When do I know who I am? My self-identity.

Many of us wait to know who we are. But this approach misses the point. We are always learning who we are. Self-identity is a constant process, not a destination we finally arrive at. We can’t get the job done of ‘finding myself’ and then just park ourselves for life. We always need movement and growth; otherwise we have stagnation. We would be trapped if we didn’t grow. We are always building our own world. Rather than asking ourselves, ‘Who am I?’, we need a constant curiosity to enjoy the question of ‘Who am I at this point?’ which is based on continued learning about ourselves. Don’t wait until you know who you are. You are always learning who you are. It is more a case of ‘This is where I am right now, and this is the direction that I want to take at this point in life’. Life is an innovative art in which we continue to undergo a process of reinvention of who we are. Awareness of ourselves and our patterns is needed for this flexible way of approaching our life. 

Be yourself. Ultimately just be yourself.


Key ways to continue to form our identity – our authentic self: 

1. When you look at art, listen to music or see some architecture, focus on what you think of it, rather than what others tell you to think. While you may respect the skill that went into something, you do not have to like it, even if it is priceless. Tapping into your artistic or creative side gives you direct permission for personal expression. We need to practise building our strength to have our own voice. It is not important to impose this voice on others; what matters is tapping into the voice within ourselves. We continue to find out who we are by experimenting with our opinions, preferences, values and lifestyle. We constantly learn what we think and feel about things, and what makes us feel recharged and well within ourselves. Nobody is born with their voice or their personal approach; we are constantly learning. 

2. Learn to tolerate uncertainty and continue to be flexible in exploring life. ‘I’m not really sure what I think about this’, so I will remain open to what comes along in life and learn how I respond.’ This openness is helpful in allowing us to broaden ourselves and absorb more of a rich tapestry as our identity forms through our life. 

3. Find a positive identity through achievement. Finding what we are good at, or what gives us a sense of accomplishment and meaning is nourishing for our sense of ourselves. It is important, however, to remain open to all the other parts of ourselves and our other areas of exploration; otherwise our area of achievement can actually trap us and hedge us in. We do not want to narrow our lives. Our areas of achievement can instead be a solid anchor point for our other areas of exploration and growth. Achievements are forward moving and they can tap into creative expression. They can help build relationships and strength and can make your world and the world for others around you better. 

4. Learn to overcome the anxiety of not knowing who you are. Our continued possibilities always remain unknown until we reach a crossroads with new experiences in life. Rather than relaxing into the gentle forming of our identity, and trusting time and the gradual growth process, many of us feel confused, anxious and rushed. We want reassurance of the end result. This is pure anxiety speaking, and it really makes no sense as we will never arrive at our final identity formation anyway. Ideally, we are always growing and expanding. Sorry for the cliché, but it is literally the journey, not the destination, that matters when it comes to our identity formation. So try to relax and enjoy the ride. Enjoy what you have figured out so far, and enjoy your continual learning, tweaking, growth and self-discovery. 

5. Beware of thinking, This is it; this is all I can be; this is all I expect from life. A tendency to resign from our identity formation is very dangerous, and we can create a depressive prison for ourselves if we decide that we are going to stand still and clip our wings. This can put out the fire of passions and dreams. In resigning like this, rather than being a thriving adult, many turn to self-medicating with drugs, alcohol or gambling to escape living. We need to choose love and life, not an anaesthetised approach to life. We need to build our lives so that they are large enough to encompass our dreams. 

You were created with intrinsic value. 

You are a unique creation. 

Your body is a miracle. 

See your value, open your eyes. 


Gaining the gift of being yourself involves sifting the trivial from the essential in your approach to living. By doing this we can be precisely who we are and who we want to be. When we are no longer trying to live in the shadow of others, our envy melts away and confidence becomes natural to us.

Kirsten-Hunter-Author

Dr Kirsten Hunter

Dr Kirsten Hunter is a clinical psychologist with 20 years’ experience.

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