You’d have thought it would be easy to figure out who you are. After all, you spend no less than 100% of your time in your own head. If there’s anyone who’s likely to understand what’s going on in there, it would be you!
But despite that, many of us often find ourselves asking questions like: ‘who is the real me?’, ‘what kind of person am I?’ or ‘what am I into?’. Questions that might make us feel we don’t know ourselves that well at all ...
Why is it so hard to figure out?
It’s no surprise really. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship of all. Identity can be a weird thing.
Firstly, who we are often depends on how we feel. We might find that different situations bring out different sides of us. Sometimes you might feel happy - and really optimistic about things. Sometimes you might feel everyone’s out to get you. Sometimes you might not feel all that much. Maybe it changes every day, or lots of times every day.
We’re also often different depending on who we’re around. You probably act pretty differently around your parents to how you do around your friends. And you probably act differently again around teaching staff, professionals or employers.
And, to cap it off, your identity tends to shift over time. Who you are now is probably pretty different to who you were when you were younger. And it will probably be different when you’re older too!
So, is there any point in even trying to figure this stuff out?
Well, yes. Identity is confusing. It isn’t static. But having a better sense of it can be really useful.
It can give you a foundation - a starting point from which you can better figure things out. It can help you measure your emotions and weigh up your decisions. Getting a better idea can help you feel more settled and secure in yourself - more able to say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘yes’ and vice versa.
It can help you answer the question: ‘what do I want?’ - or at least begin to.
So how do you build confidence in your ‘self’? Well, there’s no one simple answer, and it can take a while. Most people spend years figuring out who they are - so if you feel you aren’t making much progress, don’t worry. What’s important is the journey, not the destination - if you’ll permit me to sound a bit like Yoda for a moment.
So how do you get cracking? Well - usually it’s just a case of trying things out and paying attention to your own reactions. Discovering your identity is all about sniffing out the clues.
This can be something as straightforward as trying a new interest and seeing what you think of it. If you like it - great! You might want to think about what you like about it, and where there’s anything similar you might like to try. Enjoy archery? Maybe you’re the kind of person who likes being outdoors or playing sports. Like theatre? Maybe you’re an actor! The point is, very often it’s how we feel about things that helps us figure out our identity.
And if you don’t like something - that’s fine too. It’s also a clue. Think about what you didn’t like about it - and whether this can help you figure out what might work better.
It can also mean trying things out when it comes to relationships. It can mean being open to starting new friendships, and thinking about whether the existing ones in your life are working for you. If you feel happy and at ease around certain people, that’s probably telling you something. And if you feel the opposite around others, that’s probably telling you something too.
What can get in the way?
One thing is comparing yourself to others. We all do this from time to time. Social media can lead us to look at other people’s lives and wondering why our own isn’t like that. And while, in some ways, that’s a normal reaction it’s also something to be careful about.
Viewing your life through a social media prism can really affect your self-esteem. It can become addictive trying to get as many likes as possible and - if you’re not careful - can start to replace trying to have connections in the real world. It can also be unhealthy to compare yourself negatively with people online, forgetting that you're only seeing one dimension of who they are.
Another thing is peer pressure. Most of us want to be part of a group. But sometimes, you might find that, as part of this, you end up feeling pressured to do things you aren’t that into. You might feel you want to be elsewhere, but worry that you’ll be cut out.
Again, that’s normal. But it can also be worth thinking about whether just going along with other people is actually stopping you from doing the things you’d actually like to do - or at least trying them out.
Sometimes, developing a sense of self can mean going out on a bit of a limb and going your own way, even if it does mean stepping outside of the group for a while - or coming off Instagram.
(And yes, there is life outside Insta).
This content has been produced in partnership with Status, as part of their #GreatDating campaign.
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