Traditionally, our teenage years are those where we put the most time and effort in getting to know ourselves. As high school and college students, we are encouraged to both be introspective and try new things in an effort to identify interests and solidify an identity. I'm sure we can all remember (and sometimes laugh at) a "phase" we went through as children or teens. Identity is rarely static, however. As adults, we also change as we experience the peaks and valleys of life and it can be difficult to keep up with who it is we see when we look in the mirror. This can exacerbate problems people already experience during times of transition like searching for a new job, ending a relationship, or preparing to send children off to college. Not sure where to start? I'll share some ideas on how to encourage self-exploration as an adult.
1. Assume you will change and be open to change
Be aware of how your education and experiences change your thinking and what you value. Have a curious mind about new products, experiences, and ways of thinking. Don't hold too tightly to something you believe about only because it is familiar.
2. Try new things
By doing so you may find a new hobby or learn something new about yourself.
3. Take a personality assessment
You can take free or low-cost versions of most major personality assessments online that can help you learn about your communication style, strengths, and weaknesses. Some I would recommend that have been helpful for me personally are the Big 5, Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and the Enneagram.
4. Introspectively talk or write
If you tend to be an external processor, talk with a close friend about how you're thinking or feeling about yourself/a recent experience. Listen to their ideas and their own experiences, perhaps you'll gain clarity about yourself.
If you're more of an internal processor, write about your experiences and what they're teaching you about yourself and the world.
5. Prioritize values
Often people say time is a big barrier to self-exploration. What does your lifestyle say that you value? Are there any changes you need to make to reflect what you really find important?
While learning about ourselves is a continual process, times of transition may make it glaringly obvious to us that we need to be better in touch with ourselves to help bring meaning to life or overcome an obstacle. After all, the only person you’re with every moment of every day is yourself; don’t you want to know that person better?
Master's Level Counseling Intern