To learn about yourself is to provide yourself direction and depth. This is important in a time where most coast through life.
The journey to self-improvement begins with a journey to learn about yourself. Knowing your internal belief system, your own goals, desires, and ambitions are essential. But so is knowing what habits you have, which ones you consider weak and what you wish to develop is crucial.
Getting to know yourself is crucial in so many ways as you can see. But it is worth looking more at the methods to learn about yourself. I know from my own experiences that I had a rougher time learning about myself.
That is mainly due to me not using the proper techniques I want to outline in this post. I was so focused on taking risks.
I didn’t pause and ponder on significant questions or do some of the other things I’ll talk about.
So if you are looking to have deeper self-understanding, here are some methods I’d suggest.
Risk-taking is my go-to method for deeply learning about oneself. As I mentioned above there are some repercussions to it, but that’s the case with most methods.
I have a sort of affinity for risk-taking because of the fact I associate much of my growth to this form. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my ability to emotionally handle taking risks and going down different paths.
There is also the fact that risk-taking feels like direct action-taking compared to other methods. That’s not to say that risk-taking is the best method, but massive bursts of progress feels better.
Of course, there are also repercussions to this method. As I’ve said before, taking risks still present a risk to you. Things might not go as planned or maybe your progress becomes significantly less. But overall, taking risks is well worth the risk in most cases.
Understanding Your VITALS
VITALS is an acronym that forms the six building blocks of ourselves. Understanding what each one means and figuring out what VITALS you have you can better learn about yourself. Psychology Today provides a more in-depth account for these but here is an overview.
- V for Values — These are your desires and what will ultimately form your goals and motivators.
- I for Interests — These are what form your passions, hobbies and things that draw your attention and keep you entertained over periods of time.
- T for Temperament — Your inborn preferences. Are you introvert or extrovert? Do you plan things or wing it?
- A for Around-the-Clock Activities — When you prefer to do certain things. An example is when you like to wake up or go to bed.
- L for Life Mission and Meaningful Goals — Understanding your purpose and what you consider the most meaningful events of your life.
- S for Strengths — What are you good at in terms of abilities, talents, and skills. This also applies to characteristics. Do people comment on your loyalty, cheery personality or your love of learning?
Knowing your VITALS can shape your personality and where you want to go. As I hinted in that list, these are things that form our moral compass, our hobbies, habits, and ultimately our goals. This is the essence of our own being and the more you grasp that, the more you get to learn about yourself.
Using A Journal To Learn About Yourself
A journal is another way of understanding yourself as it forms a gateway into how you are thinking.
At the moment, writing about your concerns or showing appreciation can help in various ways in problem solving and inspiration. I see journaling as a form of coping with difficult times or using it to lift yourself up and remind yourself of good things.
But I also see a journal as a sort of time machine.
By looking back at your journal you can see how much you’ve changed and grown. We may not realize how much we change on a daily basis, but give it enough time and you’ll see that we all change subtly.
As we move on with our lives, new problems present themselves that grab our attention. We grow and change from those experiences even without our knowledge.
Over time all of those little problems in our lives make an impact on how we think, react, and process the world around us. Writing in that moment creates that sort of opportunity for us to peer back and realize those changes.
But we can go a step farther with that growth. We can analyze it. For example, after a problem is solved, we could find other ways to solve that problem or found a better way to solve it.
We can also focus on our behaviour and ask ourselves if how we handled it was appropriate. From there we can ask ourselves why we behaved that way and tie it back to our VITALS in some way.
Use Prompts To Spark Writing
By extension of journaling, you can also consider using prompts. There are all kinds of writing prompts for self-understanding. You can find tonnes of lists of the stuff. But I found a list of writing prompts that I think will be more effective.
Posted on Psych Central, writing prompts to consider are:
- “I don’t want to write about.” This allows us to trick our subconscious to let go of protecting ourselves. Our brain is often in the way and protects ourselves from discussing topics that make us feel vulnerable.
- “Who am I now?” Similar to free-writing in a journal, this is a way to reflect on who we were and who we are now. Think back to the type of person you were as a teenager or young adult or even as a kid.
- “Things I love.” This is a gratitude sort of entry where you show appreciation for the things that make you happy. This includes expensive things or even desires you have yet to fulfil and are excited for.
- “Affirm how wonderful you are.” List off some qualities about yourself that make you who you are and are proud of talking about. No matter how old we are, there are times where we lose ourselves and need ways to pull ourselves back. When you learn about yourself, list the qualities that make you who you are.
- “Conversation with your 99-year-old self.” Whether you think you’ll live to that point or not doesn’t matter. For this prompt pretend you are conversing with your older self. Talking to a future self makes a significant impact as when we get older all of our problems shift. There are new obstacles and new wisdom that comes with it. Sure we may not know exactly what our older self will tell us, but it puts into perspective what sort of life do we want to experience and what truly matters to us.
Asking Deep And Meaningful Questions To Learn About Yourself
Questions and checking answers are one of the classic ways to learn about yourself. This is a method I used a lot as I had a tendency to overthink certain scenarios. This was a way for me to come back down to reality and even to organize my life better.
There are a tonne of articles that ask all kinds of different questions, but for a general list, I’d consider looking at this list of 29 questions. They cover a wide range of things.
