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Self-discovery: On the Way to a Satisfied Life

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Self-discovery: On the Way to a Satisfied Life

Who am I? What do I want from my life, what are my goals? What are my strengths and weaknesses? Only those who really know themselves can choose the right path for themselves. Because instead of orienting ourselves according to external expectations, we should listen much more to our own wishes and needs. True to the saying: "Stop comparing yourself. Because then you'll forget the original you are." - But how can I actually get to know myself better? That, and what self-discovery actually means, is what we'd like to introduce you to in this article. 

What does self-discovery mean?

Self-discovery is not a new phenomenon from the world of work, which is playing an increasingly important role in the course of self-optimization, which seems to be becoming more and more important. Originally, the term comes from developmental psychology. Here, self-discovery begins with puberty, when adolescents gradually emancipate and detach themselves from their parents. Among other things, puberty is such a challenging time because we humans are trying to define who we really are.

However, our self-discovery is not complete after puberty. It is much more a lifelong process that we go through again and again. Because what defines us at 30 can be something completely different than what defines us at 50.

Especially in this day and age, our self-discovery presents us with a great challenge. Due to the numerous possibilities, it can be quite simply an overload to decide on the right path. Of course, the many options available to us also offer us a great deal of freedom and are in principle welcome - but to decide becomes incomparably more difficult due to this diversity. For example, estimates say that about 80 % of high school graduates today do not know exactly what they will do after graduation. They desperately want to make something of their talents and their lives, but because of the many possible paths they are overwhelmedwhat really suits them.

Why is self-discovery important?

We are all social beings and want to be integrated in a group. This has had great advantages for survival since early human history: Those who live in a social group can better protect themselves from external enemies, share tasks and reproduce better.

Society also plays a central role in our own developmental history. As children we want to conform to the ideas of our parents, as adolescents to those of our peers. It is in us evolutionarily biologically that we constantly make social comparisons. In this way, we try to find out how to behave properly in order to be accepted in a society.

Up to a certain point this is not a problem, after all we can also learn a lot by comparing ourselves with others. However, it becomes difficult when someone has the feeling that they only do most things for the expectations of others and not of their own accord. Then it can happen that at some point you realize that your own life doesn't match your own expectations at all. And that makes you unhappy and dissatisfied in the long run.

This is where self-discovery comes into play. In order to find out whether your life or individual aspects of it suit you, you first have to know what you actually want and what is good for you. This might not be so easy sometimes, because it can also mean contradicting certain social expectations. But once we have an idea of what is really important to us, we can shape our lives in the long term in such a way that we can happier and happier with it.

What are the concrete effects of self-discovery?

Even if self-discovery is not always an easy process, as already described, it brings many positive effects with it to know yourself better. Besides a better orientation on the individual path of life, you also benefit from self-discovery processes on other levels:

Personality Development

Breaking away from social conventions and expectations also means defining one's own character and values. In this way, over time, we can become an individual personality that stands out from the crowd. And standing out from a crowd can also have advantages - both in professional and private life.

Greater self-confidence

When we get to know ourselves better, we also learn about our strengths and weaknesses. And that increases self-confidence: When you know what you're good at, you feel confident in those areas. Knowing our weaknesses can also increase our self-confidence: if you know that you are not so good at a certain thing, you can acknowledge and accept this fact instead of having to fool yourself and others.

Better handling of (negative) emotions

Negative emotions such as anger, envy or jealousy are often a sign that something important to us is at stake or threatened. Understanding why you get angry in a certain situation can help you deal with this emotion better. Instead of reacting aggressively, you can explain to the other person why a certain behaviour makes you angry and what you would like to happen instead.

Active pursuit of happiness

Happiness is one of the goals that most people would define for their lives. But in order to align your life to make you as happy as possible, you first need to know what happiness means to you in the first place. Self-discovery helps you with that, too: If you know your needs, you can arrange your life circumstances in such a way that they make you happy.

10 tips for self-discovery

So self-discovery is worthwhile - even if it sometimes requires a little courage and the abandonment of habitual thought patterns. Now you may have already decided that you want to give your desires and needs more space in your life and get to know yourself better - but how do you do that concretely? We give you a few practical tips that can simplify the path to yourself.

1. spend time with yourself

When you are constantly surrounded by other people, it is much more difficult to listen to your inner voice. For this you need peace and quiet and privacy. Especially in this day and age of constant accessibility, we are very rarely alone with our thoughts. Therefore, consciously plan time intervals that you spend alone, if possible without technical devices that keep you otherwise occupied. If you spend most of your time with others or distracting yourself, this may be difficult at first. Over time, however, you will become accustomed to these quiet moments and may even come to appreciate them.

2. leave your comfort zone

Our familiar paths provide us with security. That's good, but sometimes we can't learn much new about ourselves or discover new strengths within our boundaries. Maybe there is much more to you than you think. In order to get access to your hidden abilities, you can go beyond your previous limits from time to time. Be open to new experiences and try different ways when you have the opportunity. Your body will store these positive experiences!

3. pay attention to your emotions

Be attentive to your own feelings and try to understand why these emotions arise. They are an important indicator of what is really important to us. This way you can find out a lot about yourself through a better access to your feelings.

4. give yourself goodwill

When you look at yourself, do so with a benevolent attitude. You are okay the way you are and don't need to fool yourself. Every person is individual and has his personal strengths and weaknesses that make him a special personality. Accept yourself exactly as you are - then it will be much easier for you to be honest with yourself.

5. set the focus on YOU

If you want to find yourself, you should block out external expectations as much as possible. Sometimes it is not so easy to differentiate whether certain ideas about the future belong to us or are socially conditioned. Do you really want to achieve a certain goal yourself because it is important to YOU, or is it more about satisfying those around you?

6. be attentive to comparative processes

As stated earlier, it is in our nature to constantly compare ourselves to other people. These social comparisons are often so automated that we are not really aware of them. However, this behavior is not very helpful in the process of self-discovery. It distracts us from our actual needs and often only ensures that we are dissatisfied with our own situation. Therefore, try to pay attention to when you measure yourself against other people. If you notice that you often activate processes of comparison, this is already a first step to get out of this automatism. Stay with yourself, your truth, your values, your vision!

7. explore your fears

Fear is one of our strongest emotions. It is important for our survival, but it can also limit us extremely. You may find it difficult to get to know yourself properly because you are afraid of the consequences. As part of self-discovery, it is therefore useful to confront your fears. Is there anything you fear that is holding you back from aligning your life with your needs? Are your fears perhaps keeping you from achieving something that is actually very important to you?

8. practice serenity

Whenever our emotions boil over and take control, we find it difficult to make well-considered decisions. Staying calm instead of upset more often can help you stay in control and make better choices. Easier said than done - but there are plenty of techniques that can help you do this, because calmness can be learned. Maybe you try it with Meditation, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation?

9. have the right goal in mind

It's important that you don't set yourself a false goal. The term "self-discovery" may suggest that at some point there is an end point where you have finally found yourself and are completely at peace with yourself. But this "goal point" does not exist. 

You are constantly changing. Self-discovery is a lifelong process. Challenging situations will be thrown at you from time to time in everyday life. But the clearer you are in yourself, the less they will trigger you and upset you. Instead, you may proudly notice how you grow even more each time and react in your new self. 

Self-discovery is not about optimizing yourself and becoming a better person. Perhaps that has always been the expectation around you. Self-discovery is about walking your path clearly and lovingly. 

10. involve other points of view

It is true that self-discovery is initially something that you do with yourself and for which you need peace and time. But sometimes other people with an outside perspective are a great help. Maybe someone else knows you very well and sees strengths that you haven't noticed yourself. Feel free to ask them for an honest assessment. 

YouTube video
Laura Malina Seiler reveals in the video how you can listen to your heart in times of crisis, have faith and find new energy.

5 practical exercises to find you

In addition to these general tips, concrete thought games and exercises can provide important insights. They can make us look beyond our own horizons and think along unusual lines. Sometimes interesting aspects come to light that are not accessible to us in our normal everyday life.

1. write negative list

If you are not sure what you want for yourself and your life, first think about what you definitely don't want. Take your time and write a long list of all the things you absolutely do not want. The items on your list can be very creative or more day-to-day. By eliminating a lot of things for yourself, you can get a little closer to your own ideas and goals.

2. take a personality test

A personality test can help you discover completely new sides of yourself and learn new things about yourself. Maybe the test asks you some questions that you wouldn't have thought of yourself, but which provide you with important insights. At Greator you will find a scientifically based and free personality test.

3. write morning pages

Lay out a few pages of blank paper and a pen next to your bed. Immediately after waking up, take the utensils and write down everything that goes through your mind. Try to write down your thoughts as freely and unfiltered as possible. In the evening, take the morning page again and try to analyze your notes. In this way, you will learn over time what is on your mind.

4. take a solo trip

If you have the opportunity, go on a trip all by yourself. When you're on your own in a foreign environment, you can get to know yourself all over again. Such a "self-discovery trip" works best if you don't have a precise plan and just let yourself drift. If you can't travel at the moment, try a scaled-down version, perhaps a day hike from place to place.

5. what do the others expect from me?

Take some time, a piece of paper and a pen. Start with your parents and write down what they used to expect from you as a child. Were you supposed to get good grades or be a good, well-adjusted child? What do your parents expect from you today? Next, look at other people in your life and ask yourself what their expectations of you are. You may find that some of your goals are not actually your own.

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Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

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