In this guide, we take a deep dive into the sense of self by first establishing what it means, followed by the process of self-discovery, and closing things off with the 7 signs and symptoms of an underdeveloped sense of self.
As human beings, it is normal for us to question things. Ranging from several seemingly absurd topics, we question almost everything that brings curiosity to us.
From “is this Gluten-free?” to “What is the meaning of my life?” the spectrum of our questioning is so extensive that it practically encompasses all that we know of in this world.
And with that, at the center of this questioning process is the Self.
What Is The Sense of Self?
As the core of our existence, the concept of the sense of self practically defines who we are.
Simply put, a strong sense of Self leads to a better existential fortitude. Because we know our own value and worth, we’ll fare better at handling life’s twists and turns.
In contrast, a weak sense of Self leads to more existential dread and anxiety. Because we are unable to realize the interconnectedness and value of things, we’re directed towards ignorance and uncertainties in life.
With that, our goal is to strengthen our sense of Self. By reinforcing who we are and how much is connected with those around us, we are able to live a life that brings inner peace.
Join us in this article as we explore the path towards a better sense of Self!
Introspection: The Process of Self-Discovery
Unlike other articles on discovering your sense of Self, we tend to present to you a practical method that you can apply in your own journey.
With that, one of the methods for self-discovery is Introspection. Simply put, Introspection refers to the process of how one forms beliefs about themselves. By looking deep into these mental images of who we think we are, we get to know more how we perceive our own existence.
In general, the process of Introspection asks us to look at the phases of our life.
To simplify, it is basically how we understand the past, present, and future. As abstract concepts, these timelines affect how we can develop a strong sense of Self.
Given these three key phases, we can practically say that they can be interpreted either positively or negatively. For instance, here’s a general overview of how these phases can be explained as such:
- Positive: My past experiences taught me lessons that helped me improve my life.
- Negative: My past experiences defined me, and I am unable to break away from them.
- Positive: I have the power to change who I am today.
- Negative: I am limited by who I am as I’m simply a result of what others did to me.
- Positive: Though the future is yet to come, my actions can help shape the outcome I strive for.
- Negative: Because I don’t know the future, it is uncertain, and I am subject to it.
*Optional Exercise: Get a pen and paper (no not your cellphones, go write them down!) and try to write your own assessment of how you perceive your past, present, and future. After which, post it somewhere, and as you push further in your individual development, you can look back if some changes happened in your life.
In this brief yet comprehensive comparative analysis, we can see that a strong sense of Self accepts uncertainty yet doesn’t reject one’s own efforts.
In contrast, a weak sense of Self appears to be dependent, thus merely a result of the processes and forces around them.
By doing your own self-analysis or Introspection, you’ll find out how you perceive these areas of your life. As such, you’ll generally get a good sense of the things that you fear, and the things that you are good at.
Doing Introspection: How to Rediscover One’s Sense of Self
While the above discussion outlines what Introspection is and how it affects our lives, it discusses little to none regarding the practical steps that we can employ in order to begin with the process.
To begin with, there is no one single formula to do Introspection.
Given the unique nature of each human being, Introspection can vary, mainly depending on one’s personal traits, social contexts, and historical influences. Even so, there are similar steps that you can think of applying in your own life how you see fit.
Here are some of them:
- Examining your background/context – just as the popular phrase goes, birds of the same feather flock together. And while this is not always true, our environment speaks a lot of who we are.
For instance, your social context will definitely influence the things you believe in. Since they are pre-existing structures before you, their clout will certainly reach who you are, one way or another.
Thus, it is crucial to look at these contexts if we want to know ourselves on a deeper level.
- Assessing your belief systems – whether acquired or discovered, belief systems can move us. Since they are basically pillars of morality, what we believe reflects who we are.
For instance, your belief systems comprise of things that you subscribe to. Whether it is a religious sect or a political ideology, these concepts or even groups can shape the way you think.
