If you think life’s hard, you’re not alone. Practically all of us do, particularly those who aren’t born into fame or wealth.
There never seems to be a shortage of challenges – just when you think you’ve hurdled one, another one crops up. It can feel like a never-ending obstacle course!
One thing that can make the journey easier though, is to know certain things about yourself.
You know why? Because, as the philosopher Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
That’s why any effort at self-improvement needs to begin with self-awareness. When you get a grip on the ins and outs of who you are, life just flows a little more smoothly.
Here’s a list of what you need to know about yourself, that is, if you want your life to get easier:
1) Your strengths
First up is your strengths. What are you good at? What do you feel confident showing to the world?
We all have things we’re naturally good at, even if we don’t feel like it.
You might think nothing of the fact that you’re a really good listener, but hey, not everybody’s good at that!
Or maybe, because you never were a straight-A student, you’re not aware that you can actually figure out hacks to real-life problems in a way that other people can’t.
It’s time to sit down and really think about what comes easily to you. When you know what you excel at, you can lean into those areas and let them shine.
Not only will it help you feel more confident, but you’ll also find paths in life that align with your natural talents.
And let me tell you, that makes life exponentially easier!
2) Your weaknesses
Just as it’s important to know what you’re good at, it’s also important to pinpoint your weaknesses.
Not so you can hide them, but so that you can work to improve them.
For instance, I used to be terrible at time management. But I never realized it until my best friend, who had grown tired of waiting for me whenever we met, said, “You really have no sense of time!”
Granted, I was really young and blissfully self-unaware when this happened. But that’s why it was good to have it brought to my attention and for me to have received it early enough.
That made me more conscious about how I handled my time, and I was able to whip myself into shape before it could affect my professional life.
Remember, you can’t fix a problem you don’t realize is there. So don’t shy away from identifying your weak spots. It doesn’t mean you’re weak overall, only that you’re human.
But be careful…In the process of doing that, you might encounter your inner critic, which is another thing you do need to know about yourself, but which you’ll also need to overpower.
3) Your inner critic
Like I said, your inner critic is someone you should meet and get to know.
Think of it as your frenemy – it’s there to warn you, but it also has the power of taking over your life if you let it.
Your inner critic might pop up when you’re about to step outside of your comfort zone. It might remind you of past mistakes or alert you to potential failures.
In many ways, it’s trying to protect you, but sometimes, its protective measures can be overly harsh or misguided. So much so that you end up feeling discouraged or anxious.
But the more you get acquainted with it, the more you can discern if it’s providing valuable feedback or if it’s simply holding you back.
That way, you can strike the right balance between being safe and being bold, which makes life a whole lot easier!
4) Your temperament
I admit to being a shape-shifter back in college. What exactly do I mean by that?
I’d pretend to be someone I’m not – specifically, an outgoing, bubbly person. I’d go to every party, drink people under the table, and be upbeat even when I wasn’t feeling it.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy socializing. But what I didn’t realize back then was that who I was – an introvert who needs alone time to recharge – was just as valid as any of my extrovert friends.
I felt like the real me was a failure, or at the very least, not enough. Simply because the world prized the sociable ones more.
It would be many years later when I’d come to terms with my temperament. I let myself be choosy and go to only the gatherings I like. I withdraw to my reading room when I need to.
Basically, I now listen to and accept myself so I don’t feel so drained and exhausted. My shape is strong yet fluid, ever evolving, as is yours. So hold true to that and life will become much easier.
5) Your “why”
Or – what fuels you. Do you know what truly excites and drives you?
Passion is a powerful motivator. When you know what you care deeply about, it acts like a compass that guides your every move.
It also makes setbacks seem smaller. That’s because your passion supersizes your ability to overcome. You’ve got your eye on the prize, so to speak.
Otherwise, you’d simply be moving on autopilot, doing things simply because you have to, not because you WANT to.
Now, of course, it’s perfectly normal that not all of us have jobs we’re passionate about. The reality is that sometimes passion needs to take a backseat to the fact that there are bills to be paid and food to be purchased.
But you can still keep that spark in you through hobbies or a cause. Then, even if you feel a little blasé about your job, you’ve still got a sense of excitement in your life.
Which brings me to my next point…
6) What makes you joyful
Passion about the big stuff aside, what makes your heart dance with joy?
For me, it’s having coffee in a quiet café on Saturday afternoons. Walking my dog after work. Doodling quirky alien characters in my notebook during my breaks. My pretty rose cabbages sitting in their ceramic pots.
Joy is such an overlooked emotion in today’s busy world. What people don’t realize is that you can – and should – be proactive about it.
One thing that really helps here is mindfulness. When you slow down, you have the emotional bandwidth to notice the tiny, beautiful things around you.
And then you’ll be able to identify what gives you joy and get yourself more of that – pockets of joy, day in and out!
7) Your stress triggers
Now, let’s talk about what’s on the opposite side of joy – stress.
It’s no secret that life is stressful. But one thing I’ve learned is that it goes easier when you know your stress or emotional triggers.
I’m talking about those things that set you on edge. Fill your soul with unease or dread. Get you gripping things ten times more tightly.
Maybe for you it’s things like last-minute changes or a driver cutting into your lane. Or maybe it’s family drama (as it is for me).
For some people, like those who’ve gone through traumatic experiences, triggers can go beyond mere irritation. Here are some trigger response symptoms, according to BetterUp:
- Feeling scared, panicked, anxious, or unsafe
- Elevated heartbeat, sweating, and difficulty breathing
- Feeling like you have no control over your emotions
- Avoidant thoughts and behavior
- Negative thoughts
- Inexplicable or unpredictable changes in mood
- Anxiety or panic attacks
It’s important to identify what they are so you can develop coping mechanisms to manage them. You may also benefit from the help of a counselor or mental health professional.
8) Your boundaries
Closely related to identifying your stress triggers is setting your boundaries.
Boundaries, both physical and emotional, act as barriers that protect you from situations or behaviors that may drain or harm you.
The problem is, many of us are able to identify them only when we’ve been completely drained or disrespected.
I learned this the hard way, as I used to be a major people-pleaser. I would stretch myself too thin in an effort to accommodate other people, both at work and in my personal life.
Eventually, I felt hollow, as if I wasn’t living life on my own terms.
That’s what setting boundaries does – it communicates to people (and that includes yourself!) what you find acceptable and what you don’t.
In short, you’re expressing the terms with which you want to live your life. It might feel uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re non-confrontational, but trust me, it will make life easier in the long run.
9) Your values
Your own terms include, of course, your values. What are the principles and beliefs you hold dear?
Your values shape your decisions and guide your actions. Understanding what truly matters to you clears away all the noise and leads you to decisions that feel right for you.
And that’s how you know your life has become easier – when things feel right, like everything’s in its proper place.