Last month we explored various questions to help you get to know yourself better. Self-discovery is powerful.
“[It] is at the core of living a joyful, fully self-expressed life,” said Mara Glatzel, MSW, an intuitive life and business coach who helps women create lives brimming with ease, self-care and permission.
“It is impossible to cultivate a daily life that makes you feel really good if you don’t even (really) know who you are — or what you like.” She likened it to creating the perfect date for a total stranger.
Knowing yourself makes it easier to say no — and “mean it” — and to say yes to the things that really matter to you, said Natasha Lindor, a coach who helps professionals have a successful career while working less and living more.
It also helps us make our “unconscious beliefs conscious,” said Aaron Karmin, MA, LCPC, a psychotherapist and Psych Central blogger.
“There is nothing unusual about the process of transferring a whole constellation of feelings and beliefs from the past to a similar circumstance in the present.” When we know ourselves, we can process these feelings and solve our past problems so they don’t affect our lives today.
As such, here’s a list of questions to help you spark self-discovery.
What do I need from myself right now?
Glatzel contemplates this question often, particularly when she gets up and is getting ready for her day. “This question allows us to not only know that it is utterly, beautifully OK to have needs, but also that it is our responsibility to meet them. Asking this question sets you up for a day that is grounded in who you are and what you are capable.”
How do I want to feel?
“When you focus on how you want to feel — [such as balanced or fulfilled] — you open yourself up to people, experiences and situations to help you experience those feelings,” said Lindor, founder of The AND Factor. It also “makes the journey a lot more fun and fulfilling.”
Why do I want this?
It’s important to know your motivations behind your desires. According to Lindor, there are two types of motivation. One type is fear-based, which “causes you to take action by avoiding something” (i.e., “move-away from”). The second type is passion-based, the motivation to move toward.
What might stop me from getting this?
“Knowing what can stop you from getting what you want empowers you to create a plan to tackle anything that comes up,” Lindor said. This might be an external issue, such as money or knowledge, or it might be an internal one, such as confidence or fear, she said.
How do I define success?
“Everyone has a very different definition of success,” said Karmin, who practices at Urban Balance, which provides counseling services in the Chicago area. When you’re considering your personal definition, focus on your priorities — what pleases you and makes you fulfilled — and then make decisions based on these priorities, he said.
What do I see when I look in the mirror?
Your self-perception shapes your life. How you see yourself affects how you relate to others (e.g. letting others walk all over you) and the decisions you make (e.g. picking a career path that you don’t even like because others say that’s what you should do).
Asking this question, Karmin said, helps us find self-acceptance and not take others’ opinions so personally.
“In reality, no one can take away your self-respect, but you … Self-respect is accepting that you are a worthwhile human being who is unconditionally lovable despite what others say or how you look.”
He also emphasized that other people are dealing with and expressing their own feelings and beliefs. Their opinions are not superior. Plus, “Opinions change, sometimes from minute to minute, day to day.”
What is the next best choice I can make?
When we’re making big decisions, we tend to ignore the present moment. It’s as though we look light years into our future. By asking this question, “we allow ourselves to see that our only task is to make the next best choice possible and to know that, when we do that, we are able to be active participants in our lives,” Glatzel said.
What are my core values?
“Consciously or not, we’re all living by a set of values,” Lindor said. However, these values may not be your own. Many people, she said, live by external values — values created by their parents, community or media.
“Once you figure out what’s really important to you today, you can live a powerful life where you have everything you want with ease.”
When I am struggling, what do I do? What do I tell myself? What do I tell others?
“We learn from adversity and grow in ways we never thought we could,” Karmin said. He quoted Frederick Douglass who said, “Without struggle there is no progress.”
So it’s important to explore how you cope with struggle and adversity. It’s also important to better understand the stories we spin about our struggles. Again, these stories shape our lives and our resilience (e.g. believing you can overcome a tough situation).
What might make this situation even better?
“This question helps us to make each and every situation or circumstance more our own, so that we are able to become more fully expressed in each moment,” Glatzel said. In other words, you can explore what you need to make a situation more comfortable for you (i.e., “more you”), she said.
What are my regrets and mistakes?
“You, like all humans, have limitations and make mistakes,” Karmin said. “Coming to accept both your assets and struggles is a key to open the door of self-discovery.”
If I had all the self-confidence, time, talent and money to do anything I wanted to do, what would I want to achieve?
“The only limits you have are the ones you create for yourself, so by temporarily eliminating barriers like time, money, talent, etc. you give yourself permission to know what you really want,” Lindor said.
Again, self-discovery is key to a satisfying, fulfilling life. The above questions can get you started.
* To get to know yourself better, Lindor created this page for Psych Central readers.