Thus, when you make choices in life, such systems affect what you pick and to which extent you uphold such.
- Identify your habits – while the liberal/libertarian influences placed much stress on individual choice, our practices still define us since they become engrained in our system.
For instance, your habits are known to be more powerful than choices since the former has become some sort of involuntary action. Due to such, these actions go unnoticed. And while it is good if these are all positive actions, we cannot deny the fact that there are still negative ones.
Thus, looking deeper requires you to assess your own habits.
- Notice your emotions – as part of our human dimensions, our emotions partially define who we are. After all, we are who we feel.
For instance, one’s judgments are not always based on reason and logic. Even though we know what’s right, how we feel about certain things will most definitely affect what we do. Just think about how you purchase things – do you do it by feel or by reason?
Thus, reflecting on your own feelings will help you get in touch with who you are.
- Know your passions – as one of the most potent driving forces that we can have, our emotions move us towards action. Thus, knowing who we mean identifying things we genuinely care for.
For instance, people are moved by their own passions. Whether it is towards work or a hobby of some sort, our passions are essential because they help us express who we are. As such, we often become good at things we love.
Thus, identifying these deeply rooted dedications can help us know ourselves more.
- Look back to your Childhood – known to be one of the richest resources of self-knowledge; our childhood defines us. As we are born into this world, we’ve gained an understanding of it even though we lack proper rationality back then. Thus, our initial experiences in life define most of our pains and struggles.
For instance, your childhood strongly shapes the way you think simply because of your inability to judge things accurately. Thus, when a child undergoes some trauma of some sort, this pain will be carried over to adulthood, often resulting in unwanted attitudes and habits in life.
Thus, a careful examination of your childhood will expose these involuntarily acquired qualities.
While these are solid guidelines in rediscovering yourself, doing such is not limited to these six methods mentioned above. In your own unique way, you can find plans that suit you best.
However, using at least half of these six guidelines will definitely give you a good head start. Instead of clawing your way in, using these tried and tested methods can make the path of rediscovering yourself far easier.
But how will you know if you have a strong sense of Self?
Knowing whether you have a strong sense of Self is the first key in rediscovering who you are. Just like a doctor who does diagnosis before prescribing anything, doing an assessment will help you figure out for yourself where to start.
Since each of us are unique in a sense that we have totally different existential experiences in life, it only makes sense for us to take a more flexible approach in pointing out critical instances in this series.
As such, we’ll be proceeding by laying out common signs and symptoms of a strong and weak sense of Self. By pointing out instances where one feels alienated from their own Self, we can outline some common points which you can possibly resonate with.
Given such, you’ll be able to address the feeling of losing your sense of Self, often leading to the demise of your own humanity. By following the corresponding remedies, you’ll also have an idea of how to potentially address your existential issues.
7 Signs and Symptoms You’re Losing Your Sense of Self (and how to deal with it)
Sign #1: Feeling of Emptiness
As one of the most common starting points, the feeling of nagging emptiness knocks at the core of our existence. Like a jar with nothing in it, its nothingness bothers us, given that we have an a priori intuition that something should be inside that jar.
If we were to put it into perspective, that jar is yourself. And if that jar is empty, or you think it is empty, you’ll start to question your own value or worth.
Because of such, it is natural for you to experience a disconnection with your inner Self. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of your own nullness, you retreat to your own self-consoling activities. But even then, you were yet to solve your own problem.
How to remedy this situation: Fill your Self-tank
Easier said than done, the obvious solution of filling your own self-tank is one of the most challenging to execute. Given your likely low self-esteem, even adding an ounce of self-worth is already an achievement.
With that, the simple technique is taking it slowly. One simple technique is to allow yourself to be immersed in something you’re interested in. By doing so, you’ll probably get good at it, as this passion of yours can uplift your core.
As long as you make sure that you’re inching forward by doing things that adds to positivity, we can say that you’re on the right track!