To learn about yourself is to ask these questions and identify an answer. Check your emotions and see if that answer lines up with who you are as a person. This is important because we oftentimes answer in a way that places us in the best light possible.
We like to think of ourselves as great listeners, even though our attention span isn’t great.
When we get asked the tough questions we try to preserve ourselves by thinking this would be something we would like to do rather than have it be our actual identity.
These particular human behaviours is why I suggest asking these questions often. Not only that, but allow yourself to be open. You have nothing to prove to anyone about your identity other than yourself. So be honest. Even if your answers aren’t satisfactory, you can still work on it.
We are always work in processes.
This is different than taking risks but it’s something that I stand by too. That is self-experimentation.
No, it’s not about testing various chemicals on yourself or anything, but rather doing different things to figure out what you like. This can take shape in many different ways but the key is to try something out before jumping to conclusions.
It follows the same principles as what the saying goes, “Don’t knock it until you try it.”
This advice is helpful because it comes at a time where a lot of people don’t really know what they’re doing. I’m a prime example of this seeing as I studied to be an accountant only to realize that I have no passion or interest in the subject.
I devoted seven years of my life to something I realized I didn’t like. Even my decision to be an accountant was grounded on one thought I had:
“I don’t know what to do career-wise and accountants make lots of money.”
But on a smaller scale, there are other things that I’ve learned over the years which form my identity. For example, I’m not a huge fan of American football. I know this because I played football once and had no clue what was going on and found it utterly pointless and boring.
Though that could be said about any other sport, I know that I find baseball, hockey, and basketball to be exciting and interesting to watch.
My point is you won’t know whether you’ll like something or that you can do something until you try it out. So try something out, gauge how you feel and you may surprise yourself.
Learn About Yourself By Removing Expectations
While I don’t think we can remove all of our expectations, I believe that being aware of them and learning to handle them can be beneficial. This isn’t to say we ought to never have expectations. But I feel in larger decisions in our lives, we should strive to have an open mind.
Removing expectations allows us the opportunity to be looking at ourselves and can add a layer of authenticity to our lives. For example, for the longest time when I was preparing for moving to my current apartment, I purposely set the bar low.
In my head, I reminded myself that I would do what I have been doing and taking on a few other activities and passion projects. By keeping our expectations grounded in reality we can better achieve them.
This is drastically different from when we hear about network marketing pitches. Often the goal for those pitches is to build up a lot of hype. In those moments people expect to be set for life when they join those opportunities. Little do they know that they have to work really hard and for several years before reaching that point.
Remember that setting low expectations isn’t depressing. Sometimes it’s the only thing that’s grounded in reality. Because the reality is that we have to work hard to make even the smallest bit of progress.
Paying Attention To Yourself
Another way to learn about yourself to straight-up pay attention to yourself. What I mean by this stems from what an acquaintance of mine told me for when I meditate.
“When you think of something, let it out after every breath.”
What this means is taking time to learn about your thoughts and what’s the most concerning thing in your life. In meditation the idea is to let it go, however, I think by dissecting it more you can learn about yourself too.
Knowing what’s the most concerning part of your life can help you in setting new priorities, and goals. And these can spark entirely new journeys, passions, and experiences. Naturally, these can lead to more knowledge of yourself.
Ultimately, the inner voice we have is our own authentic self and the more we can step into that the more we learn about ourselves and who we want to be.
Recognize That You Don’t Need To Fit In
As much as we are connected with the world today the reality is there are only a small group of people we can truly count on. With this in mind, it’s fair to say we shouldn’t be striving to fit into society or try to make the most friends we can.
Instead, it’s important for us to have some close and some strong bonds with those particular people. And how you attract those people in your life boils down to being yourself and being as authentic as you can be.
Learn About Yourself Through A Personality Tests
The most popular personality test is the Meyers-Brigg Type Indicator. You can take it here if that interests you (I’m ESFP-A by the way, also known as the Entertainer). But the thing with these tests is that there are so many of these out there and do provide some ways of understanding more about yourself.
First of all the questions can provide insights into how you want to be living your life. In my case, a lot of it is empathizing with people and right now my life lacks a lot of that. Particularly with people to empathize with. This can tie into my overall desire to meet new people and form deeper bonds with other people.
Second, even if the results aren’t exact, you can still use all of the other methods to gauge whether that’s accurate or not. In the case of these tests, you normally get several paragraphs describing who you are and that can provide some depth. It’s also more fodder to determine whether those statements are actually true.
Personality tests I see as solid starting points as it’s a combination of asking deeper personality questions and what you value in your life. The results at the end can prompt more questions and more self-assessment which adds to understanding.
Learn About Yourself
The start of self-exploration starts with any kind of action. It’s the start of a desire to take control of your life these days. In times where so many of us are unsure of who we are and where we want to be, to take time to learn about yourself is crucial.
My suggestion is if you are jumping in to take a personality test. There are several others outside of Meyers-Brigg Type Indicator and they’re all good in their own way. Or maybe you feel more inclined towards the other methods.
Whatever the case is, this is your journey and it’s up to you to decide what direction to go in.
To your growth!
Eric S Burdon