Understanding yourself is a life-long process and is quite difficult to do.
Particularly when we are young, there often is a lot difficulty in understanding why you react to situations or relationships in certain ways. You need time to develop genuine self-awareness.
What does it mean to understand yourself?
Understanding yourself means viewing yourself from new perspectives, taking on new challenges, and becoming more aware of your own feelings and thoughts. Through being more aware of your wants and needs, you will begin to have a more harmonious relationship with yourself, and build a life that fits you who are.
Why do you always pull away from a relationship when it starts to get serious?
Why do you feel apathetic towards sports and exercise?
Why do you feel like college is a waste of time?
These are questions that could be answered with a deeper understanding of ourselves. Additionally, the better we understand ourselves, the more skillfully we can navigate and chart our lives.
Knowledge of just how much social interaction keeps you happy and refreshed is needed to plan out your week. Understanding what type of work makes you fulfilled is essential to planning a career path. Being mindful of what situations cause you to react defensively is critical to avoid hurtful situations in your relationships.
Simply put, you need to understand yourself to live a more fulfilling life and have healthier relationships.
Why You Need to Understand Yourself
You need to understand yourself because it will help you live a more harmonious life. When you understand your own needs and wants, you can better make a life you enjoy living. When you understand your own boundaries and insecurities, you can better communicate in your relationships. Yet, understanding yourself is quite difficult to do.
A lack of self-awareness can make life difficult for you and those around you.
Being unaware of your ego’s need for self-approval can lead you to giving 110%, yet feeling frustrated when other people don’t thank or praise you.
Being unaware of situations that trigger your insecurities can cause you to suddenly become distrustful and uncomfortable with your partner or friends.
To navigate your relationships securely and in a healthy way, you need to understand yourself. No one is perfect and everyone has anxiety or negative emotions. Understanding what triggers those feelings and if it is a reasonable response or not is critical.
If you can’t take a step back and understand that you’re feeling hurt and reacting to a feeling, then your relationships will suffer. In fact, it will be difficult to form strong, mature relationships.
We already know that relationships and emotional bonds are critical to our health and wellness so we don’t want to endanger those relationships in anyway.
Beyond your relationships, understanding yourself is needed to navigate life’s difficult questions.
You need to make money to live and need to choose a career.
Some careers are fulfilling, but don’t pay much and offer little in the way of financial security. For some people, this lifestyle and career choice is liberating. For others, it’s a personal hell. What type of person are you?
You will also need to choose where to live, who to keep as friends, what to do with your free time, and who to have as a romantic partner. This is just a few of the endless list of choices we make during the course of our lives.
Yet, for many people these choices are mindless or whimsical at best.
There is very little deliberate and conscious living in this world. Some amazing people are out there trying their best, but most people take the path of least resistance and consequently, never discover themselves.
Your relationship with yourself is the only guaranteed relationship you will have. Even if you have lots of family and friends, in the quiet in-between moments, you will be alone with yourself.
Make sure this relationship is a good one. Take the time to explore who you are and understand yourself more deeply.
Ways to Understand Yourself
The best ways to understand yourself are to push your boundaries, get new perspectives, and to look inward. The best ways to do this are to try a new hobby, travel, meditate, and spend time alone.
Take Up a New Hobby
Understanding yourself means viewing yourself from new perspectives, taking on new challenges, and becoming more aware of your own feelings and thoughts.
If you can’t up and travel to an exotic locale, a great way to begin to understand yourself better is to take up a new hobby. If you are a primarily an artistic person, maybe try a social sport. If you are a predominantly sporty person, try an art or dance class. If you love anime and Dungeons and Dragons, then maybe try learning self defense.
The point being that the more the hobby pushes your comfort zone and goes beyond who you think you are the better. Inside each of us is an artist, an athlete, a geek, a naturalist, and a scientist. We often restrict ourselves arbitrarily based on who we think we are. All the while, we simply haven’t developed the other aspect of ourselves.
The athlete doesn’t believe he can paint. The starving artist thinks sports are for empty-headed fools. The anime nerd believes that working out would make him vain. These are immature and undeveloped viewpoints.
Personally, I was always extremely artistically bent. I wanted to be a poet and a painter. I tried creating t-shirt prints, playing music, and everything creative under the sun. Yet, in college I didn’t choose to study art.
I ended choosing to study Physics and I hated it.
Yet, the more I developed that analytical and curious aspect of myself, the more I enjoyed the subject. I ended up truly loving research and working with coding and technology. By the end of my undergrad and then masters degree, I loved the skills and perspectives I developed.
It wasn’t that I was an artist and not a scientist. I simply hadn’t taken the time to develop that aspect of myself yet.
The same goes for sports. I never played team sports, even as a kid. I was too busy reading books, playing videogames, and dreaming about being a famous poet.
Move over Patty Smith.
Yet, I started playing sports by joining an ultimate frisbee team and learned I loved to compete. In fact, I was naturally athletic. I had never considered myself a sports person before. I have now played ultimate frisbee, soccer, and baseball in different social sports leagues.