Sign #2: Lack of Direction
Another common symptom of a weak sense of Self, lacking that direction in life, makes us feel like were going nowhere. Just like driving along the freeway without any destination whatsoever, we are moving but we are unsure where we’re headed to.
Unaware, most of us share the same existential struggle. While we feel that we’re progressing in life, truth is, we’re simply riding the waves of the ocean. With no direction, we’ll forever tread its waters.
Because of such, it is natural for you to experience a disconnection with your inner Self. By not having a clear goal, your existence is at question. Since you don’t know what you’re living for, you’ll forever bear the cross of ignorance or doubt.
How to remedy this situation: Set Goals not Dreams
More often than not, we have a dream. For instance, we dream of winning the lottery in order to become financially free. Envisioning the kind of life we want should we the Powerball, we daydream of the things we don’t have in life right now.
But in reality, this is just a dream. No concrete steps are made, not even actual planning sessions where we assess what we should be pursuing. Thus, it will remain a floating vision that will never come true even in our next life.
To deal with this, set your goals. In doing so, you’ll build a more positive version of yourself where you get to find ways to achieve what you want!
Sign #3: Herd Mentality
Often going unnoticed, our tendencies towards herd mentality can rob us of our own dignity and self-worth.
By allowing ourselves to be conditioned to the idea that adhering with the crowd is the best thing to do, our choices in life will be filtered through social values and metrics that aren’t necessarily good for us.
More importantly, herd mentality can affect us in the subtlest of ways. For instance, social media platforms can be used as propaganda machineries which can, to some extent, condition what we see and hear.
Because of such, our notions of right or wrong are heavily influenced. Unable to see ourselves past the social net, we lose our sense of Self.
While we gain that feeling of social security, such conditions lead us to become empty on the inside.
How to remedy this situation: Seek Authenticity
Often confused to standing out or making your own statement, real existential authenticity is far from such. After all, the true goal of authenticity is not to stand out, but oftentimes, this is what’s noticed by others.
For instance, people who make it big in life are those who decided to pursue their own path. While they often appear to stand out, the reason for their pursuit is, in most cases, not fame or recognition.
Instead, those who excel in their craft or started their own disruptive ideas in a certain industry are innovators that were moved by passion and authenticity.
Thus, in strengthening yourself, it doesn’t matter what values you hold. On the surface, they may appear adherent to the current values.
As long as you have genuine care on your own beliefs and not simply adhering to herd mentality, the rest is practically irrelevant.
Sign #4: Codependency
Notably present especially to those who love to give towards others, the problem of codependency is how it robs us of our own independence.
When we allow codependency to define us, we lose our “individuality” as we move forward in life.
Like slaves who cannot exist without their masters, codependents rely on their other half even for the minor decisions they make in life.
If you nurture this way of life, you are unconsciously conditioning yourself towards such. Unable to decide and act on your own, you become hesitant in discovering what you’re truly capable of.
While you may appear to be a team player or an altruist, such can be a façade that hides the fact that you are losing your sense of Self.
How to remedy this situation: Learn to love yourself
When you dedicate yourself to someone or some common group, it is perfectly normal for you to lose a part of your individuality.
However, ideally you only lose this temporarily as the thing you’ve decided to dedicate on should make you grow as an individual.
Thus, when you decide to dedicate yourself, you should see it as your own. By looking at it as part of your own individuality, you can parry instances where it leads to codependency.
After all, when you see yourself in it, you’ll find happiness as an individual because you know how to love and value yourself.
By doing so, you don’t have to find validation from your significant other, restoring your sense of Self!
Sign #5: Social Anxiety
Simply put, social anxiety is the inability to create or form your own perspectives due to fear of persecution. To contrast, this is more of a negative interpretation of herd mentality.
Whereas others pursue herd mentality in order to fit in, social anxiety is the fear of not fitting in.
