How well do you know yourself? Who are you? I’m not asking about what you do or where you live. Who are you as a person, deep down?
Pay attention to how you felt when I asked you this. Did you feel excited, happy, uncomfortable, or even anxious to answer?
“Who are you?” or “Can you tell me about yourself?” are probably some of the most dreaded questions out there. Why? What’s so scary?
Usually, people say that they don’t like talking about themselves. As a coach, I ask this question a lot, and from my experience, the truth is that people typically know quite little about themselves. A week ago I had a session with a woman in her 60s who felt quite lost in life. I asked her some basic questions about herself, and she couldn’t answer. After a few more questions and even more silence, she looked at me in shock and exclaimed, “Oh my god, I’m a stranger to myself!”
Self-awareness or knowing oneself is one of the cornerstones for happiness and success in life. Without good awareness, people often pursue the wrong career (usually because it pays well or it’s easy to do), get in a relationship with the wrong person, struggle with indecisiveness and low self-confidence, and generally find themselves just going along with things.
When you’re not sure what you like or don’t like, standing up for something and making firm decisions is difficult because it’ll always feel like guesswork. It’s like trying to order from a menu when you actually don’t know what you like. On the other hand, if you know that you’re crazy about seafood and soups, when you see seafood chowder on the menu, I probably couldn’t talk you out of ordering it. Knowing yourself means you can make a decision, stand your ground, and be a lot less likely to be swayed by others.
Successful people (regardless of what they’re successful in) have a great sense of self-awareness. When you have a chat with someone successful, read about them, watch or listen to their interviews, you’ll find they’re pretty clear about who they are and what they like. They’re also usually quite opinionated and are clear and consistent about what they stand for, at the very least in the area of their success (although typically in many other things as well). This is not a coincidence.
Knowing oneself is power!
So how do you get to know yourself?
First of all, be patient. It’s a process that takes time. You’ve probably lived a few decades without worrying too much about it, so don’t rush it now.
Approach it as you would dating. And by dating I mean good old fashioned courtship, not today’s Tinder, Netflix and Chill fast track. How do you get to know someone? You spend time with them; you ask them questions, you talk about their life and experiences, their likes and dislikes, what they appreciate or despise, their hopes and dreams. Set it up for a lifelong romance, because after all, you should want to love yourself. And then you put in the work.
1. I suggest that you get a nice journal dedicated to this process. Alternatively, you can type on your computer, but with how personal it is, typing may not have the same feel.
2. Set aside a few minutes, ideally every day, when you can have a quiet moment. Make yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee, or have a glass of wine, whatever will do the trick for you. Make it a special, enjoyable ritual.
3. Ask yourself a question about yourself, take a deep breath and just write. Write at least one page. If you can write more, great! Don’t cut corners though. The only person you’d be cheating is yourself. There’s nowhere to rush. There is no finish line.
4. Keep doing this as often as you can. Over time you’ll discover more and more about yourself. It’s important that you write things down, not just think about it. Writing keeps your mind focused and is much more effective.
If you’re not quite sure what questions to ask yourself, here are some examples of questions you can ask yourself. Remember, always follow up with “Why?”.
– What makes you really happy/sad? Why?
– When was the happiest/saddest moment of your life? Why?
– What are you scared of?
– What do you enjoy doing?
– What is your dream?
– What do you like about yourself?
– What annoys you?
– Where would you like to live?
– Where would you never go?
– What was your relationship with your parents like when you were growing up?
– What made you who you are today?
– What were the most significant events in your life?
– What do you often think about?
– What do you like to eat?
– What do you like to wear?
– What do you like to read?
– What are your favourite movies/actors/actresses/plays/ etc?
– What was the most challenging time in your life?
– What are you proudest of about yourself?
– When did you do the right thing?
– What decisions have made the biggest impact on your life?
This list of questions could go on and on, but these can get you started.