Journaling Self-development

Knowing yourself

In my last blog post, I mentioned that ‘knowing yourself’ can help you live a passively active lifestyle. A passively active mindset enables you to live a productive and meaningful life on your own terms. It encourages you to be responsible but also ensures that you’re enjoying your life. In this post, I’ll give you some simple questions to ask yourself to help you begin your journey to discovering who you are and where you fit in the universe.

Before we begin, I should let you know that I’m definitely not an expert on this. I’m just someone who has done a lot of soul-searching and is happy to share what’s worked for me so far. However, I don’t think it’ll ever be possible to truly know yourself.  I’ve studied lots of different philosophers’ approaches to becoming ‘enlightened’ or your ‘best self.’ But I find that state of totality just doesn’t work with us humans. Not only are we constantly changing, but the world around us is as well. How can we expect to exist in a ‘final form’ in such ever-changing conditions? So, please don’t take this as a guide to gain complete answers about yourself, but rather questions to understand the conditions of your being.

You probably don’t have a real opinion on yourself

There’s a part in Cinzia Dubois’ video about self-deprecation that really resonates with me. She discusses how we often value other people’s opinions of us over our own.

‘We learn this external behaviour and assume, because it’s so poignant, that it’s accurate. And if this starts from a very young age, we never begin to trust our own judgement…we suddenly realise that the voices in our heads don’t belong to us and all the opinions that we have formulated about ourselves came from external sources.’

Cinzia Dubois, Lady of the Library, ‘How to Stop Putting Yourself Down’, 2021

I like to think that our personalities are collages of our experiences, the people we’ve interacted with, and our interests. There’s a very sweet way of looking at this. It’s nice to think that you take on the qualities of people you admire and continue their legacy just by existing. But it can also allow us to subconsciously carry the unhealthy patterns of the cruel and unfair treatment we may have endured throughout our life. Not being aware of this means that it’s easy to have a negative and distorted view of yourself, as Cinzia describes. So, this brings me to my first question you can think about in relation to yourself:

Who are the people you find interesting and why?

I always struggled to answer the question of who my role models were. To me, the concept of a ‘role model’ implies that perfect people exist on whom everyone should model their behaviour. I don’t know about you, but I’m yet to find that perfect person that captures all that’s good and pure in the universe.

Instead, ask yourself- ‘who are the people I find interesting?’ It could be absolutely anyone- a family member, a friend, a celebrity, someone in your local community. You don’t necessarily have to pinpoint someone who’s made strides as a humanitarian. Is it their sense of style? Do you think everything they cook is delicious? Maybe you like the way they sit back and nod their head during conversations. Also, think about the qualities you don’t admire in that person. What do you think makes them flawed? How would you go about life differently from them?

Think about what you do and don’t have in common with them. Perhaps you have similar ancestry. Maybe you look similar. Perhaps you resonate with them because they go through the same health issues as you.

Thinking about the people you choose to surround yourself with in this way can be quite an eye-opening experience. Not only will you gain more of an appreciation of the nuances of others, but you will also start knowing yourself. What you like or dislike about others reveals a lot about your values, interests, and insecurities. You may find out that you’re a Frank Grimes, jealous of other people’s achievements, but too afraid to pursue your own.

Much of our perception of ourselves is informed by external opinions. So, it might be worth turning that concept on its head and using the qualities of others to understand ourselves.

Knowing yourself and intuition

I’ve had a lot of trouble with distinguishing intuition from anxiety. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’ve found that starting the process of knowing myself has helped. Of course, something that worked for me was audio journaling. But I think it’s also important to be more direct in your process.

Start the process by finding out your true likes and dislikes. It’s helped me with making minor decisions like choosing a restaurant I want to go to. The more you know who you are, the more you’ll understand your needs, and the more assertive you’ll be. The more I practise knowing myself, the easier it is to make major decisions. As someone who is extremely indecisive, I hope that in the future I will have a firm understanding of who I am and will know what’s best for me.

Here are some more questions you can ask yourself to begin your journey to knowing yourself:

What are your obvious hobbies?

These are the sort of things you’d write on your résumé. These are things like art, sport, or anything that demonstrates skills that you’re proud of.

But what if you don’t have any hobbies? Think about what takes up the most of your time. Is it work, school, caring for your family? Do you like the fact that they take up most of your time? If not, why do you continue to let them take up your time? What does that say about how you value your time?

What are your weird hobbies?

These are the hobbies we tend to not talk about. It doesn’t necessarily have to be embarrassing or taboo. It could be something you do regularly that you didn’t consider as a hobby or interest.

I always enjoyed making PowerPoint presentations for school projects. Now, I’ve noticed that I make them for my vision boards and to organise my novel ideas. Acknowledging that I never noticed that I love using PowerPoint made me realise that it’s an integral part of my creative process.

What are the things that you never noticed you always do?

What helps you relax?

For some people, this might be obvious like meditation, yoga, or snuggling up with a good book. But for others, it might be watching doll-making videos or binging America’s Next Top Model. What kind of things do you keep coming back to when you need a break? If you incorporated them more into your life, what would happen?

What would your inner child want?

What sort of things did you always want to do as a kid but couldn’t? Why couldn’t you do it as a kid? What’s stopping you from doing it now? Could you try making a compromise and engage with your child self in a small way?

Recognising and connecting with my inner child allows me to live a more fulfilling life. Often, the things that make us feel the most nostalgic are the simplest.

What’s your opinion on personality quizzes?

Do you enjoy them or think they’re absolutely rubbish? Try asking yourself the same question about things like astrology as well. Your reaction to this question can reveal a lot about how you should approach self-development. Would you work best with something founded on scientific evidence? Or perhaps a more spiritual approach? Would you trust the advice from others or work independently?

What is your journaling style?

How do you like to express your thoughts? Do you write them down in private or are you the type to vent to a friend? Maybe you prefer channelling your thoughts through debating or creating artwork.

What colour palettes do you like the most?

We’re always asked about our favourite colour, but what colour combinations aesthetically please you? I like blue, pink, yellow, white, and purple because it reminds me of ice cream!

What is your favourite thing to wear?

Is it something you wear all the time, or do you save it for special occasions? What draws you to it?

Concluding thoughts

As I expressed earlier, I’m no expert on the best way to get to know yourself. But in my opinion, there is no ‘perfect’ way. Take these questions as building blocks to help you start or maintain your journey to knowing yourself. Knowing yourself leads to a passively active mindset. And a passively active mindset enables you to live a happy life that is tailored to who you are.

I’d love to hear what sort of things you like to do to get to know yourself. Let me know in the comments below!

3 replies on “Knowing yourself”

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