Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” But how many of us really take the time to reflect on our deepest thoughts, feelings, and experiences to get a good sense of who we are? Nowadays, life moves so fast it sometimes feels like we don’t even have time to breathe, much less introspect and process our feelings.
But getting to know yourself and learning more about who you are as a person can actually do a lot to make us happier, resolve our inner conflicts, improve our relationships with others, and most of all, improve our relationship with ourselves. With that said, here are 8 of the most important things you should know about yourself:
1. What Makes You Happy
It goes without saying that one of the most rewarding things you can learn about yourself is what makes you happy, but most of us rarely ever take the time to reflect on it And although asking yourself this can seem like such a loaded question, being honest about what you are most passionate about and who you enjoy spending time with is crucial to finding your purpose in life and nurturing your mental and emotional well-being. Finding your happiness – even if it’s just in the little, everyday things – can do so much to improve the quality of your life and make you realize what you should and shouldn’t prioritize (Yiengprugsawan, Somboonsook, Seubsman, & Sleigh, 2012).
2. Your Core Values
Do you think honesty matters more than sensitivity? What about hard work versus resourcefulness? Or ambition versus loyalty? Would you prefer if people were more open-minded or traditional? What about community versus self-interest? Or freedom versus loyalty? Knowing what ideas, virtues, and principles you value the most is crucial not only to understanding more about who you are as a person, but also what you want from your relationships.Our core values are the ideals we must always uphold and they give our life meaning and direction because they serve as the lens with which we reflect on, especially in difficult situations.
3. How You Respond to Stress
Are you calm under pressure, or panicky and anxious? Do you usually run away from conflict or face it head-on? Knowing your go-to stress response is key to succeeding in difficult and demanding situations. Responding to stress in an unhealthy way – like denying all your problems, or procrastinating until the very last minute – holds you back from achieving your goals by trapping you in a dysfunctional pattern of behavior. But by being more aware of how you react in stressful situations, you are better able to manage your anxiety, avoid the pitfalls of these unhealthy coping mechanisms, and stay resilient even amidst emotional distress (Bullis, Bøe, Asnaani, & Hofmann, 2014).
4. Your Physical Health
It’s been said time and time again that maintaining our mental health is a crucial part of keeping ourselves physically healthy, but the inverse is also true. When we take care of our bodies, we make it easier for ourselves to manage stress and fight against the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue. So it’s important that we know what illnesses and medical conditions we may have and treat them as soon as possible to avoid further complications. Hyperthyroidism, for example, when left untreated can actually lead us to developing depression (Rippentrop, Altmaier, Chen, Found, & Keffala, 2005). So the more you know about your physical health, the better off you’ll be mentally and emotionally.
5. Your Personality Type
Are you an introvert or an extravert? What’s your MBTI type? Enneagram type? How do you rank in terms of the Big Five Personality Factors? Now, most people wouldn’t even begin to know how to answer these questions. But taking a personality test is actually one of the easiest and most insightful ways you can get to know yourself better. Knowing your personality type can give you a deeper understanding of all the things that make you who you are and why you are the way you are (Hogan, 1991). It’s a simple, fun, and interesting way to learn new things about yourself.
6. Your Strengths
Aside from our personality, knowing our talents, strengths, and positive qualities is another important aspect of ourselves we should all take the time to explore. Because the sooner you learn what you excel at, the sooner you can start honing these skills and realizing your full potential. Are you good at cooking or dancing? Do you have a nice singing voice or a talent for writing? Do you easily finish puzzles and riddles, or are you more interested in debate and public speaking? Are you a people person? A natural-born leader? A gifted athlete? The truth is, until you put yourself out there and give it a try, you’ll never know.
7. Your Weaknesses
Just as it’s important to know where our strengths lie, it’s also important for us to be aware of our own faults, flaws, and limitations. Of course, even though we all concede that no one is perfect, it’s not always easy to admit to ourselves what our weaknesses are. But having some insight into the things we struggle with and why can give us a clearer understanding of all the ways we are holding ourselves back. Are you trying to force yourself to be good at something you don’t even enjoy? Or pursue a career that doesn’t suit your interests and skill sets? Once you know all your weaknesses, you can either work to overcome them or learn to work around them. Either way, it’s a good step to take towards personal growth and self-improvement.
8. Your Ideal Self
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, if there’s one thing about yourself you should always keep in mind, it’s who you want to be in the future. Who are the people you look up to and why? What is it about them that you admire? And what is it you see in yourself that you feel is worth nurturing? Get in the habit of asking yourself things like, “What does this choice/action say about me and is it in line with my best self?” Don’t ever lose sight of what kind of person you are striving to be and stay true to your own values, passions, and goals no matter what.
So, how well do you know yourself? Have you clarified what your core values are? Or realized what makes you happy? Do you know what your strengths and weaknesses are? Or what kind of personality you have? The pursuit of self-knowledge doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes a lot of reflection, honesty, courage, and deep thought before you can begin to uncover all the different layers and aspects of who you are as a person. But rest assured, it will be worth it in the end, because only self-knowledge can pave the way for self-love, acceptance, self-confidence, and personal growth.
- Yiengprugsawan, V., Somboonsook, B., Seubsman, S. A., & Sleigh, A. C. (2012). Happiness, mental health, and socio-demographic associations among a national cohort of Thai adults. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(6), 1019-1029.
- Bullis, J. R., Bøe, H. J., Asnaani, A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2014). The benefits of being mindful: Trait mindfulness predicts less stress reactivity to suppression. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 45(1), 57-66.
- Rippentrop, A. E., Altmaier, E. M., Chen, J. J., Found, E. M., & Keffala, V. J. (2005). The relationship between religion/spirituality and physical health, mental health, and pain in a chronic pain population. Pain, 116(3), 311-321.
- Hogan, R. T. (1991). Personality and personality measurement.