaling can also serve as a spiritual exercise when focused on existential questions like:
- Why am I here and what is my life purpose?
- How do I handle suffering and life’s hardest realities?
- What are my most deeply-held beliefs about human nature, morality, and spirituality?
- How do I envision my legacy and impact on others after I’m gone?
- What is my relationship to concepts like love, fear, death, and God?
Journaling on these philosophical questions excavates your innermost values, perspectives, and search for meaning.
Find Time in Nature
Our hectic modern lives obscure the fact that we are fundamentally spiritual beings having a brief human experience. Time in nature realigns you with your temporary place in the grand sweep of the universe.
Exposure to untamed natural wonder – forests, mountains, oceans, deserts – puts your small self in proper context, dissolving ego to reveal timeless spiritual identity.
Pursue Religious Wisdom
For the spiritually inclined, studying your religion of choice more deeply or talking with guides like pastors, rabbis, priests or gurus provides direction.
Diving into sacred wisdom passages, prayers, or rituals grounds you in moral purpose and connection to the divine. This bolsters self-knowledge.
The postures, breathing, and meditation of yoga unite mind, body and spirit. Moving your body mindfully while controlling your breath tunes you into subtler sensations, emotions, and insights.
Yoga halts the endless loop of thinking and worrying, creating mental silence from which self-knowledge blossoms.
Stepping away from daily distractions to attend spiritual, wellness, or meditation retreats fosters self-discovery. Retreats provide immersive experiences focused on practices like:
- Silent meditation
- Yoga, tai chi
- Hiking and nature walks
- Journaling and reflection
- Healthy communal living
- Workshops, lectures, and discussion
The serenity of retreat life calms the inner noise so your authentic self can reveal itself. You return home with greater self-awareness.
A spiritual quest need not involve religion. It is simply the practice of narrowing from outer focus to inner awareness.
Spiritual pursuits counteract self-absorption by connecting you to the whole. With this expanded perspective, insights about your purpose and place within it arise naturally.
7. Be Patient With Yourself
As you work to uncover your authentic identity, embrace self-discovery as an ongoing journey rather than a fixed destination.
Give yourself patience and grace through the ups and downs of the process.
Expect a Non-Linear Path
Progress in self-knowledge rarely follows a neat, linear trajectory. You may make profound breakthroughs during a period of intense introspection, only to feel lost in confusion weeks later. Periods of clarity give way to fog – this is natural.
Don’t get frustrated when your path doubles back or moves in circles. Trust that you are weaving your way toward deeper wisdom.
Accept Setbacks as Learning Opportunities
You will inevitably face setbacks on the winding path of self-discovery – everyone does. View these not as failures, but important touchstones that refine your understanding of yourself.
For instance, you commit to morning meditation but can’t seem to keep up the habit. Why? Perhaps you realize you are not a morning person, or that your self-discipline needs work.
These insights re-orient you positively for next steps. Setbacks illustrate areas for self-compassion and growth.
Release the Need for Total Clarity
Some people expect an almost religious epiphany from self-reflection, expecting their true self to be revealed in a blinding flash of absolute clarity.
When this fails to happen, they feel disillusioned. Know that self-knowledge tends to accumulate gradually, through small connected insights accrued over time.
Absolute certainty about something as fluid as identity is unlikely. Release attachment to black-and-white thinking. Progress happens in shades of grey.
Don’t Let Confusion Derail You
As you explore yourself, you may pass through periods of doubt, uncertainty and confusion. Old beliefs about who you are crumble away, but the new ones feel tentative.
This liminal space feels unsettling, but means you are moving toward greater self-awareness. Avoid the temptation to grasp at false certainty just to escape confusion.
Let perplexity energize and propel you forward.
Make Self-Care a Priority
Self-discovery can be emotionally draining as you dredge up memories, fears, regrets and confront your flaws. Make sure to prioritize holistic self-care so you have the bandwidth for reflection.
Get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, exercise, spend time outdoors, and connect meaningfully with others. Don’t become so fixated on understanding your inner world that you neglect your physical, mental and emotional health.
Trust that the path of self-discovery holds far more blessings than pitfalls, especially when you approach it with patience.
You may not realize it yet, but the journey is well underway, even during moments of uncertainty. Have faith in the process.
Conclusion – How to Know Who You Are
The question of how to find out who you really are has no definitive answer. Yet by:
- looking inward through self-reflection,
- gathering outside perspectives,
- taking personality tests,
- examining your memories and life story,
- challenging yourself with new experiences, and
- exploring spiritually,
you embark on a profound journey of self-discovery.
While the path to uncovering your authentic identity and purpose contains twists and turns, embracing the process is more important than seeking some final destination.
Know that self-knowledge comes gradually through small connected insights accrued over a lifetime.
Approach getting to know yourself with consistent curiosity, courage, patience and care. By doing so, you will uncover your passions, values, strengths, weaknesses and so much more about your one-of-a-kind self.
This self-awareness allows you to live authentically, make aligned decisions, enrich your relationships, and continue maturing into who you were meant to be.
The quest of finding yourself is not one you take alone. Loved ones provide mirrors, mentors give guidance, and communities foster growth. While the answers reside within, surroundings and support empower the journey.
May you savor every step in the never-ending adventure of becoming who you are. The path illuminates more beauty with each step.