Developmentally, we wrestle with “finding ourselves” as teens and young adults. Then we often revisit these questions in middle age. It’s both normal and essential to seek self-understanding. In order to accept ourselves and establish a sense of belonging, we need to understand who we are. A strong sense of self helps us navigate life and brings meaning to our experiences. Without it, we feel “lost.”
Why do we experience a loss of identity?
- We put everyone else’s needs before our own. When we focus on others and neglect ourselves, we fail to recognize and value ourselves and our needs. We minimize who we are and what we need.
- We’re disconnected from our thoughts and feelings. We commonly keep ourselves so distracted and numb with alcohol, food, and electronics that we miss important information about who we are. How often do you reach for your phone or a snack whenever you get even slightly uncomfortable? These things keep us from knowing ourselves because we don’t allow ourselves to be curious and ask ourselves how we’re really feeling.
- We experience life transitions and changes in our roles. Experience like a divorce, retirement, job loss, death of a loved one, or other traumatic events can also result in losing our sense of self, especially the parts associated with our roles.
- We feel ashamed and unworthy, and consequently bury parts of ourselves. We were told that we’re bad, strange, ugly, stupid, or unworthy. We were criticized or teased. Maybe you loved to play chess as a kid, but were told that it’s not cool to join the chess club. So you quit. Or perhaps you were shamed for your sexual orientation and tried to deny it. We’re told we have to fit a certain mold if we’re to fit in. So, we squish our square peg selves into round holes and try to be something we’re not. After years of doing this, we lose track of who we really are.
I’ve created some questions and journaling prompts that will help you rediscover yourself.
Questions to help you know yourself better:
- What are my strengths?
- What are my short-term goals? Long-term goals?
- Who matters most to me? Who are my support people?
- What am I ashamed of?
- What do I like to do for fun?
- What new activities am I interested in or willing to try?
- What am I worried about?
- What are my values? What do I believe in? (consider politics, religion, social issues)
- If I could have one wish, it would be ___________
- Where do I feel safest?
- What or who gives me comfort?
- If I wasn’t afraid, I would ___________
- What is my proudest accomplishment?
- What is my biggest failure?
- Am I a night owl or an early bird? How can I arrange my life to better suit this part of my nature?
- What do I like about my job? What do I dislike?
- What does my inner critic tell me?
- What do I do to show myself self-compassion and self-care?
- Am I an introvert or an extrovert? Am I energized being around others or being by myself?
- What am I passionate about?
- What is my happiest memory?
- What do my dreams tell me?
- What is my favorite book? Movie? Band? Food? Color? Animal?
- What am I grateful for?
- When I’m feeling down I like to ___________________
- I know I’m stressed when I ______________________
I’ve given you a lot of questions. I suggest answering only one or two per day so you can explore them in depth. Work at your own pace. Perhaps one per week is more realistic for you. There is no judgment and this isn’t a race. Rediscovering yourself is a process. It will take thinking, talking, writing, and doing.