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How to Understand Yourself

When we truly know and understand ourselves, we can live a life of joy and peace, according to Monica Kade, a writer and communications expert. When we don’t, “we’re just running around blindly reacting to life.”

But for many of us self-discovery can be difficult, even scary. Because it means looking at parts of ourselves that we don’t like and emotions that are painful, Kade said.

“We seem to think that feeling anything other than ‘positive’ means we’re broken or there is something wrong with us. And unfortunately—or maybe fortunately, discomfort is part of understanding ourselves.”

Understanding ourselves means looking at ourselves as a whole. In addition to looking at our different feelings, it’s looking at our thoughts, beliefs and relationships. It’s examining our everyday.

Here are several simple yet significant ways to start to understand yourself:

Try these prompts. Kade suggested exploring these questions in your journal:

  • What would I love to express that I’m currently not expressing?
  • What is the very next step I can take toward my dream?
  • The step after that could be…
  • If I were to die tomorrow, who (if anyone) have I left things unsaid with?
  • If I could improve one aspect of my communication, what would it be?
  • Why?
  • How would this impact my relationship with 1) myself 2) with others?

Here are additional questions to ask yourself: What tends to make me cry? When do I feel lonely? Who are the people I hang out with the most? How do I feel around them? What people, places, things delight me and remind me of the magic in this world? Am I more of an introvert or an extrovert? What is bothering me right now? Why? When do I feel a calm in my body? When do I feel empowered?

Take a walk. According to Kade, walking is a powerful way to explore things through objective eyes. That’s because the increase in endorphins from moving our bodies helps us to feel better. “When we’re in a peaceful state, [we can] understand why we’ve reacted and objectively observe our current circumstances to see why we do what we do: what our motives, limiting beliefs and old stories keep us re-creating.”

Be in stillness. Be alone. Just be—without watching TV, without scrolling through your phone. Kade suggested sitting down with a cup of tea and simply observing a plant, or observing nature through a window. “When we can learn to be with ourselves in stillness and silence, we can learn a great deal about ourselves.”

Similar to taking a walk, when you’re in stillness, you might notice certain stories or thought patterns that keep replaying in your mind. You might notice that your mind is constantly creating stories comparing yourself to others. Oh, she always gets so much done. She makes motherhood look easy. I wish I looked like her. You might notice that your mind is constantly thinking about everything you have to do. Right now. You might notice that your mind tends to go to a negative place. A lot. You might notice that you’re regularly worrying about work or something else. You might notice that your mind is creating thoughts saturated with self-doubt. If it helps, you can jot down these thoughts in the same notebook, keeping track of how these thoughts twist and turn and change.

“Getting to know yourself may be challenging, but a life truly lived is carved out by going through those challenges and rising into who we truly are,” Kade said. “Our potential is infinite.” Remind yourself of this regularly. Because it’s something we tend to regularly forget.

Photo by Marivi Pazos on Unsplash.
How to Understand Yourself

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). How to Understand Yourself. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 12 Apr 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Apr 2018
Published on All rights reserved.