In order to be a healthy, content, well-adjusted adult, it’s helpful to know yourself. But figuring out who you are as a person can be tough at any age. You’d think life experience would make it easier to know who you are, but this isn’t always the case. If you’ve spent much of your life feeling anxious or dealing with trauma recovery, then you may understand what it’s like to go through life just trying to get by.
I’m a therapist for millennials, and I help support many of my clients in how to deal with feeling lost in life. Many are people-pleasers who have been catering to others for so long that they don’t know who they are as people. So how can you really know who you are as a person, underneath everything else?
Feeling like you don’t truly know who you are deep down can be heartbreaking and anxiety-inducing. If this is you, I want you to know you’re not alone. There are a lot of reasons millennial professionals just like you come to me wanting help figuring out how to connect with themselves.
Maybe you have dealt with rigid family expectations. This can set you up for doing what your family expects of you. As a result of trying to please your family, your own passions and desires are stuffed down.
Or you might not know who you are because of your people-pleaser habits. People-pleasing, among other things, can cause you to try and cater to everyone else rather than cater to yourself and your own desires. It can cause you to disconnect from yourself and what you care about. Clients who engage in people-pleasing behaviors often have a difficult time being able to figure out who they really are later in life.
Whatever the case may be, there’s no shame in feeling lost in life. There are so many ways we can get lost, but there are also many ways we can find our way again. There is hope, and you’ll get there.
One way to figure out who you are as a person is to learn what your core values are. In other words, what’s important to you? What do you spend your time prioritizing in life?
Core values often (but don’t always) stay fairly consistent from when you’re a young child into adulthood. This is why they’re called core values – because they describe the core of who you are and what you care about.
Values vary greatly from person to person. No one else but you can decide what your values are. To figure yours out, think about what you truly care about deep down. Think of values that help you navigate things like your lifestyle, your career, the choices you make, and the relationships you pursue. This can range from spending time in nature to cultivating meaningful friendships to financial independence. You can check out a core values list online to give you some ideas.
After some brainstorming, come up with a list of 5-10 core values that resonate with you. And don’t worry, these values aren’t set in stone. You can always change them if you decide they aren’t actually accurate for you. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error before you find values that really stick.
Knowing your core values can help you feel rooted in who you are as a person. If you consciously understand the things that make you tick, you can begin to move through your life with more clarity. You can start making decisions and working toward goals that align with your values.
Figuring out your core values is a great first step to take. But once you have that list, then what? Well, then you need to start thinking about what you want to spend your time doing. And in order to know what you want to spend your time doing, you may need to try new things.
I get it: trying new things is easier said than done. New categories of activities can bring up a lot of anxiety, discomfort, and fear. They can bring up thoughts like, “What if I’m bad at this? What if everyone sees me fail and then they abandon me?” Going for what you want in life can feel terrifying, because it can put a lot of pressure on you to succeed.
Yes, trying new things is scary. But you can build the skills to deal with that fear, and to face it head-on. You can allow yourself to sit with how you feel about new activities and behaviors, even if those feelings are uncomfortable. You can challenge yourself to be willing to try things several times in order to decide whether they’re worth your time and energy. You can be afraid of failure and still let yourself be bad at something if it feels worthwhile to you. And you can let yourself try things without anybody else’s influence or permission.
For many of my clients, this isn’t a quick process. It takes time, patience, and work to develop skills like these. But it’s worth the effort. Ultimately, facing your fear and sitting in discomfort helps you grow more confident in your skin. Trying things gives you key insight into what you truly care about – and who you really are.
You’re not alone if you don’t know who you really are deep down. It’s common to feel a lot of hard emotions around this topic. Shame, anxiety, depression, grief, and more may come up for you while you’re working to figure it out. And that’s okay. If you want support, I can help.
I can walk beside you and help you figure out who you are as a person. I’ll help you work through your struggles and come up with ways to figure out what you want to prioritize in life, how you want to live your life, and who your genuine self is.
During our work together, you’ll learn how to make decisions that align with your values, gain confidence in yourself, and step into the world feeling empowered to truly live your own life.
I’m ready if you are. Reach out today to get started.
Danielle is an anxiety therapist and perfectionism coach. She specializes in helping busy millennials dial down their anxiety and ADHD, so they can perform at their best. Danielle has been featured on Apartment Therapy, SparkPeople, Lifewire, and Now Art World. When Danielle isn't helping her clients, she's playing video games or spending time with her partner and step children.