Just when you think you have a pretty good handle on what makes you tick, you catch yourself doing something freakishly out of character?
Or is it? Maybe you don’t know yourself as well as you thought?
Maybe the weirder part of you is still a mystery to the part of you that runs the show.
In any case, your inner weirdo keeps showing up. And you don’t know whether to make peace with it or show it who’s boss.
(And what if the weirdo is actually the boss of you?)
So, what can you do to understand yourself better? Here are some thoughts.
14 Ways to Understand Yourself Better
1. Start a daily journaling habit.
Why not title your journal, “Learning how to understand myself”?
Because that’s what you’ll be doing every time you sit down to write in it.
Whether you spend five minutes, half an hour, or longer writing your daily journal entry, you’ll be providing a playground for all the messy-connected thoughts and ideas in your head.
And in giving those thoughts a place to play, you become more aware of them. In writing them down, you tell your brain to pay attention, and it does.
It takes those thoughts more seriously. And you find yourself admitting things you only half-consciously entertained up until then.
Keep this one private to make it a safe space to vent. Everyone needs that.
2. Start a daily meditation habit.
Spending at least ten minutes a day — five at the start and five at the close — in quiet meditation helps to both ground you and make you more receptive to your inner voice.
Meditation takes you outside the mundane and ego-centric sphere of your daily routines and habits of thinking.
It strengthens your connection to your heart — and thereby to your soul and to those connected with it.
Allow this practice to deepen your connection to your hidden self, and you’ll wonder how you ever went a day without it.
3. Spice up that bucket list.
If you have a bucket list, ask yourself what you could add to it that scares you — at least a little.
Do something that makes you feel way out of your element.
Do a public speaking gig. Or try karaoke — or stand-up comedy.
Put yourself out there and do something terrifying, even if someone is threatening to record the whole thing.
Especially if someone is threatening to record the whole thing!
4. Learn a new creative skill.
Maybe you’ve always been wondering why your mom liked knitting (or crocheting) so much.
Or maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to code, so you can design and create your own mobile apps.
Whatever creative project makes you feel more awake than you did five seconds ago, why not set aside some time each week and get acquainted with it?
Think of what you’ll want to make for your first big project, and start by learning what you need to learn to get closer to that.
Then go forth and create something you’ll be proud of.
5. Embrace a new challenge.
This is related to the bucket list thing but more spontaneous.
Someone invites you to give a speech, and rather than bolt out the back door, you clear your throat and walk up to the podium — terrified but also determined to embrace the challenge.
Or your boss has asked someone to step up and handle a project that will probably stretch you in every possible direction. And the only thing holding you back is your fear of failure.
It’s safer to stay in the comfort zone. But no one grows in there.
6. Have more meaningful conversations.
Make time for more frequent and meaningful conversations with the people in your life.
Pay attention to their body language and signs of emotional or mental distress and offer yourself as a sounding board.
And listen to understand — not to win an argument or to present yourself as the fixer of all problems.
Use this as an opportunity to understand the other person better.
You’ll likely come away with a deeper knowledge of yourself, too.
7. Take a personality test (like the MBTI).
If you’ve never taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), give it try.
It doesn’t take long, and it can reveal things about you that you might’ve noticed but haven’t really thought about.
Maybe you want some clues about what type of work would make you feel most alive and most fully yourself.
Those clues are just one of the perks of getting to know your personality traits.
You don’t have to agree with every detail in your type description, either. Let your gut guide you on this one.
8. Play conversation games.
The next time you meet up with friends or have a date with your significant other, try a conversation game.
They usually involve questions that you have to answer honestly and without second-guessing yourself.
You might be surprised by what comes out of your mouth.
And if it starts a lively conversation, use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and the other participant/s.
Again, the purpose is to grow in understanding — not to win at someone else’s expense.
9. Talk to a pro.
Sometimes, it helps to talk to someone whose job it is to understand you so they can help you make better choices.
Whether this person is a counselor, a mentor, a coach, or a spiritual director, make time to connect with them on a regular basis.
If this person says something to you about yourself that you don’t like or that you disagree with, keep calm, and look for signs in your life that contradict their assessment.
Offer those signs to help them understand what you’re thinking and to gain a fuller understanding of what they’ve noticed.
Real pros don’t assume they’ve got you “all figured out”; they keep digging. And their insights help you do the same.
10. Answer other people’s questions.
Sometimes, helping other people with their questions helps you understand your own beliefs more clearly. Quora is a great place to do this.
Some will disagree with you, too.
Whatever they write, keep your responses civil and remember that their reactions have more to do with their own experiences and attitudes than with you.
Write each answer as a personal and heartfelt message to the person who posted the question.
Be honest, keep it clear and focused (i.e., tangent-free), and be as helpful as possible.
11. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
At the risk of becoming someone else’s cautionary tale, don’t be afraid to show people more of who you are.
Not everyone will like you, and sooner or later, you’ll have to accept that.
But while some folks might judge you for what you reveal, some will feel less alone in the world because of it.
And if those who judge you seem the loudest, think of why they might be reacting so strongly. It’s not really about you.
In any case, it’ll help you get over the fear of making a fool of yourself.
Learn to celebrate every colossal embarrassment (as long as no one gets hurt).
12. Write a mission statement.
Start with a list of your core values (check out this post to help with that).
Then write the answer to the question, “What is the most important thing I want to accomplish with my life?”
Or write your own obituary, pretending to be a loved one remembering you as you were.
Imagine what you’d want people you care about to remember from their time with you.
Ask yourself what gets you up in the morning and what keeps you up at night.
And take the time to answer those questions honestly.
13. Create a vision board (real or virtual).
Vision boards are a fun project whether you’re using poster board or creating your own slideshow or YouTube video.
If it’s online, you can even share it with those who will appreciate it, and encourage them to make their own and share it with you.
Whatever your medium, it’s vitally important that you take time to visualize the life story you’re creating.
And in order for the visualization to be effective, you need to involve your emotions.
Imagine yourself living that life, going through the perfect day from start to finish.
And ask yourself, throughout the experience, what you’re feeling. Be honest and modify your vision as necessary.
This one definitely is about you.
14. Experiment with new spiritual tools.
If you’ve ever felt even the gentlest tug toward a particular spiritual practice, be honest with yourself and take the time to learn more about it.
You don’t have to jump in with both feet – especially if you grew up with taboos that have held you back – but you owe it to yourself to learn more.
In any case, the more you know about the practice, the more you’ll understand your own inner leanings.
And the better informed you’ll be when you decide to either dive in or walk away.
So, whether you’re considering rune stones, numerology, tarot cards, or something else, give it a fair trial and listen to your heart as you learn more about it.
Do you want to understand yourself better?
Which of these tips excite you the most?
What will you do today to begin understanding yourself better than you do now?
And what people come to mind as those who can best help you with this?
However you start, don’t let a day pass without doing something to grow your self-knowledge.
And do what you can to grow in understanding of your loved ones and of other people in your life.
Because we’re connected, any growth in your understanding of one person carries over into your relationships with everyone, including yourself.
May your understanding and your thoughtfulness influence everything you do today.
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