Changing your life in any way, large or small, requires a journey of self-understanding.
However, when we start down the road of self-understanding, most of us take a slight detour to explore our self-concept and the “who am I” question rather than fully grasping what motivates us. That’s okay. Those two parts of ourselves are very closely linked.
Yet without self-understanding, you’ll likely find yourself floundering, seeking purpose. The reason? When it comes to motivation and resiliency, a lack of self-understanding means that no matter who you perceive yourself to be, life will seem empty if you don’t know why you do what you do.
Without self-understanding, you may feel adrift, unsure of why you behave in a certain manner or make various choices. Or it may seem that you often get in your own way. You may consistently work without concrete goals or achievements in mind. You may fret and worry about things you’ll never control or affect in a significant way.
Do you ever lose time and key relationships because you can’t seem to tune in to the deeper parts of your own mind and pursue what you want or need?
Self-understanding matters. So, what can you do to improve knowledge of yourself in this way and gain as much insight as possible? Let’s see:
Consider these 6 Steps to Increase Self-Understanding
1. Allow an Objective Helper to Provide Perspective
A trusted, experienced therapist is a particularly helpful ally on your path toward increased self-understanding.
Sometimes we simply need another voice to call attention to the things our minds, emotions, even our traumas won’t let us see clearly. People often react to people or situations with tension in their bodies or a particular tone of voice unconsciously. In fact, you may have no idea what your reactions are, let alone why you react to things a certain way without an outside perspective. A therapist can guide you through your behavior and choices, helping you to dig deeper into your thoughts. Sharing ideas about yourself and past experiences in a safe space is an excellent first step toward personal growth.
2. Notice and Accept Yourself “As is”
It is difficult to understand yourself if you refuse to be still and present. Try to slow down. Do your best not to hide or avoid your feelings in difficult moments. Honesty with yourself is crucial for insight. What emotions do you experience most? Acknowledge and name them without judgment. It’s okay to notice what’s happening in your body.
How do you react when you’re alone? In a crowd? When you’re under stress? Try to let your feelings come and go. Understand your natural responses without changing them. Be where you are.
3. Examine your Habits
What does your comfort zone tell you? The things we do habitually speak to more than convenience. Change is risky and, at least, initially uncomfortable. If you heavily identify yourself by the things you always do, places you always go, or the way things must always be to make life work, your habits deserve some attention. What is it about your habits that mean so much? Are you willing to shift one or two for the sake of something new? Can you pinpoint when a healthy habit became something less helpful or productive?
We like things to be somewhat routine. Routines do add security to our lives. However, deep-seated habitual behavior is rooted somewhere. Examine your daily activities and add in a few new activities over time. Discovery in this area could be mentally and emotionally freeing.
4. Consider Your Version of Success
In what ways do you measure achievement and high regard? Who are your heroes? Who were your role models as a child? Those figures are often telling as we pursue our goals. Are you chasing a dream now? Who influenced it? Have you given up a dream? What happened? Are you able to relax and enjoy life without comparing your life to others?
Asking yourself questions like these can open your eyes to why you do or don’t commit to your own goals now.
5. Ask Yourself Why (If) You’re Grateful
Taking time to express gratitude on a regular basis can be a source of internal revelation. Especially if you struggle to find things to be thankful for or simply have a difficult time pinning down anything specific. Gratitude and generosity have been linked by researchers to happiness and contentment. Recognition of what brings you joy is a crucial part of understanding yourself and connecting with other people in genuine, intimate ways.
6. Reflect on the Things You Can’t Let Go
In other words, consider forgiveness. When you can’t release past hurts or grievances, your life can become an ongoing stream of reaction to that betrayal or mistake. Whether you need to forgive another person, a circumstance created by a group, or yourself for a serious misstep, take measures to release yourself from the burden of unforgiveness. When you forgive you may find that you free your mind. Try to see a bigger picture through forgiveness. You may become more compassionate and allow yourself to grow and change in ways you never knew you could.
Take the first step…
If you struggle with your sense of self, and why you are the way you are, I would like to help you develop more self-awareness and understanding.
Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT