Do you know who you are? What you stand for, your values, and your goals in life? Are you in touch with your needs and wants? If you answered a certain yes to these questions, then you have a strongly developed sense of self.
But if you’re not in a close relationship with your personal needs, or often dismissing your feelings and not valuing your wants as important enough, then you might have a rocky sense of self.
A sense of self means that you have a well-established and solid personality. Your foundations are stable and strong and you are in tune with yourself.
Having a highly developed sense of self is linked to how self-assured and confident you are. The reason for it is that if you know who you are, then it’s easier for you to assert yourself in life.
But if your identity is pretty vague (confused about your values, goals, vision, ideas, motives), then how would you go about your life with internal safety and a sense of grounding that project confidence?
Here are some signs that indicate a lost sense of self:
- Say yes to get people’s approval but in your heart, you wish you had the guts to say no. For example — you agree to help a friend carry furniture even though you have back problems.
- You are scared to express your opinions on various topics to not upset anyone, so you maintain a “harmonious” peace so everyone will be happy. Everyone but you.
- You deep down believe you’re unworthy of love so you hang on to people that might be wrong for you, whether it’s friends or romantic partners. In other words, because you perceive yourself as “less than”, you do everything you can to avoid abandonment and rejection and settle for connections that don’t bring you much value.
- You feel that you miss out on life and that your fears stop you from actualizing your true potential.
- Following the lead of others while quieting down your own preferences.
- Often participate in activities you do not truly enjoy.
From my own personal experience, a sense of self is something that can be cultivated. Even though no one ever taught me to build it correctly, I learned through life experience to do it myself.
Back then when I was growing up, I didn’t even know I had a self! My self and others’ selves always intertwined, I didn’t know where my self ended and where others began.
The lack of sense of self really made it hard for me to make decisions. I’m not even talking about making the right decisions, I’m talking about making decisions period. This muscle wasn’t evolved enough because I barely used it.
For example — as a child and then a teenager, I was never asked –
-Edith, what do you think about it?
-How do you feel about it?
-Do you want to come to this family gathering?
These things were basically decided for me.
And when I dared to express an opinion that was not part of the consensus where I grew up, it was totally dismissed. Only later when I left the place I grew up, I realized “Hey! My entire family is co-dependent”!
It wasn’t their fault.
They grew up in traumatic, messed-up childhoods as well, and they never learned the skills of understanding their own self, setting healthy boundaries, and allowing others to have their own sense of self.
The Benefits of Strong Personality
A robust sense of self, to me, is more than just knowing your values and the concepts you stand for.
It’s also about recognizing your true needs and asking yourself in different life situations — are my needs being met right now?
And how can you identify if your needs are being met? Through your feelings.
When you’re sad, upset, angry, hurt, lonely, disappointed, worried, defensive and etc., that can indicate that a bunch of your needs is not being met.
For example, if you’re working at a job where you feel anxious and tense, the following needs are probably not being met:
Connection, contribution, mutuality, kindness, choice, freedom, security, collaboration, respect, support, clarity, peace, safety, and many more.
Nurturing your sense of self allows you to:
- Clearly perceive your own unique qualities and strengths.
- Protect yourself with assertion and clarity.
- Live with purpose.
- Form satisfying and healthy relationships that can contribute to overall good emotional health.
- Respect your ideas and opinions because you know these are valid.
How To Work On Sharpening Your Sense of Self
Check-In With Your Self Regularly
In order to work on your sense of self, it’s important that you get in touch with yourself and check-in with yourself pretty often, by asking these questions –
— How do I feel about it?
— What do I want to choose right now?
— Is this working for me and meeting my desire for x (stability, safety, nurturing, love, warmth, and whatever else that’s important to you in this situation or with that person).
— What can I do in this situation to meet my needs?
— What is my sensation in my body? Where is it showing up?
Figuring out who you are is a lifelong mission. As you enrich your experiences, you get a clearer picture of your identity.
By checking in with yourself on a continuous basis and asking yourself the above questions, you deepen the connection with yourself and your wants.
A solid sense of self enables you to determine what’s right for you and what isn’t. As you strengthen your sense of self, you also learn to feel completely ok with who you are, because your foundations are grounded.
Practice Making Decisions
This tip may sound simple but you’d be surprised how many people are struggling with choosing for themselves.
We always get bombarded with what we should be or think that we lose our authenticity in this mess. These external influences often pull the roots out from where we stand.
Start making your own choices with the small stuff, instead of looking to others to make decisions for you.
For example — where you’d like to hang out with your friends, clothes you feel comfortable wearing and that match your personality or your mood for that day.
Every time you face uncertainty, ask yourself “what is the most accurate and right decision for me right now”?
It can be so overwhelming and exhausting living a life others expect you to.
And you can shift things around if you just start firming up your decision making muscles.
Set Healthy Boundaries With Others
One of the best ways (and hardest) to own a clearly defined sense of self is to set boundaries between you and others.
Having boundaries means honoring yourself as a separate, unique individual with desires that sometimes differ from others.
You may ask yourself — How do you stay true to yourself without upsetting others?
Well, here’s the thing — in some cases, others WILL GET UPSET with you, and that’s ok.
Despite their reaction, you have the right to commit to yourself first before you commit to others. It doesn’t make you bad or selfish. It’s the way you deliver your request for boundaries that makes the difference.
You have a right to be true to yourself and there’s nothing wrong about knowing and affirming what is important to you.
Sure, it was convenient for others that they got what they wanted, sometimes at your expense. And now that the status quo is broken, they resist it.
If you stay persistent by not violating the boundaries that are right for you — they will get used to it eventually. And if not — it’s not your baggage.
I get it, you don’t want to hurt those you care about. Therefore, you can explain yourself to them, without apologizing, that you are a separate individual.
Sometimes, you just don’t have the time to get involved with obligations they want you to do…. Or don’t want to commit to things that make you uncomfortable, or that contradict your moral codes.
Setting healthy boundaries allows you to be vulnerable. There is power in vulnerability because the other person really gets to know the real you. Your relationships can grow stronger and healthier as you practice the delicate art of setting boundaries.
In the end, building a stable sense of self is necessary for a satisfying life. It strengthens your connection with yourself and your relationship with others.
There’s nothing more disappointing than abandoning yourself and disowning your feelings and wants.
On the other end of the range, there’s nothing more satisfying than staying grounded in your values and being committed to yourself.
Check out my special program that is designed to help you develop a strong sense of self.
If you’d rather focus on other related subjects, like strengthening your self-esteem or believe in yourself, then get instant access here to my mind training tools.
It’s never too late to start getting to know yourself, no matter if nobody taught you how to do form a sense of strong personality. You can begin to explore your identity, get in touch with yourself and gradually, get to feel complete, and find your right course.