Do you know yourself enough? How much do you know about yourself exactly? Are there moments when you doubt yourself because you don’t know who you really are?
Google defines “self-identity” as self-i·den·ti·ty
the recognition of one’s potential and qualities as an individual, especially in relation to social context.
“caring can become the defining characteristic of women’s self-identity”
Merriam-Webster explains self-identity as the quality that makes a person or thing different from others
I guess in order to identify what qualities and potential you possess that differentiate you from others, you need to first know yourself enough and identify who you are.
Many of us are bound to be bugged by this question at some point in our lives. It can happen at any time of your life; when you are alone, mostly when you are faced with bad times or difficult life situations, and definitely during the process of growing up to even after you enter the working phase and gradually have more responsibilities in life.
“Who Am I”
Surprisingly, this was a question I asked myself a lot at the age of ~24 – 26. In fact, I asked myself so many times that I experienced frustrations with myself to the point I get so many different answers.
I didn’t know who I was when I was younger, but I had goals.
When I was still in school, I seemed to know what I wanted to be when I grow up, where I am headed towards.
Being a borderline student in the earlier part of my school years, I had a sudden spike in my result when I was in Primary 4. This intrigued me and the feeling of achievement spurred me into studying even harder for the exams that followed. That was my first memory of actually studying and paying attention in class. Also, that was the start of me having a goal to work towards. Prior to that, I was always dozing off in class and not really enjoying school much.
From then onward, I enjoyed good grades, I was self-motivated to study for my exams most times. I expect myself to not fail because being good in my studies gave me the confidence. I was top ten in my class from then on. By the time I finished school and my ‘O’ Levels, I was the top in my school.
Achievements In My School Years
I had great dreams, I had the drive and robust confidence in my future. I was sure I was headed for the highway to freedom and successful life and a happy one as well as to be able to provide for my parents.
Parents of friends and cousins would always praise me for my academic results. Sometimes, these compliments boosted my confidence (and ego) but they also caused comparisons between my siblings and me.
While in school, I took part in several extracurricular activities including Indoor Games like Chess, Abacus and Karate, as well as outdoor ones like Netball and such. I was selected for inter- and intra-school academic competitions, as well as part of the school’s newsletter team. I was part of the school’s Open House Science project team member and School Prefect in my final year. There were so much fun times and memories.
Challenges I Faced In School
But there is more to life than studying. There were many moments that I struggled with being myself when I was younger as well.
When I was being myself and wore what I felt comfortable in, I was commented as ‘not as street smart as my sister.
When I spoke my mind, I was often penalised for it. Often, I also hurt others unknowingly and that made me bit my tongue whenever I thought I had something smart to say. I ended up keeping quiet most times.
When I got good grades, some of my friends (more like acquaintances who were not even close to me, to begin with) commented that they wouldn’t want to befriend me. Just because I did better than them. I was confused and told my mum I didn’t want to score in exams anymore next term (luckily she showed me light) It’s funny now, but it was a confusing period for me at that time.
I was bullied (not physically, but sort of being pushed and stepping over my limits), but I have never dared to speak up for myself because I wanted to be viewed as friendly.
In all honesty, I did not know who I was then, let alone know myself enough to be better.
Deep down, I was an insecure and timid girl. I can be rebellious and outspoken at home yet, I was playing nice girl, trying my best to be pleasing in the faces of my teachers and classmates, to the public.
I also carried many negative thoughts about myself, for instance,
Although I took up many activities, there were not many that I really liked. I cannot play Netball because I lacked coordination and reflex. Often, I would end up in injuries and decided to drop out midway.
I stayed with Indoor Clubs because I was so sure that I would never be an athlete since I had never run more than 200m in my life up till that point. I also envied my classmates who could run, dance and do all the fun stuff.
On the other hand, I liked Karate but because I was obsessed with it, I was told to stop going for lessons when my grades dropped.
Throughout my school years, I was selected for competitions but my confidence took a blow when I caused my team to lose with questions I could not answer, questions that my teacher had gone through with me but I did not put in enough effort to prepare.
I would never think of myself as creative or artistic because I almost always fail my art.
I thought I was a bad leader because I was not selected for the Head Prefect, thinking that I was not good enough.
The Positive Sides (My Strengths)
However, I also found out I enjoyed helping my dad with the hands-on work like painting, sawing and carpentry works, repairing broken fans and radios.
I also relished reading and writing (hence I enjoyed my time with the newsletter team albeit a short one because I was due to graduate). I would write short stories and spend my days and night reading novels, then to nonfictions.
And the Science Project Team. It was a simple yet fun light bulb maze project that my team did for other children to come and play during the Open House. I still remember I spent so much time and energy on it that I arrived home so tired that I fell asleep till the next morning without having my dinner (this from an overweight 78kg girl who had never missed dinner).
I collected many awards and plaques for competitions and being the top scorer, despite that one competition that I failed.
