I don’t know who I am (a guide to self-discovery)

I don't know who I am

In this article, we will talk about what one should do when feeling that they don’t belong, that they don’t know who they are and what they should do. 

I don’t know who I am, what should I do?

You want to be yourself. You don’t want to pretend to be what you are not. You want to be honest with everyone you meet. You want to be you.

But here’s the problem – Do you really know who you are?

Every time I go to someone’s website or blog, the first thing I look at is the About Me section.

Here I find everything about that person because I like to know who I connect with.

I discover his qualifications, talents, hopes and aspirations. Maybe I can find out something about his family, about his successes and failures. It’s all there on the computer screen.

I don't know who I am (a guide to self-discovery)

But in real life, things don’t work out that way. We don’t have an About us page hanging around our necks.

When people first know us, they form an opinion about us starting from external details, details that, however, show only the “shell” of a person, not the pearl that is hidden inside.

The biggest problem is not this, but the fact that many people do not know how to answer the question “who am I?“.

They never asked themselves, they never turned off the light, trying to find an answer.

If you don’t have a clear answer either, let me help you find out.

For starters, look in the mirror.

  • What do you see?
  • What can you say about yourself based on your facial expression?
  • Do you like what you see? If not, why not?
  • What would you like to change to what you see? Is something possible or are you just unrealistic?

10 questions about yourself

What you see in the mirror is what all the people around you see. But are you this person in reality? Not necessarily.

To get closer to the truth, answer these 10 questions honestly.

  • What do you love?
  • What do you hate?
  • What do you wish for?
  • What would you do in  24 hours if it was your last day on earth?
  • What is your most burning ambition?
  • What makes you bored?
  • What are you hiding?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • Why are you proud of it?
  • What does a normal day look like for you?

Only after you answer as honestly as you can these questions, you will start to learn a little more about yourself and get out of the hiding place you have formed over time.

Because we all hide things about ourselves even to ourselves. We refuse to accept parts of us.

Some hide feelings, others emotions, others disappointments, others anger; some hide their hopes because they consider them impossible, others hide unhappiness or unfulfilled dreams or failures.

I don't know who I am (a guide to self-discovery)

If you want to know who you are, you have to get out of hiding; you have to start accepting who you really are and enjoy everything you are without shame.

You have to learn to say out loud what you want, even if it scares you; you have to learn to say “no” to things and people that consume your energy.

You must learn to give of your time, not just those around you.

You have to learn to let your inner child play, to let you feel those less pleasant emotions, to always try, at any cost, to win this popularity contest that you created in your mind.

You have to learn that it’s OK to be “selfish”, it’s OK not to embrace unacceptable behaviours from those around you.

Only after you do all this will you realize how rich you are emotionally and spiritually.

You will feel freer, lighter, happier and more relaxed as soon as you start being you.

I don't know who I am (a guide to self-discovery)

10 Things you need to give up to find out who you really are

“I don’t know who I am” – we all have said these sentences at least once in our lives.

We grow up, we think we know what we want, then we discover ourselves at a job we don’t really like, in a partnership that hurts us, surrounded by people who drain us emotionally, physically or financially. 

In order to find who you really are, what you really wish for, you have to give up some things, patterns and actions. 

Negative feelings

I don’t know how you imagine hell, but for me, hell doesn’t mean hot tar boilers – but hot minds with boiling feelings.

Fear, anger, despair, guilt, hatred, pride, indignation, regret, sadness, despair, boredom, jealousy are feelings that can make your life a real hell.

Just try to remember how you behaved and what you thought when one of these feelings took over you and you will understand why you need to give them up so you can find out who you really are.

The pressing need to feel that you are always doing something with your life and time

There is nothing wrong with valuing your time. It’s not bad to be ambitious. On the contrary, these are two very important qualities.

But when this need becomes an obsession it can prevent you from realizing who you are.

When you’re too busy thinking about who you want to be, you don’t have time to see who you really are.

Things done only out of habit

Habits are the basis of 90% of our achievements, but identifying with them is as wrong as identifying with the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the house you live in or the job you have.

You are not all this. You are not even the sum of your thoughts. You are much more than that and to see this you need to be able to “undress” from all this.

When you will no longer be ashamed to look naked… then you will discover who you really are!

Addiction to small transient pleasures

While writing these lines, I enjoy a very aromatic coffee. I don’t do this because I’m sleepy, but because it’s one of my pleasures.

It’s my little dose of fleeting happiness. And I admit she’s not alone.

We all have a habit of constantly looking for small pleasures like this, just like some drug addicts go after drugs.

At first glance, it seems that our addiction is not a harmful thing.

But like drugs, these little pleasures have the role of anaesthetizing and making us forget who we really are.

On the other hand, take away all the pleasures of the people and you have all the chances to wake up with a revolution.

I’m not saying give up all your little pleasures, not now and not all at once. But I ask you to be careful and not let them anaesthetize you.

Always be aware of who you are and do not accept to sell your life for a small handful.

Gradually give up the little pleasures if you feel that they are holding you in place and replace them with the things that make you feel that you really live. No matter what that means to you.

I don't know who I am (a guide to self-discovery)

The need for certainty

Needless to say, in life, you can only be sure of a few things (you are born, you live, you die…).

Who are you really? You will probably never be able to answer this question with certainty because we are constantly changing, but it’s okay.

To be a fulfilled person you do not need to give the best answers, but to ask the best questions. An imperfect answer to a perfect question is more than enough.

