You’re always growing, evolving, and changing, so knowing yourself is, and always will be, a life-long journey.
Many people think that describing themselves using their career (”I’m a doctor”) is enough but the truth is, you’re more than what you do for a living.
The things you:
- don’t like
are only a portion of the puzzle that makes you, you, so describing yourself using just one word or a couple is very constraining.
Knowing yourself is way more than your career; knowing yourself means understanding your own emotions, desires, abilities, and more.
In this article, you’ll learn all the signs that tell you you need to work on getting to know yourself better, plus six things you can do to know who you really are.
The good news?
You don’t need to go on a meditation retreat or a life-changing trip far away from home to know who you are; you can start getting to know yourself better today.
12 Signs That Tell You Don’t Know Yourself
1. You feel lost
Knowing yourself means knowing:
- your values,
- your philosophy of life,
- your desires and the root of those desires,
- your needs,
- your fears,
- what matters to you.
And if you don’t know any of that, you’ll have a hard time figuring out what you want to do with your life.
The reason why I’ve said time and time again that knowing yourself is a process that never stops is that those things I just mentioned are going to change throughout your life.
So the trick here is to keep that in mind and always strive to be so connected to yourself that you can sense when one of them is evolving into something different.
But if you feel lost or stuck in life, chances are you don’t know yourself very well, and it’s worth investing time in self-discovery if you want to live a life you’re excited about.
2. You don’t know what you’re doing with your life
Have you ever thought “I have no idea what to do with my life!”?
There’s a strong connection between not knowing yourself and not knowing what you want to do with your life.
And here’s why:
Knowing yourself also means knowing where you’re headed and what you want your future to look like.
You’re not in control of what happens in the future, but if you know yourself well you’ll have a clear sense of where your current efforts are taking you.
And even though the outcomes of your efforts will never be entirely within your control, knowing yourself means you’ll live an intentional life in the present.
So, if you want to figure out what you want to do with your life, start off by knowing yourself first.
3. You have low self-esteem
Knowing yourself has a lot to do with accepting and loving yourself.
When you know who you are, you’re not only aware of your flaws but also of your strengths and everything you’ve overcome.
And when you see yourself as a whole person (flaws, strengths, and all), you start believing in yourself more, and thus your self-esteem increases.
4. You hate being alone
If you can’t stand being alone with your thoughts, it probably means you don’t know yourself because knowing yourself also means accepting yourself.
And when you’re alone, it’s more likely for you to beat yourself up about past decisions or start asking yourself things you don’t want to face.
If you’re unhappy in your relationship and don’t want to admit it, for example, being alone may expose those feelings very easily.
And if you don’t want to admit how unhappy you are, avoiding spending time alone might be a coping mechanism.
Knowing yourself doesn’t only mean being able to give a complete description of who you are, but also being in touch with your own feelings, and understanding and accepting yourself.
5. You expect others to tell you what to do
If you don’t know yourself enough, you probably expect others to tell you:
- what you “should” do
- how you “should” feel
- how to react (or not).
Here applies the classic example of letting others decide if you should be happy in a relationship or not, instead of letting your own feelings, standards, and intelligence guide you.
We’ve all had that friend asking if what her partner did is bad enough for her to break up with him, right?
Or maybe you don’t like your job even though it’s “prestigious” or highly sought-after, so you’re scared to say out loud that you can’t stand it and you just want to quit.
You’re the one who needs to decide if you stay or leave any situation, and knowing yourself better is the only thing that’s going to give you the tools to make the right choice for yourself.
6. You live your life by other people’s standards and definitions
You, like the rest of the people in this world, have your own definition of things like:
For some people, going out to dance and have drinks is fun.
For others, watching a movie at home is fun.
Some people think cooking is fun, while for others cooking’s plain boring and nothing more than another household chore.
The interesting thing is that none of them is right, and none of them is wrong.
It’s just the way it is for each person.
The same goes for success and love, for instance.
Maybe for you being successful means having a 9-5 that pays well and makes you happy, but for other people, success means having millions of dollars in the bank.
When you don’t know yourself, you don’t know what’s fun or success to you so you let others decide for you.
Knowing yourself means knowing what these important things mean to you and letting that meaning guide you through the choices you make.
7. You let others take advantage of you
You care more about other people liking you than you probably should because you’re not entirely sure of who you are and you’re not confident enough to show up fully yourself.
So, in your quest for seeing approval on the outside, you end up giving more of yourself than you need to.
8. You don’t know how to set goals or priorities
If you find yourself juggling a bunch of things that really don’t matter that much to you in the end, it means you don’t know yourself or what you want.
The only way to know what your priorities are so you can set goals and plan effectively is by knowing yourself.
9. It’s tough for you to make decisions
Your principles, values, and philosophies of life are what ultimately guide your choices, whether you realize it or not.
If you’re in a complicated situation that requires you to make a difficult choice and you don’t know yourself enough or what you want, you’ll probably:
- postpone making the choice
- ask others what you should do
- stress out about it
- keep wondering if you made the right choice or not.
However, when you know what matters to you, you’ll see that it’s easier for you to make decisions and you’ll also make better ones.
10. You have no goals or dreams
You’re so disconnected from your desires, needs, and wants, that you have no idea what your dreams and most meaningful life goals are.
11. You believe everything people say about you
When you don’t have a clear sense of who you are, you tend to define yourself according to what people say about you.
So, for example, if your parents used to tell you time and time again that you’re lazy, you probably grew up describing yourself as lazy.
And the worst part is that you will keep doing it unless you see yourself for who you really are and not for what other people think or used to think of you.
