Finding yourself in an unsatisfying career, a toxic relationship, or just an all-around slump… so often it has to do with not knowing who truly you are. In the past, I struggled with depression before I learned what I need to be happy. Now I know myself so much better, and I'm happier than ever before!
Learning about yourself and what's important to you can help you make better life decisions, be more confident, and enjoy each day to its fullest. No one can do it for you; self-discovery is a journey you make alone. Luckily, there are so many resources out there to help you find your way. Here are some strategies that worked for me!
Sometimes, my emotions feel like a big, tangled ball of yarn in my head. I can't make any sense of them until I slowly unravel what I'm feeling into sentences on a page. In fact, sometimes I'm completely surprised by what I find myself writing.
In our chaotic day-to-day life, our inner monologue is so often crowded out by other stimuli. Allow yourself to have that dialogue. Listen to yourself, and observe your feelings from the outside. We aren't all natural writers, but even if it's not something you're immediately attracted to, I really encourage you to give journaling a try. You can start by just making lists, or jotting down a single sentence. It all helps you understand what's going on inside your head a little better.
Some prompts to get you started:
"10 adjectives to describe me are..."
"I feel most energized when..."
"I don't want to write about..."
"I really wish others knew this about me..."
Write a list of things you love. Write about the people who are most important to you, and why. Write a list of your top priorities. Write the words you need to hear. Write about how you can be kinder to yourself. Or just write about whatever – what you did that day, who you spoke to, an inspiring conversation you had, a source of pain you felt, a negative feeling you want to banish. Trust me – you'll be glad you did.
Learn What Excites You
In the notebook I carry around with me, I always have one particular list going: Things I'm Looking Forward To. Sometimes it's a short list, and sometimes it's longer – but usually, it's longer than I expect. When you start to think about the things you're excited about, or things you want to make happen (reading a new book, learning a new skill, practicing a language, seeing a good friend, visiting your family, going to a show, taking a journey, etc.), the list will start to grow and grow.
Getting used to thinking in this way – keeping this list, and referring back to it when I felt sad or hopeless – was incredible for my mental health. It's my number one personal strategy for dealing with depression (besides seeing a mental health professional and being properly medicated, of course). You'll discover that you have more to be happy about than you imagined. And you'll be able to observe what kinds of things make you light up with excitement – what kinds of things bring you joy. Understanding that is instrumental to making healthy choices, whether it's choosing the right career, spending more time on your passions, or realizing that you need to do more things for you.
Spend Time Alone
Remember to actively seek out time to recharge, to think, and to just be alone with yourself. It's when I've been been alone in my room, grappling with big questions, that I've made the most realizations about what's important to me, and how I want to live my life. Granted, when I'm by myself and thinking, I like to do so with a pen in my hand (which kind of goes back to tip #1). But different things work for everybody. When you're alone, what do you do? Listen to music, go for a walk, immerse yourself in nature, work out...?
Everyone needs to decide on their own how to live the best life they can. No one can tell you how to do that. No one can tell you how you will be most happy, and how you can find the most joy in life. You have to discover that yourself, through self discovery, trying new things, seeing what works and what doesn't... but keep in mind that even on this solitary journey, you're surrounded by people who love you. And you know what? You have my support, too.
Try Something, then Try Something Else
There have been moments in my life where I'm so conflicted about what I want. I'm somebody who has a lot of really spread-out interests, so particularly when it came to choosing my major in college, deciding what career path to follow, and thinking about crazy things like "What do I want to do with my life?"... I was so overwhelmed. So much anxiety built up over the fact that I couldn't see my future. I didn't know how to use my talents in a way that helped others and brought me joy.
So, after lots of long talks with my therapist... I tried something. I went to teach English in France for a year. I had no idea if I'd like teaching, but it seemed like an interesting, exciting opportunity (even if it didn't make sense in terms of getting on a long-term career path), so I did it. And I loved it.
I learned so much about myself. And now, I'm trying out a different job, and I'm learning so much from that, too. If you try enough things, eventually you'll land on something that sticks. Even if you take the nontraditional path. Even if your parents are pressuring you to be a doctor or lawyer or whatever. They don't know what will make you happy – only you do. So don't be afraid to try and try again, until you find what you're looking for. You'll get there.
I hope that this card has given you a few ideas on how to get to know yourself better. :) If you have other strategies to share, I would love to hear them! And for more, check out these other self-love cards:
Remember, you are safe to be you today. I believe we all have the potential to become the person we dream of being!