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Have you ever had a moment where you stopped and thought— who am I really? No really— outside of my job, my major, my friends, or whatever else I’m placing identity in— who am I? If you’ve ever stripped away these external values and found yourself questioning your true identity, you’re not alone.

Discovering & creating our true selves is a life long journey. Whether you feel like you’re just getting started, or just trying to fine-tune the details, you might be surprised what you learn about yourself when you take the time to get to know yourself a little better.

Self Knowledge and Self Love

Why is getting to know yourself so important? It’s a critical piece to the larger goal of self love. Put simply, you can’t love someone you don’t even know!

Christine Arylo, founder of The Path of Self Love, visualizes self love in terms of a tree with many branches:

  • Self Care
  • Self Awareness
  • Self Acceptance
  • Self Trust
  • Self Esteem
  • Self Compassion & Forgiveness
  • Self Empowerment
  • Self Expression
  • Self Honor & Respect
  • Self Pleasure

Don’t let this overwhelm you… You might find some of these harder to achieve than others, but with practice you are capable of achieving holistic self love using these techniques.

In this post, we’ll be focusing on the Self Awareness portion of this. I’ve compiled 7 ways you can get to know yourself and build a strong foundation toward self love.

1. Discover your Values

Whether you’re aware of it or not, we all act according to our values. You make thousands of small choices every day, and many times these are a reflection of your values. That’s why a huge part of understanding yourself is understanding your values.

Your values have likely been influenced by your family, friends, and religious upbringing, and other defining experiences in your life. Once you define and understand these values, you can better understand why you make the choices you do.

So how do you define your values? The best tool I’ve seen for values discovery is a values card sorting activity. You can work through this either alone or ask your therapist if it’s something you can do with them.

In an activity like this, there are many cards that describe core values you might have. You’ll go through each card and decide whether it’s something that’s important to you. Then, you’ll keep narrowing this down until you’ve arrived at 3-5 core values.

2. Do a Journaling Exercise

Take some time to do a reflective journaling exercise to get to know yourself. By framing questions in certain ways, you may be able to pull answers out of yourself that you hadn’t realized before.

I’ve selected 6 questions that have really helped me understand my interests, passions, and personality. Write these down in your journal and spend a few minutes reflecting on writing about each. Then, reread what you wrote.

  1. What would your 12 year old self think of who you are today?
  2. When you were a child, what did you dream of doing when you grew up?
  3. What would you do with your life if you had no fear?
  4. Who do you envy, and why/?
  5. How would your friends describe you?
  6. What is something that you look forward to?

Want more questions like this? Check out my post which include 60 questions for self discovery, to get to know yourself even deeper.

3. Spend Some Time With Yourself

If you’re not used to it, being alone can be straight-up uncomfortable. And with our world being more connected than ever, alone time can be hard to come by. Even though it may not feel natural, spending some time in solitude allows you to better understand who you are.

In alone time, you’re able to make decisions without the influence of others. This can be especially powerful for people pleasers, who often pay more attention to what others want than even themselves.

This is just one benefit of alone time.It can also help spark creativity, increase mental strength, and build empathy.

How do you carve out alone time to get to know yourself? Make it a date! Treat it like you would an obligation with a close friend. Make plans for yourself and stick to it. Some ideas— take yourself to dinner at a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try, or have a self care day at home.

4. Try New Things

Have you ever tried something new, and realized how much you loved it instantly? One of the great joys of life is that there’s always things left to be discovered. If you step outside your comfort zone and try new things, you might be surprised what you find out about yourself!

Try out things like a new exercise class, art class, reading a genre you don’t normally read, volunteering, or anything else, really! Whether you have a good or bad experience, you’ll definitely learn something about yourself in the process.

5. Take a Personality Test

Maybe you’ve tried some of the things on this list and you’re still feeling a bit lost— that’s totally okay! A personality test may be the perfect tool to get your started in your journey of self discovery.
They’re definitely not perfect. It would be impossible to fit all 7.8 billion unique people in the world into precise boxes, but they may help you understand some things about yourself you didn’t know before. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Enneagram– Enneagram is a set of 9 distinct personality types that describe how we learned to fit into the world as childrenand formed our identity.
  2. 16 Personalities (Myers Briggs Type Indicator)- This is one of the most widely used personality tests and is based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality type theory.
  3. StrengthsFinder– A personal favorite of mine, this personality test focuses on identifying your top 5 personality strengths & guides you on how you can use them to find fulfillment in life. It does cost money, though. Check with your school or employer to see if they offer a discount or cover the cost.

6. Practice Mindfulness

What does mindfulness have to do with getting to know yourself? A lot, actually! Mindfulness is the practice of observing your current experience in a non-judgmental way. This is actually at the very foundation of getting to know yourself. In order to really define who you are, you have to some information about yourself to go based on! Practicing mindfulness in observing our thoughts and behaviors can help us connect the dots on who we are and eliminate blind spots we did not notice previously.

Even though it sounds so simple, mindfulness can be really tough to achieve. One of the most effective ways to achieve mindfulness is by starting a meditation practice.

7. Allow yourself to evolve

Remember that who you are today is probably not who you’ll be ten years from now. Let yourself evolve and grow. Maybe there’s some things you want to keep the same, like beliefs and values, but others you’re open to evolving. This is a healthy part of your self discovery journey that may never be complete.