12. It’s hard for you to say “no”
You think your value’s so attached to how people perceive you that you’re willing to do anything just to be liked, and that includes saying yes to everything people ask you to do.
6 Tips to Know Yourself Better
1. Practice journaling
The Self-Discovery Bundle is a great way to start because it’ll help you know yourself using beginner-friendly guided journaling.
With it, you’ll get a set of seven journaling workbooks designed to help you know and understand your:
What makes these workbooks different from many others is that the prompts are clear, and each page includes an explanation about the prompt to help you dig deeper.
Plus, they each include a model workbook with sample answers to guide you in case you don’t know how to answer one of the prompts.
The Self-Discovery Bundle is designed to help people like you find direction in life through fun and thought-provoking journaling prompts.
It’s the tool I wish I had on hand when I felt lost and stuck a couple of years ago, so I’m confident it’s going to make a difference in your life.
Becoming self-aware and being in touch with yourself at every moment is the most solid foundation to build an intentional life, and I’m sure journaling can help you get there.
2. Let yourself grow and change
Knowing yourself doesn’t mean you have to stay in a box and be so sure of what you are, that you’ll never change.
Absolutely everything that happens around you, from big to small things, like:
- watching an impactful movie
- meeting someone new
- getting a pet for the first time
can impact you enough to change you forever.
Knowing yourself means also knowing you’re a human being who’s constantly evolving and growing.
Don’t limit yourself to a set of adjectives that describe you right now and call it a day.
Like I said before, self-discovery is a life-long journey that never stops.
3. Study your environment
Taking responsibility for your own life is key to self-growth.
However, there’s no denying that your environment plays a key role in who you are.
To understand and know yourself better, analyze the people you spend the most time with or the things you do the most.
Do you seem to attract problematic people? What do you think that says about you?
4. Put intention behind everything you do
Practice doing things intentionally instead of just doing them because you’re supposed to, or because you’ve always done them.
To do things with intention, simply ask yourself “Why am I doing this? And why am I doing it this way?” every time you’re about to do something, anything.
I know it can be hard to remember, but after doing it the first couple of times you’ll see the impact this has on you and probably want to continue doing it.
5. Challenge the stories you tell yourself
Every time you’re coming up with your own explanations or conclusions for things you’re not really sure about, pay attention.
For instance, if a coworker doesn’t invite you to her baby shower and you think you two are closed enough for you to go, how do you react?
If you start rambling about all the reasons why she must be mad at you instead of going straight to ask her why, this is a good chance for you to explore your self-talk and the stories you tell yourself.
We call them “stories” not necessarily because they’re entirely fictional.
They could be based on past experiences that taught you something about how people behave, for example, and then you got stuck thinking it applies to every situation in life.
However, they aren’t entirely true either.
And they can be both negative and positive.
Analyzing the ways you react under these circumstances can teach you a lot about yourself because you’ll start to notice patterns like:
- “Everyone’s mad at me for no apparent reason” when in reality people are just busy and sometimes they just forget about things;
- “I’m always defensive” when in reality you’ve tried to be polite in a specific situation before but now you’re reaching the top limits of your patience;
- “I’m so funny and even though my jokes are offensive, my coworkers get them and love them,” when in reality people are just trying to avoid an awkward situation, so they laugh about your offensive jokes
- “I procrastinate a lot,” when what’s actually happening is that you don’t understand the task at hand and also need a break.
- uncover the stories you tell yourself
- find the root of those stories
- turn your inner critic into your biggest cheerleader.
6. Get to the bottom of the issue
From now on, get into the habit of trying to find the root of your feelings.
For instance, saying you don’t like your job is just the surface of the issue.
What exactly do you dislike about it?
So, every time you say you like or don’t like something, ask yourself why.
Wrong Signs You Don’t Know Yourself
There are a couple of things you could be confusing with not knowing yourself.
1. You’ve changed your mind about things
Changing your mind could mean you don’t know yourself, but it can also mean you’re trying to adapt to different situations very quickly.
It can also mean your priorities aren’t clear.
However, keep in mind that you’re always changing and evolving.
If you loved your career 10 years ago but now you don’t, that doesn’t mean you didn’t know yourself.
It can only mean you’ve changed, and that’s okay.
2. You change how you behave according to who you’re with
This doesn’t mean you don’t know yourself because we all adapt to different social situations, and that’s actually part of what makes us successful at being social.
You can be serious and professional in one setting, and very funny and goofy in others.
You can be loving with some people and tough with others.
And that takes me to my last point in this section.
3. You can’t define yourself using adjectives
Some people freak out when they realize they go blank when trying to describe themselves.
Maybe this has happened to you; you tried to give a list of adjectives that describe you and realized you couldn’t.
You either couldn’t think of a single one or thought of so many, many of them were conflicting.
Well, you’re a complex human being and the words you choose to describe yourself don’t depend on who you are, but on the situation.
You can be many things at once.
And if you try to come up with words that describe you, you’ll realize some of them are incompatible with others on your list because you can be:
- patient in some situations but impatient in others;
- organized for some things and disorganized for others;
- quiet and shy in front of some people, and outgoing in front of others.
And no, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.
Enjoy the complexity and the beauty of being human, and stop trying to put yourself in a box 🙂
The Bottom Line
Knowing yourself is a lifelong journey; we’re always changing, evolving, and growing.
It’s part of life, and it’s good for you.
Know yourself and, most importantly, love yourself at every stage of your life. ❤️
Every experience, big or small, from your past shaped who you are today so never regret anything you were or went through before.
Commit to taking some minutes every day to pay attention to how you feel and think, and that’ll help you feel more connected to yourself.