I'm always fascinated about how little I know about myself and I know I'm not alone. There are a lot of problems with self-awareness. First of all, most people, simply don't make the time to do the deep soul diving that's required to explore what makes us tick. Secondly, most of us are more interested in anything that's going on "out there" than we are in the stuff that's happening inside.
However, more than anything, the challenge is we're constantly evolving, morphing into new and updated versions of ourselves. Without a ritualized practice of self-exploration, it can be almost unavoidable to have outdated ideas about who we are.
Up until recently, I would have told you I'm the girl who's always up for the next big adventure. However, at this moment in my life, I'm face to face with the kind of adventure that will deliver life changing experiences, and I find myself a little queazy.
My hesitancy is surprising me. I'm discovering corners in my soul that aren't as courageous as I once thought they were. I wouldn't have ever seen that part of myself had I not gone and stirred the pot of the status quo.
So, now I'm learning a lot of things I didn't know about myself. Change and transition have a way of shining the light on what's true right now like a stadium light in a closet.
A real sense of self is hard to nail down when we are so habituated to identifying ourselves in very external ways.
We identify ourselves as through relationships. I am a wife and a mother. For the majority of my adult life, I've been known as someone's mother. More people know me as Caleb's or Kingston's mother than know me as just Lisa.
We identify ourselves as a career choice. I am a coach. My introduction often involves a lot of explaining what I do to earn money and zero talking about who I truly am.
We identify from a sense of place or location. I am from Olympia, Washington. I live near downtown.
However, when you strip all that away, all those external formalities and identifiers, what's left? What can you tell me about who you are after all that? Most people will hit a long hard pause once all the external stuff is off the table.
I firmly believe profoundly knowing myself is the single most important factor in my happiness. Yet, when I'm sitting with myself more often than not, I'm still a mystery. And that's ok because uncovering that mystery is my life's work. It's your life's work too.
Self-exploration is a sacred practice. It's not a once and done kind of deal. Pulling back the layers of external identity takes time, but it's worth the investment of energy.
Here are six practices for self-discovery.
1. Explore your soul through your art.
Everyone has art in them. It might be words that want to flow onto a page. It might painting, sewing, pottery, drawing, music, or dance. What it is, doesn't matter. What is important is that you express it.
Creativity is the expression of the soul. Create for your sake not for other people. It's your art. Get yourself out of your head and into the world through art for art's sake.
Creative constipation leads to depression. It also deafens you to the whisperings of your inner-self because art is an intuitive process of making something that wasn't there before.
2. Create environments that make you happy and then examine them.
If you decorate judgment free, for yourself and no one else, you will see yourself reflected back to you with remarkable accuracy.
Get rid of the things that don't bring you joy. Sit in a blank canvas of nothingness until things start appearing if you have to.
Paint the walls a color that makes you smile when you look at it. Bring things into your spaces that make you happy. Throw it all away and start over regularly.
3. Photograph everything and notice what you're capturing.
We live in an age of digital photography. Everyone has a camera on their phone. There's no excuse. Photograph everything.
Your eye sees things your brain might not notice. Be curious about the patterns that start to emerge. You will start to get clues about your personal sense of style. You will start to see beauty where you might normally miss it.
We tend to document what's really important to us. You'll figure out what's screaming to be seen pretty quickly.
4. Make a new friend and observe yourself from a fresh perspective.
New friends don't know your past. They see you with fresher eyes than you might see yourself. In the most innocent way possible, new friends see the real you.
Exploring yourself through the lens of someone who doesn't know you well will give your insights into how you show up in the world without your stories about who you are.
Be vulnerable with a stranger and be curious about how that feels to you. Notice how it feels to be present with someone who knows very little about you. Practice feeling emotionally safe in the uncertainty of it.
5. Challenge yourself to a bigger than usual risk.
Observe yourself pushing your limits and see what comes up. You will find all your insecurities lurking at the edge of your comfort zone, and most of them probably aren't even valid.
Explore how it feels to stand squarely in the uncertain. Do it for self-exploration's sake alone. Let go of the habit of controlling outcomes and just experience yourself doing or being something new.
Write down all the fears or insecurities that come up when you take a risk and decide if those fears are a part of who you want to be. Fear happens, and many people turn back at the first whiff of it. Be willing to see who you are while being afraid and moving forward anyway.
6. Get comfortable with the discomfort of speaking your truth without apology.
Your truth is what makes you uniquely you. Speaking it makes you visible, and visibility is vulnerable. Vulnerability is rarely comfortable, but it's worth it. You deserve to take up space in your own life. Speaking your truth is the only way to do that.
Other people don't have to like or agree with your truth for you to own it. Truth is not the territory of popularity contests. It is the foundation for authenticity. You can't ever fully experience yourself until you own and speak your truth.