Who am I? What do I want? What am I here for? These are the questions that haunt the modern man.
Having a concrete sense of self is an essential part of your existence.
Without it, you’ll find that goals are harder to define and your needs harder to understand.
Discovering who you are doesn’t have to be as abstract as it sounds.
Here are 16 steps you can take to become your awesome self:
Before I get started, I want to let you know about a new personal responsibility workshop I’ve helped to create. I know that life isn’t always kind or fair. But courage, perseverance, honesty — and above all else taking responsibility — are the only ways to overcome the challenges that life throws at us. Check out the workshop here. If you want to seize control of your life, then this is the online resource you need.
Step 1: Figure Out Who You Are
A big part of figuring out who you are as a person is nailing down the specific personality traits that make you.
People are mostly a combination of their good and bad traits, and figuring out which of these define you will help you understand yourself better.
Start by defining yourself according to your terms. Are you funny? Charming? Altruistic? Passionate? Effeminate? Aggressive? Ill-willed?
Being able to name your defining characteristics allows you to see yourself in a balanced way.
More importantly, it encourages you to become self-aware and distinguish the good from the bad.
Step 2: Reflect On Old Values VS New Ones
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that our defining personality traits are set in stone.
Your political orientation, religious view, and sexual preference, no matter how strongly you feel about these traits, realize that they are bound to change as you evolve into a fuller person.
Human beings are dynamic. Just because you believe in one thing doesn’t mean you can’t believe in another.
Be open to the possibility of having different, even conflicting views. Changing convictions don’t make you an inauthentic person.
Remember that the human spirit is very much capable of change and that you should be accepting of that natural phenomenon.
Step 3: Don’t Focus On The Past You
Everyone has a cringe-worthy moment. You may have been insensitive, selfish, or conniving in the past, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep atoning for old behavior for the rest of your life.
Take a step back and breathe. Don’t forget the context of your behavior and remember to place them in the past.
Your previous choices and behavior, although impactful, do not define who you are, much less who you will transition into as you grow into a fuller person.
It’s incredibly unhealthy to keep nagging yourself for things that you did in the past. Invest in the art of letting go and moving on.
(Taking responsibility is the most important attribute you can possess in life. Check out our no-nonsense guide to taking responsibility here).
Step 4: Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
As you try to understand who you are as an individual, it will be tempting to compare yourself to others.
We are surrounded by more beautiful, more successful, and more appealing versions of ourselves, and those alone can knock down our self-confidence and send us spiraling into mimicry.
It’s easy not to like who you are and base your personality off someone else’s because they’re awesome or funny or rich.
However, doing this will only stifle your growth and prevent you from discovering your true self.
Once again, you will fall into a pattern of false self-discovery and wind up creating a persona instead of discovering your personality.
Step 5: Take Responsibility For Your Life
The best way to become your awesome self is to take ultimate responsibility for everything in your life.
I know that bad things happen in life and they’re not always your fault.
But the simple truth is that you’re ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your life. While you can’t always prevent bad things from happening, you are in complete control as to how you respond to them.
Because the reality is that YOU are ultimately responsible for everything, including for your happiness and unhappiness, successes and failures, and for how you respond to your challenges.
I want to briefly share with you how taking responsibility has transformed my own life.
Did you know that 6 years ago I was anxious, miserable and working every day in a warehouse?
I was stuck in a hopeless cycle and had no idea how to get out of it.
My solution was to stamp out my victim mentality and take personal responsibility for everything in my life. I wrote about my journey here.
Fast forward to today and my website Hack Spirit is helping millions of people make radical shifts in their own lives. We’ve become one of the world’s biggest websites on mindfulness and practical psychology.
This isn’t about bragging, but to show how powerful taking responsibility can be…
… Because you too can transform your own life by taking complete ownership of it.
To help you do this, I’ve collaborated with my brother Justin Brown to create an online personal responsibility workshop. We give you a unique framework for finding your best self and achieving powerful things.
It’s quickly become Ideapod’s most popular workshop. Check it out here.
If you want to seize control of your life, like I did 6 years ago, then this is the online resource you need.
Step 6: Focus On Your Growth, Ignore What People Say About You
Accept the fact that other people will doubt your motives and question your authenticity.
Individuals who have been a part of your life in one way or another will always use older versions of you as a reference, which might be discouraging considering the massive gap between who you were and who you want to be.
You will be tempted to say something about your journey and call people out.
Hold out on snarky remarks and remember why you’re doing this: it’s not for anyone else but yourself.
You’re doing this because you want to become a better version of yourself.
Step 7: Express Your Individuality
As you grow more and more confident about what makes you a unique individual, you should find outlets that validate these characteristics.
At the very least, find platforms where you can freely express yourself and your individuality.
Want to express yourself through clothing? Go ahead. Want to start blogging about your thoughts and opinions? Set one up.
The purpose of this step is twofold: first, you get to exercise who you are as a person; second, you put yourself to the test.
You find ways to flesh out what you think your defining traits are and see if they come naturally to you.
