We learn a lot about ourselves from our experiences than we do from school. 

Now, this isn’t another article about how the education system has failed us. Rather, the point here is that the task of learning about ourselves must be conducted individually.

No one can understand you better than you do yourself. Your intuition and your understanding of the world are one of a kind. You are unique. 

That said, here are 4 simple steps you can take towards understanding yourself better. 

1. Accept that you have a dark side

The legendary psychoanalyst and psychiatrist Carl Jung once wrote concerning the shadow [emphasis mine],

“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort… This act is the essential condition for any form of self-knowledge.

We all like to think of ourselves as good, kind, and harmless, and we go to great lengths to project this in social settings. We wear nice clothes, compliment one another and make sure we put on a big, often exhausting smile.

But beneath all the facade, the hard reality of our nature also lurks – we also envy, hate, backstab, betray – though we always have good explanations for everything. Why? We are good people, or so we think. 

But as Jordan Peterson explained in 12 Rules For Life, you have no insight into your capacity for good until you accept your capacity for evil. 

If your goal is to know yourself more, then you must have an accurate perspective about the kind of person you are and what you are really capable of. 

Thinking everything about you is good isn’t just unrealistic, it also prevents you from understanding vital aspects of your nature that are necessary for your development and maturity. 

Accepting your dark sides doesn’t make you a bad person, it helps you control it. 

2. Meditate on lessons learned each day

Pensive black woman with coffee and notebook

In a series of studies led by Prof. Tim Wildschut of the University of Southampton, it was discovered looking back on an experience gives it more meaning. 

The thing is, there’s barely time to pause and zoom in on any experience in the heat of the day. At work, we only want to focus on the task at hand. 

When talking with friends, we are probably censuring words in our heads or thinking of the perfect joke to say. 

But when you are alone at home by the end of the day, you have enough clarity to look back on the day and connect the dots. You make more sense of your actions, which leads to a better understanding of yourself. 

What makes this so effective is the fact that you are detached from the situation both physically and emotionally. 

Hence, you can truly allow yourself to look through your actions with a fine-toothed comb. 

3. Stop trying to know yourself through contemplation

Nothing is more effective for self-discovery than taking action. 

Most people just contemplate what they want their lives to look like. They say affirmations and hope that everything will magically fall in place. 

But here’s the hard truth: Action is the cutting edge of the mind, not contemplation. 

No matter how great your sense of imagination is, if you don’t take action, you will never really know what you are capable of. You won’t know what your strengths are.

All you’ll have will be assumptions about your passion, strengths, and weaknesses. You might even enjoy the ease of being a spectator for a while. 

It’s addictive not having to do anything but imagine and fantasize. 

However, if your goal is to learn about yourself, you must be a doer

Know what your dreams and aspirations really feel like in practice. 

As you take action, you’ll fail. You’ll rise again. You’ll face opposition. But the most important thing is that you’ll have a more accurate perception of who you are and what your life is about. 

4. Question yourself

Flat Lay Gadgets Beside Bearded Man

The hard truth is that most of the actions we are most inclined to take will lead us to a ditch. 

Left to our vices we will only do things that will make us comfortable right here and now. We only love the idea of delayed gratification in theory. 

And here’s what we usually forget: You don’t learn anything about yourself by blindly following impulses and letting emotions you don’t understand control you. 

You learn about yourself by asking questions. Question your actions. Ask yourself why you feel in a certain way.

This may not seem like much in the short term, but in the long run, you won’t just have better insights as to who you are, you’ll also learn to separate yourself from your impulses. 

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