By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

Building your sense of self is often a lifelong process of figuring out who you are, what you value, and what is important to you. This is especially hard in our world now where we are constantly sent messages about who we should be and what we should like. It can be difficult to find our own voices among the midst of so many other ideas and opinions. Cohen (2019) offers four tips for building a strong and authentic sense of self.


  • Differentiate yourself.


Distinguish yourself from your surroundings. This can help you become more self-aware. Before you make any decisions, especially very large ones, you have to figure out what you want and how you want to spend your time. Although it takes time and the process can be slow, people who know themselves well are able to make decisions for themselves automatically. Take your time and remember that knowing yourself happens through the daily decisions you make.


  • Connect with yourself.


Through the process of developing a sense of self, it’s important to stay in conversation with yourself. You can do this by becoming the observer in your own life, which can help you be more attuned to your inner self. For example, when a situation occurs, take a step back and watch your thoughts, feelings, and process without trying to immediately react. If someone asks you to do something, you don’t have to answer right way. You can tell them, “Let me get back to you.” This gives you time to really consider your options. Why is this important? Sometimes your automatic responses can lead you in a direction that doesn’t align with yourself, and you may regret it later on if you don’t take time to answer.


  • See challenges as a way to know yourself.


Life is always going to come with challenges. To try and build your sense of self, work to see them as opportunities for you to decide who you are and what you’re capable of. When you continue to act in ways that don’t align with your values, you rob yourself of the opportunity to experience who you want to be in different situations and circumstances. Things like how you act, feel, and think are all expressions of who you want to be. You get to know yourself when you observe yourself without judgment. Even negative situations in life can serve as opportunities. 


  • Apply these actions to your life.


With all these previous tips being said, it’s important to incorporate these things into your daily life to move through life as a more distinguished self. Some of the daily things that you can do include: Make a real effort to have your feelings line up with your logical brain by looking at the facts of every situation; practice sitting with discomfort that comes with not immediately satisfying your wants; focus on your own personal values rather than those of others; when someone in your life upsets you try to stay connected with them rather than pull away; have your own ideas and values even if others don’t agree with them; and look beyond your initial impulsive reactions so that you can see your real intentions. 

Reach out to Symmetry Counseling to meet with a therapist. We offer in-person and online counseling sessions in Chicago.


Cohen, I. (2019, August 1). How to Build a Strong Sense of Self