As such, this fear moves you to always verify your choices in contrast with society’s standards. Unable to frame yourself apart from it, your very existence and its standards are ultimately judged by it.
With this, it can be challenging for you to picture out being an ‘individual’. Afraid of the moral bearing of having your own choice, you succumb to the standards that society has set for you.
How to remedy this situation: Be Bold
Boldness is a quality that’s often attributed to daring persons who knows no limits. Like daredevils who do extreme sports, most of these individuals possess a mindset of independence.
Able to find their own happiness that’s not contingent on other people’s opinions, these persons are good at getting the get-go.
With that, your task is to appropriate such virtue of boldness. While you don’t have to be a daredevil to become one, you still need to assess which areas of your life you may possibly work on and find your own stride.
By being bold, you will reinforce your own sense of self-worth. Instead of aligning it to some external norm, you’re now able to find your own path.
Sign #6: Inability to see the ‘Moreness’ in life
This concept of ‘moreness’ is something that has been propagated by new-age spiritualists.
Like a universal notion pursuing the higher Self, your ability to see what’s ‘more’ in life contributes to how much you know yourself.
For instance, a person who decided to close out on their spiritual life will always seek happiness and satisfaction in worldly goods. Because of this, their hearts will never be truly satisfied.
Left empty, one way or another, this pointless search denies them of their gift for spirituality, which forms part in the holistic approach of self-development.
How to remedy this situation: Pursue Spirituality
Obviously, there is no other way to go but to pursue spirituality. However, spirituality here doesn’t necessarily translate to the traditional world religions.
While these are great options to begin with, having your own take still becomes part of this notion of pursuing more in life.
For instance, people who have fortified their spiritual strengths are known to become individuals who know what matters in life.
Because they see its ‘moreness,’ you’ll observe how they frame their lives in a way that seeks the greater Self.
By being in touch with their higher Self, they become more.
Sign #7: Inability to see one’s existence as a part of the Greater Scheme of things
In the first 6 signs, we can see that it emphasizes the individuation of our existence. As a core of who we are, individuality is the cornerstone that defines the meaning of our life.
However, to limit ourselves to the individual Self is the subtlest way to lose one’s sense of Self.
For instance, one may have the right goals and is practically independent in life. Thus, this person may think that their knowledge of themselves is intact. But is it really?
Just think of the vastness of life itself. Should one really see their spectral existence as not more than a mere dot in the universe?
How to remedy this situation: See the interconnectedness of life
As the last remedy in this series, it all boils down to perspective. By gaining experience and going through all the signs listed above, you’ll understand that your existence is never purely independent from others.
While you need to maintain your sense of Self, depicting it from a distantiated point of view will always leave a gap for development.
By seeing the interconnectedness of life, we are focusing our attention to the social aspect of our existence without becoming dependent on it.
Identifying the need for a balanced approach between the two, our sociality is equally as crucial as our individuality.
Given such, someone who seeks to strengthen their sense of Self must know how to balance both individual and social aspects of their life.
By doing so, they can jive with the crowd without losing their sense of Self along the way.
In this series, we’ve extensively explored a methodic approach in dissecting the causes of our individual struggles.
By digging deeper into who we are and how individual and social forces contribute to our personality, we can say that these proposed methods can give us a good glimpse of how to improve our sense of Self.
While sophisticated, Introspection is a suitable method of knowing ourselves. In the Greek folklore Androcles and the Lion, the perennial problem of existentialism was creatively portrayed.
In this classic tale, it speaks of a lion with a thorn in his paw. Perpetually angered by this, the lion constantly unleashed its wrath towards to people around.
But upon meeting the brave Androcles, the story tells how Androcles removed the thorn and with it, the pains that the lion was carrying.
Traditionally interpreted as a problem of self-image, the dichotomy between the lion and Androcles reflects how we see problems in life.
With that, what are your thorns in life? Do you unleash wrath to others like the lion did? Or do you calmly deal with it, just like Androcles? Let us know in the comments below!