Seven Ways to “Know Thyself” Better

We’ve talked about how important it is to “Know Thyself” – and why it can be so difficult. But there are ways we can know ourselves better! Here are seven things you can do to grow in self-knowledge.

||ONE|| Give yourself time: not as an excuse, but as a method. Don’t expect to know yourself overnight, if you’ve never given it considered reflection over a period of time. It takes time to really get to know anyone, and even though you’ve been yourself your whole life, chances are that your first 10-15 years had very little conscious self-reflection built into them. While life is a process no matter how old you are, the thirties definitely offer more “settling in” to yourself than the twenties, and the twenties more than the teens. So, just know that time is essential and you can’t rush time.

||TWO|| Practice raw, brutal honesty – with yourself! Don’t make excuses to yourself, of all people. This means admitting the good and the bad, the weaknesses and the strengths. If you can’t be honest with you, how can you possibly be honest with someone else? This takes real courage, especially if we have been hiding behind piles of excuses or mountains of fear for years.

||THREE|| Take stock, regularly. Our memories are notoriously unhelpful at giving us the unvarnished versions of us. Writing things down (or making a video/sound recording) is one way to know that we will have access to previous versions of us. Keep a journal and keep it just for you, not for anyone else, so that you can practice honesty there. Keeping a journal helps with giving yourself time, too: you don’t have to ‘interpret’ everything that happens to you or that you feel – just note down the stuff that is close to your heart and trust that someday you might be able to understand it better. Someday it will help you to know yourself better, even if right now it seems silly.

||FOUR|| Ladies, learn chart your cycle. Maybe it sounds silly if you aren’t familiar with doing so – but knowing how your hormones are constantly changing and affecting your moods and overall health (including mental health!) is really key to understanding yourself. (Here is a helpful place to start.)

||FIVE|| Talk to people who know you. Really, deep-down, know you. Ask how they would describe you to someone else. Ask them to be honest. Brace yourself for honesty. There’s probably a lot of bad and a lot of good all mixed in, and sometimes the good is just as hard to hear as the bad.

||SIX|| Take personality tests with a grain of salt – aka, the right mindset. A personality test is not a horoscope: it can’t give you any new information that you don’t put into it! But it can re-phrase what you’ve said, and sometimes just hearing our own ideas rephrased is helpful. An accurate set of test results should make you feel more free (“oh, of course that makes sense of why I am always doing x”) rather than boxed in (“that doesn’t describe me. Very often I’m not like that!”).

||SEVEN|| Introduce accountability into your life. Whether you have a friend who acts as an accountability partner, a spiritual director, a mentor, or even someone you trust to meet with regularly to confess your sins, it’s important to have outside accountability. It keeps us honest and helps us to see our growth and change over time.

{A caveat: there are times and places for brutal honesty. Being vulnerable is good, but not everyone deserves to plumb the depths of your spirit with you. Make sure that you have a partner who is trustworthy, someone with whom you feel comfortable, and someone who shares your values. Sometimes you’ll have different people for different aspects of your life: a mentor in your career might not also work as someone who can join you in spiritual growth.}

If you’re in a place in life where you are just realizing how little you know yourself, it might be tempting to start doing everything all at once: but remember number one! Time. Start by accepting that you can’t grow in self-knowledge overnight. To quote Steve Jobs, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”


What steps can you take to begin to know yourself better?