When you don’t know yourself, life is overwhelming: it’s hard to make decisions, it’s hard to set and achieve goals, it’s hard to feel fulfilled because you don’t really know what you want.
Many people believe that knowing who you are should be implied. You’re the person who spends the most time with yourself, right? Then by implication, you should be an expert in yourself.
However, it’s not that simple. Humans are incredibly complex creatures; actually, the human brain is the most complex system we know.
Knowing yourself isn’t something simple you get for free for being human. It takes work, reflection, and a lot of self-awareness to know who you are.
Wrong signs you don’t know yourself
1. You change your mind a lot. This isn’t necessarily a sign you don’t know yourself. Our bodies, minds, behaviors, and tastes evolve continuously. That’s normal.
However, beware of sudden and radical changes with no apparent reason to explain them.
2. You change how you behave according to who you’re with. This is also perfectly normal. We all do it all the time, and it’s necessary to adjust our behavior and manners to the context we’re in.
The way we talk to our parents isn’t the same in which we speak to our best friends, for instance.
However, there’s a fine line between our valuable ability to adapt and trying to please whoever you’re with by becoming who you think they want you to be.
3. You can’t define yourself using adjectives. If you’ve ever found yourself in a situation that required you to describe yourself and your mind went black, don’t worry.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t know who you are; it might just say you don’t know how you want to come across.
We’re complex beings, and we can be described using many adjectives, some of them even conflicting with one another.
We can adapt to a wide range of situations; we can be patient in some scenarios and impatient in others; kind in some contexts and rude in others. It’s normal.
12 signs that tell you don’t know yourself
1. You feel lost and don’t know what you want
If you don’t know your values, your philosophy of life, your desires and the root of those desires, your needs, your fears, what matters to you, how can you know what you want? If you feel lost and unsatisfied and don’t know what to do next, you probably don’t know yourself.
2. You don’t understand why you do what you do
Have you ever looked around you in complete awe and sadly realized you have no idea how you ended up where you are?
It’s happened to me. I worked as a freelancer, living aimlessly, until one day, everything fell apart, and I was left wondering: “How the hell did I end up here?”
I hope that never happens to you, but in case it has, you can take it as a clear sign of your lack of self-awareness.
3. You hate being alone
You can’t stand yourself and being alone with your thoughts.
Knowing yourself and loving yourself isn’t the same thing, but they’re deeply intertwined.
When you know yourself, you know your strengths and your shortcomings. You learn there are things you need help with and things you’re great at.
Inevitably, these things lead to more self-love.
4. 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.
For example, if someone says you’re lazy, you believe it and act accordingly to prove them right.
To some extent, this is unavoidable. This is a psychological fact I learned from Influence by Robert B. Cialdini; we tend to adjust our image of ourselves according to the way others see us.
However, it can get out of hand if you don’t have your own definition of who you are.
When you don’t know yourself, you are like a chameleon who transforms into whatever surrounds you.
If you’re around smokers, you smoke. If you’re around artists, you want to come across as very knowledgeable in arts. You get the idea.
Plus, you may also show increased susceptibility to peer pressure.
In some cases, you may feel overwhelmed in social situations because you work so hard to be liked by others, you feel anxious all the time.
5. You live according to other people’s definitions
We all have our own definitions of things. Each one of us has its definition of success, happiness, love, fun.
When you don’t know yourself, you start living according to other people’s definitions because you think that’s how it should be or because you’re not confident enough in your own ideas.
6. You have low self-esteem
Because you don’t know what you’re capable of.
7. You let others take advantage of you
In your quest for seeing approval on the outside, you end up giving more of yourself than you should.
8. It’s incredibly hard for you to make decisions
And you’re always left wondering if you made the right choice once you do.
Knowing your principles, values, philosophies, and beliefs makes it easier for you to make choices. No matter how big or small.
Imagine you’re facing a difficult situation where every possible solution and outcome has pros and cons.
If you know yourself, it’ll be easier for you to balance your choices and make a decision that gives you inner peace instead of feeling endlessly anxious about it.
9. You look for answers outside of yourself
You keep waiting for others to tell you what to do.
A few years ago, when I was going to therapy twice a week and suffering from anxiety and depression, I desperately searched for the answers to my problems on Google. That’s right. I used to Google things like what to say to my mother every time she said something hurtful.
10. Your priorities are a mess
Your priorities, those things in life that are more important than the rest, don’t align with what you say you want your life to be.
11. It’s hard for you to set and achieve goals
To set goals the right way is imperative to know what you want, why you want it, what you’re capable of doing in a given time frame.
12. You have no dreams
You’re so disconnected from your desires, needs, and wants, you have no idea what your dreams and most meaningful life goals are.
How to know yourself
1. Practice journaling
Journaling every day for at least 10 minutes will increase your self-awareness in just a matter of days. If you don’t know what journaling is, it basically consists of asking yourself the right, in-depth questions writing down your answers, or simply writing whatever comes to your mind for a set amount of minutes.
Knowing yourself is a life long journey; we’re always changing, evolving, growing. It’s part of life, and it’s good for you.
If that scares you a little, don’t be discouraged. Instead, look at it as something fun to work on always.
“By far the most significant learning experience in adulthood involves critical self-reflection — reassessing the way we have posed problems and reassessing our own orientation to perceiving, knowing, believing, feeling and acting.” — Jack Mezirow