Step 8: Accept your emotions without judging them
Whenever we experience a negative emotion, our first instinct is to ignore it or push it away.
And this is fair enough. Those feelings can be painful and difficult to handle.
However, when we reject our emotions, we deny a part of ourselves.
Now, I’m not saying that we should wallow in our negative emotions.
Instead, we should acknowledge and accept them.
This means letting your emotions be without negatively judging them or trying to change them.
It’s about understanding that you don’t need to change your emotions. They won’t do damage to you.
Research shows that learning to accept emotions leads to stable emotional resilience.
It also leads to a better understanding of yourself and why your emotions are responding in certain ways.
This doesn’t mean voluntary suffering. It just means that you acknowledge what you’re feeling.
Once you’ve done that, you can move on and focus on your actions.
In the end, if you’re able to accept yourself and all of your emotions, you’ll be more easily able to be your true self.
[To learn techniques to accept your emotions and calm your mind, check out my new no-nonsense guide to using Buddhism for a better life here].
Step 9: Who are you surrounding yourself with?
This is crucially important when you want to find out who you indeed are.
If you’re surrounding yourself with harmful and toxic people, then you won’t be able to be your true self.
You’ll be nervous about revealing your negative traits because you know they’ll gossip and tease you.
We’re all influenced by who we spend our time with. If they’re harmful and toxic, then over time they’ll make your personality more negative and toxic.
Choose to spend time with people who are genuine and optimistic. People who don’t judge others constantly. People who are kind and considerate to others.
To be your true self, you need to be comfortable revealing your insecurities and your unique tidbits to others.
When you’re able to express yourself fully with others, you’ll find it much easier to be yourself. You’ll also become a better person.
Step 10: Stand Up For Your Values
It’s not just your hobbies and your personality that makeup who you are. The things you stand for significantly reflect your identity.
Even staying silent about specific controversies say a lot about you as a person, so choose your battles conscientiously.
Step 11: Be Confident In Who You Are
As you become more comfortable in your skin, you will face detractors who will challenge everything about you.
It’s normal to feel shaken, but don’t let brief moments of self-doubt evolve into uncertainty.
If you can come out stronger and surer than ever after facing adversity, you’ll relish the fact that you’re a step closer to becoming your awesome self.
Step 12: Accept Change
You spend weeks, months, years figuring out who you are as a person. As with step 2, there will come a time when your current values no longer make sense.
You will feel that certain beliefs are irrelevant and you will start questioning the things you think and do
It’s easy to feel wrong about them but do your best not to. Remember that you are a dynamic individual.
Change should become an inevitable and welcome part of you as you gain new experiences in life.
Step 13: Get out there and exercise
You might not enjoy this one, but exercise is probably one of the most proven natural methods to make you feel better about yourself.
You’ll feel healthier, happier and your self-esteem will improve. By improving your self-esteem, you’ll be more proud to be who you truly are.
Harvard Health says that aerobic exercise is as key for your head, just as it is for your heart:
“Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.”
So, how does exercise specifically make you be your true self?
Because exercise is a known mood lifter. And when you’re feeling good, self-doubt and self-loathing are less able to creep in. You’ll feel freer to be who you indeed are.
Step 14: Do what you’ll say you’ll do
If you want to be proud of yourself and who you are, take action when you say you’ll act.
We all know people who say they’ll do something; then they never do it.
How do you feel about them? That’s right; they lack integrity and respect.
So what happens when you do the same? You’ll lack respect for yourself.
So to build your credibility and integrity, take action when you say you’ll take action.
Every time you say you’ll do something and you do it, you’ll build confidence in yourself.
The only way you’re going to be your true self is when you’re proud of who you are.
And there’s nothing more proud than being someone is kind, considerate and takes action when they say they’ll take action.
Step 15: It’s time to get out of your comfort zone
You’ve probably heard the phrase that progress can’t be made in your comfort zone.
And annoying as it is, it’s true.
If you’re not being your true self, then I’m also willing to bet that you’re not really getting out of your comfort zone.
The more you get out of your comfort zone, you more you’ll understand yourself and what you love to do in life.
The way you respond to different experiences will make you more mature and confident in who you are.
Now you don’t need to do something crazy to get out of your comfort zone. You can take small steps that will slowly expand how big your comfort zone is.
All you have to do is something that’s different that you wouldn’t usually do and that makes you slightly nervous.
Over time, you’ll slowly expand your comfort zone and you’ll be more confident in yourself.
“Experience life in all possible ways –good-bad, bitter-sweet, dark-light, summer-winter. Experience all the dualities. Don’t be afraid of experience, because the more experience you have, the more mature you become.” – Osho
Step 16: Enjoy Life
Finally, don’t forget to actually enjoy life and relish your place in it. People find it charming when someone enjoys their life.
Spending your time figuring out what makes you unique becomes futile if you don’t get to enjoy who you are as a person.
So practice self-awareness one step at a time. The journey to self-discovery should be organic. Don’t force it and you’ll find that things will naturally fall into place.