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This is Part Two of the Path to Happiness series.
Are you constantly worrying what other people think of you? Or even more exhausting, are you always trying to morph into what you think you’re supposed to be?
When I was in my 20s I was like a chameleon. I changed my personality, values, and behaviors based upon who I was hanging out with. I was so concerned with being liked and accepted that I never stood behind my opinions and decisions.
As a result, I was miserable without truly understanding why. I felt lost. I felt like I didn’t know who I was. But I was never still enough to actually realize it.
When I was alone, my mind was filled with thoughts of how I wasn’t enough. When I was surrounded by others, I was consumed with making sure I acted in a way and said things that I thought they expected from me.
Fortunately, by the time I hit my 30s I had done enough self-reflection to gain more confidence in who I was. I still have insecurities, of course. There are times when I still doubt myself. But it’s not to the degree that it was previously.
I don’t tell you this to brag about what a great state of mind I’m in. I tell you this to let you know that I have been there, and that it’s possible to get to the other side of it. I am your living proof of that.
We’re going to cover 2 critical elements in this post:
- Why Knowing Who You Are is Important
- How to Get to Know Yourself
Why Getting to Know Yourself is Important
You’ll know it’s time to get to know yourself when you’re shifting your opinions and beliefs on the regular and depending on who you’re hanging out with in that moment. When you’ve done this for a while, it’s easy to forget what you believe in at your core.
It’s dangerous territory when you find yourself constantly twisting and bending to meet the expectations of someone else. Odds are that you’ll never fully meet those expectations because it’s not truly who you are. What WILL happen is that you’ll diminish your self-worth, self-respect, and self-love… and this all leads to unhappiness.
Besides obliterating your confidence, not knowing yourself can have a negative impact on other factors in your life that would normally bring you happiness.
And listen, there is seriously NO judgement here. I’ve acted in ways that have literally negatively impacted every one of the areas we’re about to talk about. So please, as you read through these next points and if you find its really resonating with you, do not beat yourself up over it! It is ok – most of us have been here or are still here. You can turn this around!
Your Financial Health
Money is one. Before we dive deeper into this one, let me call out that money itself isn’t what makes someone happy. However, it does provide you with options and freedom that will make you happy.
If you’re striving to be accepted by others all the time, or keep up with the Jones’ as they say, it can have a big impact on your finances. Trends are constantly changing. The boots you bought last year end up being just that – so last year! So you go out and buy another pair of boots. Before you know it, you’ve racked up some pretty impressive credit card debt, and that is going to make you feel sucky. Trust me – I’m speaking from widespread personal experience here!
You’ll also find that it’s never enough. You can shop your heart out, buy the best house on the block, drive the fanciest car – but still feel empty. On top of that, you’ll probably feel guilt for spending money that you don’t have or spending money that would be better spent on something else (child’s savings account, retirement, your favorite charity, etc.).
Your Physical Health
Where to begin with this one? Your physical health can be impacted in so many ways if you are trying to be someone that you think you’re supposed to be.
Trying to be thin? Trying to fit in? Not feeling happy? These things can lead to poor nutrition, not eating enough, eating too much, working out too much, drinking alcohol too much, taking mind-altering substances, and so on.
Not only is this physically unhealthy, but it’s going to affect how you feel mentally and emotionally.
Your Social Health
You may find yourself at social events that you don’t really want to be at. You’re there because you think you should be. Or worse yet, you’re there so you can show your social media friends that you were there (again, been there ;)).
The problem with this is that you are living your life for someone else. You’re not living it for YOU. Which probably means many of the social activities you’re engaging in aren’t fulfilling or feel uncomfortable. And pretending to have fun can get pretty tiring!
Related Post: 4 Ways Social Media is Bad for Your Mental Health
Ok this one is going to apply to A LOT of people! So many people I know are dissatisfied with their jobs. I’m starting to think this is an epidemic!
I believe a lot of this stems from doing what we think we are supposed to do. Graduate high school, go to college, get a 9-5 job, buy a house, and start a family. Now for some, this is definitely what they want and it will make them blissfully happy. That’s completely cool!
For many others, they think that since this is what they were supposed to do it should have led to happiness – but it actually led to the complete opposite. We end up with hefty school loans that take a lifetime to pay off and a string of stressful or boring jobs that we hate. We ask ourselves “Is this really it?”.
If you’re in this place currently, you CAN change it (and yes I know you have a family and responsibilities to uphold!). But you need to get to know yourself your first. It’s the only way you’ll be able to figure out what will make you happy and the plan that you need to make to get there.
The Steps to Getting to Know Yourself
Alright so you know why “finding yourself” is important, but how in the world are you actually supposed to do that? Here are some key steps that will help you accomplish this. It’s going to take some time and effort, but if you’re willing to put it in you’ll find that it’s more than worth it.
Nothing is more effective than taking a pen to paper. It’s a great starting point to figuring out who you are. It slows your mind down and helps you to become more introspective. So:
Get a notebook and your favorite pen. This journal is perfect – it’s simple and the cover of reads “Always Be True to Yourself”. Set aside at least 10 minutes a day to free write.
Nail down a time and designate it for journaling. There’s no right or wrong time.
Don’t think too much about what you’re writing. Our minds are always going so it’s really just a matter of putting our thoughts onto paper. By doing this, you’ll gain insight into what bothers you, what your dreams and hopes are, and how you’re currently feeling. Just sit down and write – don’t overthink it!
