Shakespeare once said, “To thine own self be true.” Supposing he meant we should all live authentic lives, that sounds like a pretty good plan. But what if you’re having a hard time figuring out what that looks like for you? Well, it might be time to go on a journey of self-discovery.

Yes, that might seem like an intimidating idea; but having some solid starting points can give you a little more than Bilbo-level confidence on the road.

Good news: our GPS is working. So let’s carpe diem this bish and talk about how you can start to find yourself.

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Illustration by Brittany England

Finding yourself can mean different things for different people, but generally, it’s when you become more aware of who you are and what you want (what you really, really want). It can also help you accept and understand your thoughts, feelings, relationships, and goals on a deeper level.

Finding yourself can give you increased feelings of:

Just as important as knowing who you are is knowing who you aren’t. And completing a successful mission of self-discovery can help you avoid wasting time on things that you know aren’t fulfilling or productive.

There’s not a universal way to discover yourself. But these 13 steps can help you get the ball rolling.

1. Ask yourself some questions

A periodic introspective question sesh can help you get a sense of where you are now and what you want to change. Some helpful starters are:

  • What am I grateful for?
  • What do I like about myself?
  • Am I content with my career?
  • What’s taking up the most energy in my life?
  • What was the best/most productive thing I did last month?
  • What’s on my bucket list this year?

BTW, you don’t have to answer all of these questions at once. You can spread them out over a week or so if that’s less intense.

2. Get organized

Any experience that feels overwhelming or uncharted can feel more manageable with some organization. You don’t have to do an entire life renovation. Start with cleaning your home, getting a planner, setting a schedule, or prepping your meals. This will allow you to live in the moment with your own thoughts.

3. Assess your relationships

Relationships require maintenance, but not all of them are worth maintaining. Look out for controlling or codependent connections. If you feel that one or more of your relationships is negatively affecting your quality of life or that you can’t be yourself, it may be time to cut the cord.

Psst. Here are some ways you can manage toxic relationships with your siblings or parents.

4. Take a nature break

Studies show that spending even an hour in nature can have a restorative effect. Spending time in the great outdoors can increase self-reliance and improve your health.

Look into local reserves, farms, or forests in your area. And if you live in a city, explore a new park!

5. Try something new

It’s never too late to learn a new skill. Hit up some music, art, or continuing education classes. You might even be able to turn your new talents into an income!

FYI: There are TONS of online class platforms. You can slay a new skill in the comfort of your own home.

6. Write it down

Journaling is a great way to press pause and reflect on your feels. These moments of introspection can help you unearth the real you. It’s also a wonderful way to track progress and establish new goals.

7. Travel

A change of scenery can have a powerful impact on your self-discovery journey. You’ll meet new peeps, try new foods, and discover new passions. Keep in mind, you don’t need to go full “Into the Wild” status. A quick trip to a nearby city or town can be just as meaningful.

8. Meditate

Studies show meditation can reduce stress and increase your attention span. Meditation can also make you more aware of your patterns, habits, and desires. BTW, you don’t have to spend hours a day meditating. Start slow with a 10 minute practice and work your way up from there.

Pro tip: Try a meditation app! They can help you get in a good groove.

9. Unplug

It’s super easy to fall down a social media rabbit hole. A quick scan on the Gram can turn into a 5-hour scroll fest. This can distract you from your true goals. So take some time off social media, or at least limit your daily screen time. You might realize you don’t miss it at all!

10. Collect support, not opinions

In a perfect world, everyone you know will be super stoked that you’re on a self-discovery journey. But this isn’t always the case IRL. Be careful what and who you listen to. To get clarity, what you want is support, not a cloud of opinions. At the end of the day, the only one that needs to be satisfied is you.

11. Lend a helping hand

Volunteering is a great way to get some perspective. When you give yourself to a good cause, it can show you what’s really important and point you toward what you care about.

12. Treat yo’ self

Finding yourself doesn’t have to be all about the struggle. It’s also a great time to pursue your desires. Is there a restaurant you’ve always wanted to try? Or a gym you want to go to? Do it! Give yourself as much TLC as you can. You deserve it ❤️.

13. Be kind to yourself

A big part of finding yourself is accepting the past as you work towards the future. This won’t happen overnight. And unless Hot Tub Time Machine becomes a reality, you can’t change the past. Just know it’s OK to feel and it’s OK to let go.

If you’re asking what happens after you find yourself, the answer should hopefully involve less stress. Lots of folks base their self-worth to how active they are or how needed they feel. Though finding yourself can give you more confidence, which then leads to more activity, it can also lead to more busyness. Busy doesn’t always = better.

To avoid the stress of busyness or the stress of proving your newfound self to others, give yourself the space and time to learn how to set boundaries and be the best version of yourself. Remember, self-discovery is about finding inner peace, not pleasing peeps.

Finding yourself isn’t about a quick payoff. The things you learn on your journey can benefit your lifestyle in the long-term. Here’s how you can keep yourself motivated:

  • Do daily or weekly check-ins with yourself.
  • Learn to say “no.” Set healthy boundaries with the people in your life.
  • Make sure you get enough “me” time. Even 20 minutes a day can go a long way!
  • Do daily affirmations. They can help you keep a positive outlook so you can stay motivated.

A self-discovery journey may churn up old traumas and bad memories. It can also be really overwhelming if you don’t know where to start or if you don’t have support from your friends or fam. A therapist can help you sort through these emotions in a safe space.

P.S. Give online therapy a whirl if you’re not down for face-to-face sessions. Some services even accept insurance!

Figuring out who you are doesn’t happen overnight. It can be a long (and sometimes stressful) journey. But in the end it will be SO worth it. You’ll develop more confidence and feelings of self-worth. This can help you be the best (and happiest) you.