Everyone struggles to figure out who people truly are. Often when they define themselves they focus on the negative or how they compare to other people. Nobody but you can define who you are but this article has some tips on how to look at the ways you define yourself and how to make it positive.
1. Discovering Your Identity
Know yourself. Self-knowledge, particularly non-judgemental self knowledge, is an incredibly important skill to help you define yourself. You'll need to understand what makes you tick and what your thought processes are before you can define who you are as a person.
Mindfulness means paying attention to what you are thinking and observing your patterns of thought. For instance, you might realize that you have a tendency to feel that people don't care what you think and that your opinions are unimportant. Recognizing that you have these thoughts and catching them before they start causing you anxiety, can help you piece together the important parts of your identity.
When you start paying attention to your thought processes and patterns you'll need to practice attentive non-judgment. This means being aware of your thought patterns and acknowledging them, but not beating yourself up over them. Everyone has negative thought patterns and processes. By paying attention to them, you can eliminate them from your mind.
Notice how you identify yourself. Once you start paying attention to the way you think about yourself and about the world, look specifically for the ways in which you identify yourself. See what groups and communities you use to create your identity. All of these inform how you see yourself and tell you what you are letting define you.
For example, look at things like religion, nationality, sexual identity and see if those are ways you define yourself.
Look at the roles you take on, such as your job, your position in your family (mother, father, sister, brother), your romantic status (single, couple, etc.).
Jot down thought processes and self definitions. To become adept at seeing your thought processes and definitions and how those determine how you act and who you are, write them down in a notebook as you identify them. You'll be able to see how you consider yourself and it will make it easier to eliminate the negative associations.
Talking to and working with a clinical psychologist can greatly help in uncovering patterns of thinking and being. They can also help you deal with the more negative aspects of your thinking.
2. Creating Your Self-Definition
Record your negative definitions. Recording them and paying attention to them will help you let go of them. Getting them out in the open can help to take away some of their hold on your mind and self.
Don't limit yourself in negative ways. Definition of the self determines the action. So, for instance, if you're defining yourself as someone who has bad romantic relationships, you've already lost the potential for a good romantic relationship. It is a story that you tell yourself, and then because you believe the story, you will already be behaving in ways that make the story true.
Identify your core values. You don't want to define yourself based on outside forces, because outside forces are volatile and subject to constant change. By basing your self-definition on core values, you will have a better chance of having a stable self-definition.
You won't lose your self identity if you base it on values you hold at your core, like compassion, courage, integrity.
Write down a list of these values and consciously and mindfully act them out in your daily life. Therefore, if courage is one of your core values, stand up for someone being harassed at the bus stop, or if honesty is a core value, fess up to having lost your father's favorite watch. If compassion is on that list, spend time volunteering at a homeless shelter.
Define yourself in positive ways. This doesn't mean that you don't acknowledge the negative events and actions that have happened in your life. They are as much a part of you as the positive, but they do not define you.
This means don't let outside circumstances rule your identity. That comes from within in, from the core values that you have already identified as being important to your identity.
Understand that the negative experiences in your life have offered knowledge. For example, if you have had negative experiences with romance, learn from those experiences. What have they taught you about the kind of person you want to be?