Here’s How Your Personal Identity And Sense Of Self Affect Your Growth

By Heather Cherry—

The world is always quick to tell us who to be and what we should want—often setting unintended guidelines for what defines success. Sometimes these external forces may conflict with what we believe. But if you have a strong sense of self, you may be less likely to listen to what these external forces have to say.

Having a solid sense of self is essential to your overall well-being, mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health—fueling your recognition of your worth. Lacking a strong sense of self can make it hard to know what you want—forging feelings of uncertainty or indecisiveness for important decisions. As a result, you may feel that you are drifting through life, carried by other people and circumstances rather than momentum.

People who have a strong sense of self are more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, more confident, and have higher self-esteem. Conversely, the more diffused your personal identity structure is, the more confused individuals seem to be and the weaker their self-esteem.

Your sense of self differs slightly and can affect your personal identity. Your personal identity is how you perceive yourself, whereas your sense of self is more like your internal compass—it’s what you believe and helps you establish boundaries and make decisions that serve you.

So, how do you get the two aligned? First, it’s essential to assess your sense of self.

Here’s how to tell if you have a strong sense of self.

  • Independent decisions: You make choices of all kinds with confidence because it aligns with your unique identity, and you accept yourself completely.
  • Self-Awareness: You participate in activities that nourish your soul and well-being. You’re also able to admit your flaws and are confident in learning new things about yourself.
  • Boundaries: You can individuate yourself from others and set boundaries, and you don’t aim to please people.
  • Flexibility: Change can be unsettling, but you can handle adversity and uncertainties—viewing each challenge as an opportunity for growth.
  • Emotional intelligence: You understand how (and what) triggers certain emotions and can apply healthy and appropriate reactions.

If your sense of self isn’t what you want it to be, here’s how you can strengthen it.

Understand Your Identities

Personal identity formation and evolution are impacted by various internal and external factors like society, family, friends, ethnicity, race, culture, location, opportunities, media, interests, appearance, self-expression, and life experiences.

For example, think about how your friends and family impact you. Are they positive or negative influences? What types of decisions have you made because of them?

Knowing how internal and external factors influence you helps you to strengthen your sense of self. Psychology Today states, “when you look within, you can distinguish yourself from your surroundings, allowing you to become more self-aware. People who know themselves make decisions for themselves automatically.”

It’s also beneficial to take a deep dive into your extended family lineage to understand how your heritage impacts your sense of self and personal identity. According to a holistic psychotherapist, Sonia Fregoso, LMFT, “knowing your family and their past can strengthen your value system, which can help color your beliefs, thoughts, and worldview with more cultural awareness. In addition, identifying beliefs and values that come from within yourself helps to build a stronger sense of self.”

Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries is not always easy but necessary to develop a better sense of self and personal identity. The key to setting healthy boundaries is starting small and focusing on what you want as clearly as possible.

Effectively setting healthy boundaries takes time. In many cases, doing so requires you to first connect with yourself and explore how those boundaries would impact your life. “Become an observer of your own life, which helps you be more attuned to your inner self. For example, if someone asks you to do something for them, don’t answer right away. Instead, take time to consider your options without making an instant decision,” Psychology Today states, “your automatic responses can lead you in a direction that isn’t in line with yourself, and you may regret it later.”

Define Your Values

Values—the things you believe are essential in your life and work—and personal beliefs are fundamental aspects of your sense of self and personal identity. According to Healthline, “your belief system can help you recognize what matters most to you and determine your stand on important issues. In addition, values help guide the boundaries you set with others in your life.”

To determine your values, use the following six steps.

  • Step one: Write down what you value.
  • Step two: Consider the people you most admire and why. Generally, when we respect others, it reminds us of ourselves.
  • Step three: Think about your experiences and why they are essential. What do these experiences reveal about your core values?
  • Step four: Categorize values into related groups.
  • Step five: Identify the central theme.
  • Step six: Choose your top core values.

When you acknowledge your values you can make better-informed decisions which ultimately increases your overall well-being and satisfaction with life.

The concepts of sense of self and personal identity can be challenging to grasp because your identity is constantly transforming as you learn and grow. But understanding them and how they impact your life is an important task—becoming a central part of who you are and who you want to become.

Heather Cherry is a versatile writer and editor with 15 years’ experience creating content. She is well versed in providing solutions to clients through strategic, creative, and conversational messages. She published, Market Your A$$ Off, a marketing guidebook for small business.

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