I learned that I am more than who I think I am and gained confidence along the way.
For most people, travel is a luxury.
So if you are able to travel, take advantage of the opportunity.
There is really nothing quite like travel to change your perspective and break you out of your habits. We get stuck in our habits and lose perspective on how life can be lived. We get so caught up in the value system of our culture that we lose perspective on how localized that value system is.
We worry about being successful compared to our peers, but don’t realize how wealthy and rich our lives truly are. Someone in India might never live alone and make more than $30,000 in their lifetime. Yet, we worry about how poor our yearly $30,000 salary makes us compared to our friend.
Travel is an amazing and healthy way to challenge your internalized value system and learn about different perspectives. In Korea, and Asian cultures uniformity and family life is highly valued and many people live at home into their 30’s.
Yet, in Europe and North America, individuality and independence is much more valued. In America, living at home at 30 years old is often viewed negatively and can make someone seem unattractive. Yet, in South Korea that is completely normal and the person won’t have any issues dating or anything else.
Additionally you will have a chance to learn another language which is scientifically proven to change your patterns of thought. This will also bring to a deeper understanding of yourself.
So go ahead and book that flight. Even if you are driving for a solo weekend trip the next city over, travel can help your perspective and understanding of yourself in many ways.
Meditation is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It is more than just sitting and doing nothing. It is training your mind to be aware of the thoughts, feelings, and reactions that your body and mind have.
The more often you meditate, the better you are at recognizing things like
“I’m thinking a lot about work today.”
“I started to imagine defensive conversations with me and my boss after I received that email.”
“I am feeling insecure and anxious right now.”
These may seem like simple realizations, yet we get caught up in our thoughts so often that we lose sight of the simple things. We often have no context for our own thoughts.
Being more aware of what you’re thinking and observing a thought gives you a better understanding of what triggers certain feelings and reactions in you.
It also allows you respond instead of react. This is an amazing skill to have for your relationships and life in general.
Spend Time Alone
This one is a scary for a lot of people. If we spend too much time alone, then you might start to feel isolated and as if you have no friends. Your negative thoughts start to come out more.
Yet, spending time alone can be incredibly freeing and is necessary to cultivate a better relationship with yourself.
When it is only you making plans and only you to rely on, hidden parts of yourself begin to come forth.
You might discover that you are extremely resourceful in a tricky situation. You might learn that you are comfortable meeting strangers on a night out alone.
You also will have time to ruminate and think about the questions in your life that aren’t so easy to answer. You can spend a few days away from home to consider if a career change is what you truly want to do. Or you might take the time to contemplate whether your current weekend habits are helping you grow as a person.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, you begin to get comfortable going it alone. Often in our lives our friends and family are too busy or cannot join us on a vacation, to a concert, or while starting a new business. We will have to face these situations alone. We will have to trust ourselves to not get overwhelmed and manipulated.
How can you trust yourself to be brave and capable while on your own?
You need to build up your self-reliance by spending time alone.
So don’t be afraid. I truly think it is important to develop the skill of being alone. Your other relationships will also benefit from the emotional growth, introspection, and independence that you gain from spending more time alone.
You will begin to understand how you want to spend the precious time you do have.
Pitfalls to Look Out For
Neglecting Your Relationships
It’s natural to need some space from time to time and truly understanding yourself requires some time alone.
Though, sometimes this can cause rifts in our relationships particularly with a significant other. The way to avoid this is to communicate clearly and actively.
If you suddenly go unresponsive to your friends, family, and significant other then you are going to hurt some feelings. Don’t do this. Don’t cause stress for the people in you life.
Simply share that you need some space to try and understand yourself a little better. You can schedule a day alone on the weekend for yourself and still spend some quality time with your partner on Friday night. Just communicate and compromise so that you keep healthy relationships during this often tumultuous process.
Making Rash Decisions
Once you take the time to reflect and understand yourself and your situation better, you might realize that something is no longer a job fit for you. This could be your friends, your job, or even your romantic partner.
Realizing you need a change is one thing. Making the change in a logical and reasonable way is another. Sometimes we can’t just up and quit our job. We need to spend time finding another position first.
Often the changes we need to make take some planning and patience. So make sure, you don’t try and change your life in a day. It will take time.
Understanding yourself comes with many benefits and can truly improve your life and relationships.
The best ways to go about learning more about yourself is to try a new hobby, travel, meditate, and spend some time alone.
Be careful to not neglect your relationships during this process and try not to make any rash decisions.
But, most importantly, enjoy learning about yourself! The process of self-discovery is unique for each person and can be incredibly rich and enjoyable. Further, it truly is a life-long process. We are constantly growing and changing roles as we age so the need to step back to understand yourself will likely happen many times in your life.
Just be patient and take that first inquisitive step into unknown 😊
Check out other emotional growth guides from Becoming a Person.