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How Do I Find My Sense of Self?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

           At some point in your life, you’ve probably been asked the questions, “So tell me a bit about yourself?” What are your hobbies? What do you do for fun?” Maybe you’re able to answer those questions without hesitation, however a lot of people struggle with answering these questions due to not knowing who they are as a person.

           Some people make it quite far in life without giving their identity too much thought, so does a strong sense of self really make a difference? The answer is, yes! According to Erika Myers, a licensed professional counselor, “Having a well-developed sense of self is hugely beneficial in helping us make choices in life. From something as small as favorite foods to larger concerns like personal values, knowing what comes from our own self versus what comes from others allows us to live authentically” (Raypole, 2020). Without a strong sense of self, it can be tough to know exactly what you want, which can lead to struggling to make choices or even being carried by other people and circumstances rather than your own interests.

           So, where does your sense of self fall on the spectrum? Asking yourself some of these questions below can offer some insight:

  •       Do I say yes to make others happy?
  •       What are my strengths?
  •       What brings me happiness?
  •       What are my values? Do I live my life accordingly?
  •       Do my choices reflect my own interests or someone else’s?

If you struggled with answering the above questions, that’s okay! Building your sense of self is something that can take time. An unstable sense of self can make you feel unfulfilled, but it’s always possible develop a clearer self-image. Raypole (2020) outlines some strategies to begin establishing a more concrete, independent identity.

Define your values

           Values and personal beliefs are a core part of identity. It’s important to understand your belief system, as that helps you recognize what matters most to you and determine where you stand on important issues. For example, if animal rights is something that is important to you, that might lead you to choose cruelty-free products and make more informed choices about the foods you eat.

           Another way that values help you understand your sense of self is by guiding the boundaries you set with others in your life. For example, if you value honesty, you might make it clear that you cannot keep a relationship with someone who lies to you.

Make your own choices

           Decisions should be made, for the most part, to benefit your health and well-being. If you have a partner or children, you’ll also want to take their needs into account, although that still shouldn’t mean you neglect yourself. When your needs go unmet, you have less to offer others.

           It might feel uncomfortable, even scary, to start making decisions for yourself, especially if you let others make important decisions for you in the past. It’s more than okay to start small! Practice doing things that you want to do, without asking input from others.

Spend time alone

           Getting to know yourself better involves spending some quality time alone. It might feel strange at first, but it’s very healthy to take some time apart from others, even your family or partner. Some ideas of what to do to maximize your time spent alone might be: experimenting with new hobbies, volunteering, reading more books, meditating, and keeping a journal.

Consider how to achieve your ideals

           There is research that suggests that differences between your ideal self (who you envision yourself to be) and your actual self (who you really are) can contribute to feelings of dissatisfaction, and even depression.

           What these means is that it’s important to take just knowing yourself a step further. You then need to consider what you can do to align your life with your identity. For example, you might ask yourself what changes you can make in your professional life or interactions with others.

If you find yourself struggling with understanding your sense of self, you may find it helpful to talk with one of our therapists at Symmetry Counseling. You can contact Symmetry today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our licensed counselors. 


Raypole, C. (2020, June 17). ‘Who Am I?’ How to Find Your Sense of Self.

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