Understanding Your Inner Self

Understanding Your Inner Self

Have you ever thought about who you really are? Not a brother, sister, wife, parent or some other label, title or role. The real you that cannot be defined by any one specific label.

To know your inner self is to know your purpose, values, vision, goals, motivations, and beliefs. Not what you have been told by others, but what you have discovered for yourself. Knowing your inner self requires a high level of introspection and self-awareness. If you have clarity of at least half of what is listed above, you probably have quite a high level of self-awareness. At the same time, the process of self-discovery never ends — it’s a life-long journey. As we age and mature and traverse through life, our values, goals, motivations and beliefs may change along the way.

An aspect that complicates the matter of finding your inner self, is that you hold multiple identities in your life, each with its own set of values and expectations. Think about the person you are at work versus the person you are at home. Or how you act when you are surrounded by your immediate family compared to when you are around your friends. These identities may also not conform to who you are on the inside, which sometimes makes it difficult to uncover your true identity.

A good analogy to use would be the sunflower. Your inner self is like the head of the sunflower (the center part where petals are attached to). Your identities are like the petals around your inner self. While the petals are extensions of the head, they are not the head. Similarly, your identities are extensions of yourself, but they do not represent who you are wholly.

If you have never given much thought to who you are on the inside, it is likely that you have become defined by your identities. It is common for people to see themselves as a certain role, such as a friend, partner, employee, or son/daughter. Some spend their whole lives building themselves around such identities. Take those identities away, and they get lost, because they have little awareness of who they are on the inside. These people are not able to articulate their own vision, goals, and beliefs beyond what’s imposed by their identities.  As Lionel Suggs illustrated in the quote below, it is vitally important for us to know who we are on the inside, while being committed to our roles and understanding that these are extensions of who we are. 

I find it sad that too many do not understand themselves, or their potential. They don’t even take the time to get to know their unconsciousness. You can truly learn so much, by simply getting to know the “you” that is behind the reality of yourself.” ― Lionel Suggs

Here is an exercise to help you discover your inner self. Start off by becoming still, in a quiet place. Remove all the different identities that you have been layered with throughout your life. This means stop thinking about yourself as a brother, a colleague, a friend, a partner, or whatever identity you commonly associate yourself with. Think about you as just yourself.

With a pen and paper, start writing whatever comes to mind as you read the questions below.

  • What is your life purpose? What purpose do you see yourself standing for? 
  • What is your vision for yourself, independent of anyone else? What goals and dreams do you have for yourself for the next 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, or even 10 years?
  • What are YOUR motivations in life? What gets you going, day after day? What will you fight for? What do you feel passionate about?
  • What are your values? What qualities are important to you?
  • What are your beliefs about the world?

If this is the first time you are doing such an exercise, you will probably get into a bit of a jam. Some of your answers may come from one of your social identities. If you are very family-centriv, you may find your answers wholly centered around caring for your family. It’s totally fine to have such an answer, but at the same time it should not be your only answer, because you are more than your family. Start thinking beyond your family. What is your vision for yourself, outside of family? What are your personal motivations in life?

Don’t worry if you have difficulty writing the answers. Even if you draw up a blank, there is a real you that lies beneath your social identities, waiting to be uncovered. Take a few days, and implement the following steps before you attempt the quiz again:

  • Continuously learning and growing
  • Placing yourself in situations to learn something new
  • Constant self-questioning.
  • Listening to your gut feeling.

By doing the above two exercises, you will become more aware of your thoughts and actions and triggered the search process to discover the real you. Eventually, you will have a clear image of who you are as a person. 

Focus on finding your inner self, and then start to live in alignment with it. That’s when you start to live a conscious life.

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