When you’re done writing, review what you wrote. You will undoubtedly stumble upon some revelations. For instance, you might have written something like, Ugh I’m dreading going to the PTO meeting this Thursday night because the other moms are pretentious. It’s so draining and makes me feel crappy about myself. Whyyyy, oh why, did I volunteer for this? Now I have to do it because I said I would, but am I signing up for this next year? Hell to the no!
Well, hold the phone! Do you see what you just discovered about yourself? You don’t like people who are always trying to impress others. Which means that you’re down to earth and you don’t like making others feel like you’re better than they are. On top of that, you’re going to stick with this even though you hate it because you committed to it. You are someone who sticks to their word!
This is part of you who you are. When you veer away from this, you’ll begin to feel like you are losing yourself.
This step is much more structured than free writing in your journal. It’s going to be more of a snapshot of you at this moment in time, and it will help you discover your values.
Try doing these lists on a periodic basis because we change and grow over time. It’s a great way to check in with yourself and make sure that your life is in alignment with your values.
Grab that pen and paper again and write out the following lists in a pros/cons format. Again, don’t overthink this!
Also, don’t worry too much right now about eliminating anything from your life, unless it’s a quick win. We’re going to get more into this in a future upcoming post about life auditing. Right now, the goal is to simply learn more about ourselves.
- Things In My Life That I Like and Things in My Life that I Don’t Like
- What I’m Doing Now that I Like and What I’m Doing Now that I Don’t Like
- What I Like About My Home Environment and What I Don’t Like About My Home Environment
- People in My life Whom I like and People in My Life Whom I don’t like
Once you’ve got your lists filled out, go over them and think about why these things are on your list and why they are in the column that they are in. Make note of anything that gives you more insight into what is important to you.
By doing this you are going to learn two things: Parts of you that currently exist and parts of you that don’t currently exist but that you want to exist! You could learn that what draws you to someone is an area in your life that’s important to you and that could use improvement.
What Bothers You Most About Other People?
This one I DO want you to give some thought to! Think about when you get annoyed with other people. Or if you gossip, what are you gossiping about?
Are you wondering how this is going to help you learn more about yourself? You’re probably not going to like this answer…
In most cases, when we find something that another person does annoying, it’s because we have an insecurity about that very thing.
Someone I know recently went to a really fancy wedding. She gushed about the gorgeous venue and how in love the couple was. To top it off, the bride’s family is very well-off due to a long-time successful family business.
Cue my eye roll. Well, they don’t have kids yet so there ya go I fired back at my cousin.
What the what is my problem?! I should be happy for these people! Not pointing out that their lives will collapse when they have kids (not to mention that their life will not collapse!).
Here’s the painful truth: my husband and I are going through a rough patch, as couples often do, and we are also getting hit hard financially with some unexpected expenses. These newlyweds are ok in these areas so it struck a chord with me.
Analyzing this helps me realize that my marriage and our financial state are two things that are SUPER important to me (otherwise, why would I care so much?).
Instead of shooting off snide comments, I should use that energy to feed some goodness into my marriage and work with my husband on a financial plan.
To sum it up, examining why others annoy you will give you insight into your insecurities as well as to the things in your life that meant the most to you.
Think of What Interests You
Part of getting to know yourself is learning what you like to do. What are your hobbies? Back in the day, if you asked me that question I could not answer it.
Take some time to write down a bunch of things that sound interesting to you. It can be something as small as learning how to knit to something as crazy as skydiving. Write it ALL down. Then go out and try it. Take that free spinning class that your friend’s been asking you to go to or try tackling one of the Pinterest projects that’s been sitting on your board for years. You’ll probably unveil some new passions that you never even knew you had!
Ask Others How They See You
Ask those closest to you what they come to you with for advice. You might be helping others without even realizing it. This will let you know what some of your strengths are.
On the flip side, you might hear some things that you don’t necessarily want to. I never said getting to know yourself was easy 🙂 This is good though. It will help you identify the values that you’re carrying out and which ones you want to eliminate.
Live Like You Were Dying
Ok that’s straight out of a Tim McGraw song. But there are some serious wisdom bombs in it!
If you’re not a country song fan, I’ll give you the background of the song. Tim McGraw sits down next to a guy at the bar (ok, that’s not how the song goes, but it’s how I picture it happening in my head) and the guy proceeds to tell Tim that he was diagnosed with cancer in his early 40s.
Realizing that he only had a short time left, he began to think about what he would do if he had a second chance at life. And then he started to do it. The things on his list stretched from being a better husband and friend, to being kinder in general, to enjoying things that he used to find a hassle (fishing to be exact!).
These are things that he was at his core. But he got so caught up in the minutiae of life, that he lost sight of them. It took something as drastic as a terminal illness for him to remember who he was.
Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for something so life-changing for us to realize that we need to get back to who we really are. We can make that decision at any point in time, whenever we want to. And what better time than the present?
No Time Like Today
Guys, life is too short to be living someone else’s. Stop trying to please everyone else. Let’s get back to the basics. Because when it’s all said and done, we want to know we left the world a little bit better. And there’s no better way to do that than to bring our best selves to the table.
So go out and re-discover yourself. We can’t wait to see what you find.