The habit of comparing yourself to others

It is easy to understand that when we compare ourselves with others we have two tendencies:

  • we like what we see in them so we start to transform to resemble them as much as possible;
  • we do not like what we see so we choose the opposite direction.

The problem is that neither is our way. It is as if we were at a crossroads of many roads and while we were trying to figure out which way to take, we noticed in front of us at the end of one of the roads a dangerous animal.

This will probably make us choose the path that takes us farthest from that animal, without actually knowing if that is the path we need to take or not.

And if instead of that animal there were a man who is dear to us, we would probably be tempted (again wrongly) to choose that path ourselves.

Do you want to see who you are and where you need to go? Ignore everything others do and say and let your instinct guide you because it knows better.

Uninterrupted connection with the external environment

Why do you think artists (writers, painters, composers, etc.) need solitude to create? Why do you think (true) monks live alone?

Am I wrong or did Jesus go into the desert before the construction of the most influential movement that ever existed began?

The habit of criticizing yourself

For an almost inexplicable reason, people (especially smart people) have a bad habit of self-criticism all the time.

It is well known that repeated statements become beliefs over time.

And then in order to see who we really are, we have to give up the criticism with which we have a habit of enveloping ourselves.

I don't know who I am (a guide to self-discovery)

Decisions made in the past

In “The Psychology of Persuasion” Robert Cialdini talks about the need for consistency.

This need often causes us to do stupid things just to be consistent with what we have thought, said or done in the past.

Moreover, even the perception of one’s own person can be affected by this need. Cialdini recounts how the Chinese determined American prisoners to become followers of communism.

At first, they were asked to do minor things such as write a list of reasons why “America” ​​is not the perfect list to be read on the radio stations) or to publicly acknowledge that crime in China is lower than in the US and that from this point of view communism is better than democracy.

Slowly, feeling the need to justify to others and even to themselves why they said these things, the prisoners began to believe that they were followers of communism.

Something they would never have thought of normally.

The thought patterns that brought you here

Our minds are full of highways that help us move faster from information to decision.

These highways have several names, one of the most common being the name “thought patterns”.

If you want to see your true beauty, give up from time to time the highways and the usual tourist routes and try to go on paths or unmarked routes.

Bonus: The 5-step exercise

1. Write down 5 things you judge most about yourself. Then try to see if your judgments are real, what they are based on, and where they come from.

2. Answer the question “Who am I?” For 10 days in a row at the same time. You can answer what you want and how you feel to answer at that moment.

3. Make a list and write down the top 10 things you love to do.

4. Make a list of 10 things you like about yourself.

5. Imagine you are 99 years old and you are talking to who you are now. You, the one now receive some of your wisdom acquired up to the age of 99. Write on a list what advice you receive from you, the 99-year-old!

I don't know who I am (a guide to self-discovery)

Conclusions

I don’t know who I am – is a statement familiar to many of us.

Remember that if you want to know who you are, you have to get out of hiding; you have to start accepting who you really are and enjoy everything you are without shame.

You have to learn to say out loud what you want, even if it scares you; you have to learn to say “no” to things and people that consume your energy.

You must learn to give of your time, not just those around you.

You have to learn to let your inner child play, to let you feel those less pleasant emotions, to always try, at any cost, to win this popularity contest that you created in your mind.

You have to learn that it’s OK to be “selfish”, it’s OK not to embrace unacceptable behaviours from those around you.

If you have questions, comments or recommendations, please feel free to leave a comment below. 

FAQ about I don’t know who I am

What to do if I don’t know who I am?

If you don’t know who you are, be patient with yourself.

It is handy to write in journal things that you like about yourself, things that you see when you look in the mirror, what others say about you – then reflect about all the information you have gathered.

Choose what still represents you, and choose what you want to change about yourself. 

Is it normal to not know who you are?

It is okay to not know who you are, as we humans are constantly growing, evolving, and as every experience changes and shapes us.

Focus on finding what qualities you have and how they helped you in time. 

How do I find out who I truly am?

To find out who you truly are, start by writing down your qualities and abilities, your hobbies, what people say about you, what you like, what you could improve, what makes you smile, what makes you sad. 

What to do when you don’t know yourself?

When you don’t know yourself, you should make a priority in spending more time by yourself, doing things that you like, discovering new hobbies and skills.

Also, it is a good idea to ask for feedback, to practise more self-care, to spend more time alone. 

Recommendations

Who Am I? by The School of Life 

Who Am I?: A little book about finding yourself…with magic ingredients, by Liz Bell 

Choose to Change: It’s your life: 25 steps to self-discovery and peace of mind, by Jacqui Penn 

Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love Is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness by Vex King 

References

Baumeister, R. F., Tice, D. M., & Hutton, D. G. (1989). Self-presentational motivation and personality differences in self-esteem. Journal of Personality, 57, 547–579.

Campbell, J. D., Trapnell, P. D., Katz, I. M., & Lavallee, L. F. (1992). Personality and self- knowledge: Development of the self-concept confusion scale and examination of its personality correlates. Unpublished manuscript. University of British Columbia, Canada.

JACQUELYNNE ECCLES (2009) Who Am I and What Am I Going to Do With My Life? Personal and Collective Identities as Motivators of Action, Educational Psychologist, 44:2, 78-89,

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini

I don't know who I am (a guide to self-discovery)

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.