One of the most riveting books I read last year was “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. It’s about the author’s solo trek across the Pacific Crest Trail, all in search for answers to the questions in her mind.
It is a story of finding oneself, for sure. And if there’s one thing I learned from that book, it’s that society – and life in general – has a way of shaping and distracting us, leading us further and further away from who we really are.
For me, a life rings truest when we’re constantly in conversation with ourselves. Asking questions like: Who am I? What do I stand for? What decisions would I make for myself if I didn’t have to listen to anyone else?
That’s a life of self-discovery. One where you’re always seeking, questioning, finding out new and old things about yourself.
In this article, I’ll discuss eight things you do if you’re a person who values self-discovery. Hopefully, they’ll resonate with you and you’ll see how you’ve already got a leg up in life!
1) You are open to self-improvement
Let me start with this very crucial point: all discovery begins with a willingness to improve.
You know that old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? It’s an old idiom suggesting that people who are set in their ways can’t or don’t want to change their habits.
It’s not about age at all; it’s about the mindset.
Are you open to learning new things? To facing up to ugly truths about yourself? To the difficult work involved in breaking up bad habits and replacing them with new ones?
If you are, then you’re a person who values self-discovery.
There’s a certain humility in acknowledging that we are works in progress, always learning, always evolving. We have to be honest about our flaws and see them not as failures, but as ways to grow.
And once you’re able to do that, you can then set personal goals, whether that’s ditching a bad habit or learning new skills.
But to do all that, you need to be okay with this next thing…
2) You’re comfortable with being alone
The name itself should tell you that self-discovery is something you’ll have to do alone.
See, the most profound moments of self-understanding happen in solitude. There’s something about being alone that allows us to connect with ourselves on a deeper level.
This doesn’t mean you have to be an introvert or shun social interactions. It’s about enjoying moments of solitude where you can just be with your thoughts and feelings and reflect.
I know that’s a tall order in these tech-addled times. There are now so many things keeping us from just sitting with our thoughts – our phones, video games, social media, Netflix, and all that.
Now, you don’t have to go on a huge trail hike like Cheryl Strayed did. You can keep it small, but intentional.
That’s the key word there – intentional. For me, I don’t just leave it to chance. I schedule unplugged moments, sometimes going for a walk, sometimes sitting quietly by the window and letting my gaze wander…
It’s in these quiet moments that we often hear the whispers of our soul, leading us closer to our authentic selves.
3) You practice mindfulness
Being mindful is another sign that someone values self-discovery. The ability to be fully present in the moment, to experience life as it unfolds without judgment…it puts your self-discovery journey on a fast track.
Because it forces you to observe your own thoughts and feelings. You’re not dwelling on the past nor worried about the future; you’re simply immersed in the now.
When I first started practicing mindfulness, it felt like parts of me were slowly waking up from a long sleep. Suddenly, I was noticing things about myself and the world around me that I had never noticed before.
I would notice my knee-jerk reactions like being sarcastic or irritable with people when I was stressed. I would catch myself when I was about to blame someone for a mistake I made.
Basically, mindfulness allowed me to detach from my habitual reactions, take a step back, and re-calibrate.
And the beauty of it is, you can practice it anywhere – during a walk in the park, while eating, or even in the middle of a conversation (which you really should do, you owe it to the other person to listen mindfully!).
4) You listen to your intuition
One of the things you’ll really hear when you’re alone and mindful is your gut feeling. People who value self-discovery have a strong relationship with their intuition.
This is something I’ve really come to appreciate deeply in my own journey of self-discovery. I used to make decisions based on what other people say or what was expected of me, even if I didn’t completely feel okay with it.
But once I started spending more time with myself, it was like an internal compass unlocked in me. I became more attuned to it. Eventually, I started taking those instinctive feelings and perceptions into account when making decisions.
The result? I felt much more at peace with the path I was taking, never mind if other people didn’t agree with it!
So trust me, our intuition is a powerful tool for self-discovery, as it helps uncover truths about ourselves that our conscious mind might overlook or suppress.
5) You reflect on your past
I know I’ve said that it doesn’t do to dwell on the past. Let me amend that – you should dwell on the past, but only in the spirit of reflection and learning.
Reflecting on our past is like reading a book where we are the main characters. If you’re someone who regularly revisits past experiences, seeking to understand how they have shaped you, you’re a person who values self-discovery.
Had a bad breakup? Gone through childhood trauma? Got fired from a job?
These past experiences are all good places for some new lessons. Revisiting them with the aim of seeing where you went wrong could help you spot negative patterns in your behavior.
Because how else can you change something if you don’t even know what needs changing?
6) You embrace change
So, you’ve reflected on the past and seen what needs to be changed. How do you feel about it? Do you dig in your heels or do you embrace this chance to grow?
And it’s not just about our flaws and mistakes. Life does put us through a rollercoaster of changes, some of which are beyond our control.
A person who values self-discovery isn’t scared of change. On the contrary, they look forward to it. They welcome every little thing that shakes them up and pushes them out of their comfort zone.
Because they know that that’s precisely where self-discovery happens. Whether it’s learning a new language, traveling to another country, or taking on a different role at work, new experiences challenge our perspectives and teach us something new about ourselves.
As entrepreneur and author Adam Braun says, “True self-discovery begins where your comfort zone ends.”
7) You’re curious about your own motivations
Remember when I said people who value self-discovery are constantly questioning and seeking answers? That extends to their own motivations.
They don’t just act; they are intensely curious why they act the way they do. It’s like being a detective of your own mind, unraveling mysteries about yourself.
I myself find it so satisfying when I uncover my own hidden beliefs and biases. For example, back when social media was very new, I found myself going to parties left and right. On the surface, I looked like I was having a fantastic time. All the time.
But if I had to be honest, I didn’t really want to go. As an introvert, I was always left feeling drained by the constant interaction. It came to a point when I had to ask myself, “Why am I doing it then?”
It was only then that I realized I was going just so I could post photos online as proof of my “vibrant social life.”
So you see, probing into your own motivations may not always be comfortable, but it’s unfailingly helpful if you want to live an authentic life.
8) You practice self-love
Finally, we come to self-love – a key sign that you’re a person who values self-discovery.
Self-love is not about being narcissistic or self-absorbed. It’s about:
- Acknowledging your worth
- Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being
- Setting boundaries
- Being compassionate with yourself
It goes hand in hand with self-discovery, as loving yourself means embracing who you are at your core and striving to understand and nurture that person.
Strayed’s “Wild” ends with her learning to love herself, ugly past and all. But it wasn’t exactly an end, merely the beginning of a new journey. Because for people who value self-discovery, it really is a lifelong journey.