Why is our sense of identity important, does authenticity matter, and how can we better understand ourselves and make positive changes for the better?
When you stop to think about who you really are and how others see you, what comes to mind? Our personalities are made up of a unique combination of characteristics and qualities that form how we see ourselves (and how others see us, too).
There are lots of different ‘personality type’ frameworks and tests out there, some more famous than others. Many people like to use them as a way to try and understand themselves or to help guide their career choices. While some people think that they give us insight into ourselves and others (how our minds work, how we’ll react to others, how we may approach different situations, even what we value), there isn’t actually any scientific evidence that tests like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test offer deeper insight or meaning.
Despite the lack of evidence, we’re fascinated with personality types, tests, and quick ways to get to know ourselves better. Why is that? And how can we really benefit from gaining a deeper understanding of who we are?
Why is our sense of identity important?
Our sense of identity is comprised of our sense of self - our unique characteristics, afflictions, and social roles. Your personality, likes, dislikes, abilities, beliefs, values, and motivations all help build up and contribute to your self of who you are as a person.
We develop a sense of identity when we are young, and this can continue to develop over time as we grow, change, and encounter new situations, people, and learn more about the world.
Having a strong sense of identity can help us to feel like we belong. It can also help strengthen our confidence and overall sense of wellbeing, leading us to make long-lasting friendships with others who share similar interests and values. It can help us to view the world in a more optimistic light, be more open to learning about new things and different people, and generally be happier in ourselves.
Why does authenticity matter?
Knowing and understanding who you are can help you to live more authentically. This doesn’t necessarily make your life easier, but it can make your priorities clearer, help you to feel more energised and motivated, and decrease feelings of self-doubt.
As Life Coach Directory member Dr Sarah Brooks explains, many people seek out coaching due to a desire to have more purpose and meaning in their lives, and to help them live more authentically.
“One of the reasons my clients seek coaching is that they want more purpose and meaning in their life. In other words, an opportunity to live a life where they are more aligned with their core values and beliefs. Despite maybe being brought up in a world where we are taught our own needs are less important than those of others, humans have an undeniable desire to be themselves.
“Where there is great incongruence between our concept of self and the world we live in, individuals feel a deep sense of unease and it is this unease which indicates that authenticity is likely to be an important concept for us to understand and be curious about.”
Being more authentic can help us to experience more positive emotions, a greater sense of life satisfaction, purpose and self-acceptance. It can also help us to feel a greater sense of autonomy and control over ourselves and our lives.
Who am I? How do I know if I’m losing myself and why do we lose our sense of self?
As you change and grow over time, taking on new responsibilities and roles in your life, you can start to feel like you are losing your sense of who you are, what you want, what you believe in, and where you want to go in life.
You can go a long time without consciously thinking about your identity. Big life changes like becoming a parent, getting married, divorced, or the death of a loved one, can all affect how you see yourself, what you need to prioritise in your life, and lead you to question if you still recognise who you are.
But how do you know if you’re losing your sense of self? Ask yourself:
- What makes me happy? (Hobbies, activities, spending time with people you care about).
- Do I often say yes to make others happy (even when I don’t want to do something)?
- What am I good at? Do I know my strengths and weaknesses?
- Do I make choices based on what I am interested in, or what my partner/children/friends/loved ones are interested in?
- What do I value in life? (If you’re unsure how to put this into words, learn more about how to identify your core values).
Really thinking about these can help you to better understand yourself, how you make choices in your life, and how you can work towards building a stronger sense of self.
Are core values important?
Knowing your core values can be more helpful than you might think. Our core values act as helpful signposts in life. They guide us in making our choices, helping us to grow, move forward, and feel happy. When we fail to meet our core values, we can feel stuck, unfulfilled, uncertain, and unhappy. We may doubt ourselves more, have trouble making decisions, or feel lost.
Life Coach Directory member Paul Hemphill explains more about why people seek coaching to help them better understand themselves, their values, and to feel more fulfilled and happier.
“Many people first contact a coach because they feel that something is missing in their lives. They do not feel completely fulfilled or truly happy. Somehow they sense that there should be more to life, and they may even feel a little bit guilty for not being more content.
“If you feel that something is missing in your life, the reason is almost certainly because that is true. In every case, what is missing can be attributed to one simple cause: one or more of your core values is not being met.”
How can I know myself better, build a stronger sense of self, and live authentically?
There are many different ways you can start building a stronger sense of who you are and start to live more authentically. As we mentioned earlier, defining your values and core beliefs is the first step towards understanding what matters most to you. This in turn can help you start to make choices based on what you want to achieve, what you enjoy, and what will be best for your health and wellbeing.
Even when you have others who are relying on you (young children, elderly relatives, a partner or friends with health or support issues) you need to ensure your needs are being met. When we don’t meet our own needs, we can’t support others to the best of our ability.
Spending time by yourself can be a great way to reflect and understand yourself. This could mean trying meditation, practising mindfulness, keeping a journal, or trying something new like a hobby or volunteering. There’s no right or wrong way to go about it - just give yourself the time (and space) to get to know you and what makes you feel fulfilled, rested, energised, and happy.
Getting support and guidance can be an important part of better understanding yourself. Looking to others to act as a sounding board or to provide a safe space to explore your thoughts, ideas, worries, and questions can be an important and valid way of rediscovering who you are.
If you’re worried you may be experiencing ill mental health (anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem) speaking with a therapist could be the right option for you. Reaching out to your GP is the first step towards getting a diagnosis and highlighting local resources to support your mental health.
While a counsellor can help you look into your past and address issues you may be facing now, working with a coach can help you focus on the future, where you want to go, and how to set goals to get there.
What is personality coaching and what can a personality coach help me with?
Personality coaches can help you to better understand how you interact with others, how your personality and sense of self affect the decisions you make, how you communicate with others, your strengths and weaknesses, and how you can better understand yourself and your identity.
A coach can help you to recognise unhelpful thought patterns, behaviours, or feelings that may be leaving you feeling stuck, helping guide you as you learn to reprioritise your wants, needs, and values.
Want to learn more about coaching and how working with a coach can help you? Visit Life Coach Directory. Or ready to start working with a coach online or in person near you? Enter your postcode in the search bar below to find a qualified, experienced coach.