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Being the Expert on Yourself

Ideas on Accessing Inner Knowledge

You may have received so much advice and been told so many things about yourself over the years that you have no idea how to access your inner knowledge. While it takes time and patience, you can learn to improve your ability to listen to yourself and to determine what is best and right for you. Some of the following ideas may be helpful to you. As you work on this, you will discover other ways that help you to know yourself and what you need.

  1. When another person suggests that you do something or says something about you, make sure it feels right to you before acting on it. You may ask yourself, “Is it a ‘bing’ (right) or is it a ‘thud’ (wrong)?” If it involves action, you could write the options on sheets of paper. Shuffle them. Then choose a sheet of paper. By noticing your emotions about what is written on the paper, you will know whether or not it is the right answer for you.
  2. Educate yourself so that you know all there is to know about the issue or issues at hand. As you learn, make sure what you are learning feels right to you. Remember, just because it is in a book by a prestigious author or on an Internet site does not mean it is right, or that it is right for you. For instance, many people who have a psychiatric diagnosis are given erroneous information like: you will never get well, you can never have children, you can never be in an intimate relationship, you can never go to college, or you can never have the career of your choice. Education will help you conduct your own assessment of each issue. You may decide that you don’t even agree with the diagnosis or that anyone has the right to diagnose you with anything. You may prefer to think about your symptoms as feelings rather than a diagnosis.
  3. Discuss the issue in-depth with a person or people you trust, even an “expert” like a doctor or a counselor. Then decide for yourself how you feel about the input you received and what action you are going to take.
  4. Before making a major decision about anything, decide to wait a specified amount of time—for instance three days (or longer for more important decisions). Often, after reflection, you will change your mind. My mother once jotted down a note that said, “If you haven’t changed your mind lately, maybe you don’t have one.”
  5. Consider journaling. The process of writing can be helpful for gaining understanding of how you really feel about something. Don’t worry about penmanship or grammar. Write anything you think or feel; it doesn’t have to be right. It can be pure fantasy. It can be thoughts, feelings, expressions of emotions, ideas, plans—anything you want. You never have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to. Others should respect the privacy of your writings. Reread your writings when you feel like it.
  6. Think about peer counseling. Ask a friend that you trust to peer counsel with you. Decide how much time you can spend (most people do it for one hour, but it could be more or less time), divide the time in half, and each of you spend your half of the time talking, laughing, crying, ranting, raving—anything that feels right to you—while the other person listens closely without interrupting you.

As you work on accessing the inner knowledge that you possess, and taking action based on what you know about and want for yourself, you may find, as I have, that the quality of your life improves and that your life becomes richer than you could have ever imagined.

Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D. is an author, educator and mental health recovery advocate, as well as the developer of WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). To learn more about her books, such as the popular The Depression Workbook and Wellness Recovery Action Plan, her other writings, and WRAP, please visit her website, Mental Health Recovery and WRAP. Reprinted here with permission.

Being the Expert on Yourself

Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Copeland, M. (2020). Being the Expert on Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.