Often the greatest endeavor in someone’s life is the journey they take to understand who they are. Human beings are complex, relational individuals. People are anything but one note pieces or plain vanilla. Everyone is stuffed with their own personalities, thoughts, opinions, emotions, and contradictions. When a person has a strong sense of self, they truly have an awareness about them that is something to be revered. If someone has a strong sense of self, it means they have gone through the long journey to really understand who they are as an individual. The concept of understanding yourself is a great goal to reach for because if achieved, it can be life-changing.
People who know themselves will experience two major, life-changing emotions: peace and empathy. Why are these two emotions important? Being at peace brings a certain contentment no amount of material items can bring no matter how much you try to drown yourself in things. It also brings about a certain self-love and self-confidence that no amount of dating, “hooking up,” or relationships can fully provide. When a person is at peace with who they are because they have come to understand who they are, they have the ability like who they without needing validation from others and find contentment in their life. The other emotion people experience when they have a strong sense of self is empathy. Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist stated, “The more you know yourself, the more patience you have in others.” A person who knows and understands themselves knows the depths and the flaws of who they are and, by extension, others. Having empathy is critical in maintaining connection, allowing for more meaningful relationships. It also opens the door to understanding others, even if they are vastly different.
If having a strong sense of self is important, how do you create it? Here are some ideas to consider on your journey to understanding yourself better:
Know what is true. People are often their greatest critic. There are likely false narratives within that you might have grown to believe are true about yourself. Break down those narratives by looking at what is actually true. For example, have people told you are unlikable or is that the narrative you have created because you feel you are not as popular as others? False narratives like these make it difficult understand who you really are.
If you are unsure, talk to those who know you and can speak truth into you. Talk to the most trusted relationships in your life. Think through those who know you best and ask them who they think you are. Those closest to you look at you through different lenses and different perspectives, giving them unique insight into who you are.
Practice mindfulness to gain self-awareness and insight. Awareness and insight are power. The more you know yourself, the more power you have to make changes in your life. Mindfulness allows you to be present and in the moment. It can give you insight into what you are thinking, what you are feeling, and the experiences you are having. Obtaining this kind of knowledge through mindfulness will only deepen your understanding of yourself.
Know your strengths and your areas for growth. It is always helpful to know your strengths and your shortcomings. Living within your greatest strengths can give you a deeper sense of your, build confidence, and create security within yourself. Knowing your shortcomings can push you towards continued valuable growth and development.
Be careful where your identity lies. It can be easy for a person’s sense of self to be tied up into things like where they come from and what they do. While those are part of a person’s identity, they are too superficial. One lost job or dismantling of a certain group they belong to and their identity can be crushed. Search for an identity that is more deeply rooted into who you are as a person that will not be so easily crushed.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She also has a special interest in working with athletes and has been bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is in the process of becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant to further her expertise in sports psychology. Prior to her move to Abilene, Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.