5 Tools to Pin Down Who You Are Now

No matter how well we think we know ourselves, there’s always more to learn. We are, after all, constantly growing and changing due to the experiences and thoughts we have.

In this blog, I advocate using your crushes to learn about yourself. Before you can effectively do that, you need a solid starting point. You need to understand who you are now. Thankfully, there are a number of tools available to help with that–and most are readily available, thanks to the wonders of the modern world.

1. Personality Tests

By the time you’ve gotten half-way through high school, you’ve probably taken at least one or two personality tests. The most common is the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. While it works best when given, interpreted, and followed up by a professional trained to work with it, even a self-administered one can be eye opening. You can take various versions of it online, here’s one. Another, with a slightly different way of grouping the results (that I particularly like) can be found here.

Even the memes that float around on social networking sites can lead to some insight into who you are right now. Unfortunately, they’re so easy to produce that most of them are horribly constructed, bland, skewed, and shallow. Be aware of the source and try to gauge the depth of any meme that crosses your path before you put too much stock in it.

The important thing to remember about any versions of any personality test is that it is only an indicator of who you are right now. Tomorrow, you may be in a different mood and answer enough questions differently that your type will change by a letter or two. Nothing that these sets of questions spit out is set in stone–if we want to change who we are, we can.

2. A Video Camera

Most of us are visual creatures. We’re kind of built that way. Most of the meaning we glean from interacting with others comes from non-verbal cues. What better way to learn about ourselves than to get someone else’s view of how we behave?

Video cameras are cheap these days–many cell phones even have video capability–so this isn’t as far-fetched a tool as it once was. The trick is, you probably need someone to help out and a group of understanding friends who don’t mind being caught on tape as you interact with them. Alternately, set it up and tell stories to the camera.

No matter the technique used, the first few times you’ll be very self conscious, making that early data very flawed. When you get to the point where you forget there’s a camera there, though, you’ll be able to look back at the footage and see yourself in a whole new light.

3. Lists & Journals

Make lists. Lots of them. Write down the thought process you go through to make a decision. Write out pros and cons of what shows you watch on TV. Write stories of your day–no matter how mundane or boring. Eventually two things will happen: you’ll become more aware of the processes you go through on a daily basis and you’ll be able to shift your thinking to a more analytical level when looking at your own thoughts and actions.

Journaling can be one of the most productive things you can do when getting to know yourself. It provides a permanent record of what’s come out of your head before. You can flip back through the pages and see how you felt a week, month, or year ago. If you write about both your good and bad times, you can see the ebb and flow of your moods and start to pick out patterns.

Most importantly, going back and reading old journals and lists months or years later can really help you keep the drift of memory in check. Depending on our general mood, memories often drift either to the positive or negative, dropping out bits that don’t support the direction of the drift. When I went back and read my own journals from my teen years, I discovered many positive things I had completely wiped from my memory as I focused on how awful that time period was.

4. Friends

While it’s never easy to hear some things, we can always ask those around us how they see us. Real friends will offer constructive critiques of your good and bad points. Take anyone who only has good things to say with a large a grain of salt as someone who only has bad things to say. If you really trust your friends, you can ask them to point out when you start falling into certain patterns–like being argumentative after a bad day at work or being flighty and hard to understand when you’re excited about something.

Sometimes, just the act of asking someone what they think of you can be an enlightening experience. It can point out just how much we don’t know about ourselves… and how afraid we are to find out.

5. Professionals

Once upon a time, I would have never recommended a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist as a viable tool for learning about yourself. All I had heard were horror stories of people being put on medications, told how they thought was wrong, and, more or less, coerced into falling into “normal” patterns in order to be considered OK.

Years have passed since then and the world has changed. Many therapists are much more open to non-destructive personality quirks or beliefs and practices that fall outside of the norm (like minority religions such as Wicca or the behaviors of various sub-cultures like Goths or the BDSM scene). Even better, there’s a wider range of professionals available, so you stand a better chance of finding one who’s personality meshes well with your own.

Make use of one or all of these tools–or numerous others that are out there–and you’ll start to get a better idea of who you are right now. Once you’ve started to get a handle on that, you can begin to use your crushes as tools to delve into the depths of your emotional side.

As you flesh out your own view of yourself, two new tasks become important: deciding who you want to be and starting to figure out how to get there.

Next time, I’ll talk a little about some processes that can help keep everything moving along.

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