Surprisingly, we often downplay our achievements but our failures are often etched in our minds.
I had really close friends who would come hang out with me because I had a strict curfew. We really talked about lots of things and remain close friends to this day.
And I enjoy studying and learning! I realised it made me feel like I had goals to work towards at that time. Also, I earned most of my prized personal assets through my good grades. I did not come from a well to do family, so my parents really encouraged me and walked their talks. My academic achievements and plaques made up for all my other incompetence.
These are just some examples out of my many childhoods to teenage moments.
Debunking My Assumptions of Who I Was
Your younger years are really great times for exploration and finding who you really are. (Click To Tweet)
I was at that exploration phase in my life, where I found out what I liked, how I learned (practical and hands-on), my personality and so on.
Fast forward to today, I now know what I stand for, my principles in life, how I want to live my life, how I can learn and improve and what I love doing in my free time. I also know who is important to me, what I am living for and so much more, so that I can live my best life, and so that I can fulfil what I am here in this world for.
All these, through a debunking and self-reflection exercises I did with myself.
I realise that I am not unathletic, I simply lacked exercise at that time, I was overweight with a sedentary lifestyle. Anyone my weight would face challenges in any sort of outdoor activities. Today I love outdoors, jog four times weekly and enjoy hikes.
I know that I like intellectual games like puzzles and mental challenges.
And, I still love hands-on crafts and work, reading and writing.
I found out that I can be quite focused doing what I love and I often lost myself in doing them.
I am not artistic but I am creative because I have made gifts by hand which people loved.
Plus, I have been a leader managing several projects so this is definitely a skill one can build on over time.
I enjoy setting goals for myself and love a good challenge. I love the feeling of winning myself (not against others because competing with others only make you unhappy. Furthermore, when you compare with others, what are you comparing against? No two individuals are the same and you never know what they have experienced or are experiencing before they reach that level)
On hindsight, I can answer the question “Who Am I” today because I took the steps, efforts, time and energy to find out who I am meant to be. (Click To Tweet)
Here comes the question:
What about YOU? How much do you know about yourself?
Would you not be interested to know who you are? What makes you, you? What are your unique qualities?
You have the youth, the time, the energy, and the unlimited opportunities to go and explore, try out and experience for yourself, what you love, like, hate, dislike or just be okay with so many things and events in life. And, a majority of you have no big life responsibilities yet so you are not really actually bounded by anything.
Here are some points you may want to find out more about yourself:
What do you love eating? Spanish? Italian? French? Chinese? Burmese? Indian? Japanese? Korean?
Are there any activities that enjoy doing? Read? Ski? Run? Jump? Dance? Paint? Sing? Explore? Travel? Eat? Learning? Language? Making friends? Talking?
What is your personality? Introverted? Extroverted? Open-minded? Close-minded?
What’s your character like? Fun? Outgoing? Reserved? Hot tempered? Mature? Patient? Impatient?
Do you follow your heart or your logic more?
Do you have principles in life that you follow? Like your ultimate limit before you say yes or no? Before you will finally stand up for yourself?
Are you a theory or practical person?
Are you more emotional or less?
Do you love mechanical (moving part like repairing stuffs) or technological (interested in gadgets, website or related aspects), communication (verbal or non-verbal), or literary (reading and writing), artistic or creative (paint, dance or creating innovative solutions), aesthetics (see beauty in people, fashion) and so on?
What qualities do you want to be more of? Are you confident, assertive or empathetic or lack some of them?
Do you love to work alone or in teams? Or do you prefer individual or groups outings?
Do you care more for people or animals, or social issues or business related matters?
How do you care for yourself? Do you need time alone, or do you prefer to talk about it?
Do you prefer day or night? Sun, moon or stars?
Do you like sea, mountains, greenery or clouds?
And the list goes on.
What I Want You To Know
You are unique.
Also, you are an individual.
You have qualities that no other can copy, nor should you copy anyone else’s.
Simply because you are you.
Many try to live up to expectations of others, and while some may achieve considerable success, they may not necessarily be happy.
Once you are being yourself, and once you know who you essentially are, you will realise that you are actually living in alignment to your core.
Your goals will seem interesting and exciting to achieve.
Your achievements make you proud while your weaknesses spur you to improve yourself to be a better person tomorrow.
You will still fail, but failures will be part of your road to living your life to the fullest.
You will succeed, only because you put in efforts and work hard for it.
(Most successes in life do not come by luck, nor do they come with good or rich family background.)
Only when you know who you are, then you will know what you want in life, what is worth fighting for, who matter(s) to you, how you want to be in future, and progress towards your goals and dreams in your own terms, not how others want you to.
I could go on and on, but the message is this.
Who you are, is the essence of living life truly for yourself.
If you are struggling to understand who you really are and what you stand for, get a copy of our 64 pages e-workbook ‘Discover, Debunk and Develop You in 30 Days’