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The importance of knowing yourself: your key to fulfillment

July 11, 2022 - 15 min read

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What does it mean to know yourself?

The importance and benefits of knowing one's self

How to know yourself better

How to improve your self-knowledge?

How coaching can help

Think of the most eccentric person in your life. You know the one. 

The one who either shows up in a disheveled leather jacket or an all-black outfit and a beret. They’re somewhat aloof but always energetic. Unapologetically flamboyant, but always kind and understanding. This person chooses to be themselves, not who they’re expected to be. 

They don’t care about the world’s expectations. This sometimes gets them into trouble or attracts judging glares from nearby strangers. But, you have to admit, it would be nice to have that kind of self-confidence. And you can!

In a world rife with expectations, living authentically can feel impossible. It feels easier to have your path planned for you. But, in the long run, this will only hold you back from living a fulfilling life.

The great philosopher Socrates said it himself: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” 

So if you’re wondering whether authenticity is worth pursuing, the short answer is “yes.” And, for the detail-oriented among you, here’s everything you need to know about the importance of knowing yourself — so you too can find your true self.

What does it mean to know yourself?

Knowing yourself is about discovering what makes you tick. Among other things, it means:

  • Learning your likes and dislikes
  • Unearthing your beliefs and values
  • Knowing your personal boundaries
  • Accepting your personality traits
  • Being a better team player
  • Having a clearer path in your professional life
  • Understanding how you interact with others
  • Recognizing your core personal values
  • Increasing your capacity for self-compassion
  • Having a clearer idea of your life’s purpose
  • Knowing what it takes to be self-motivated
  • Being more adaptable 

Ultimately, all of these things will increase your self-awareness. Being more self-aware lends to enhanced self-development, acceptance, and proactivity while benefiting our overall mental health.

We’ll be more confident, make better decisions, have stronger relationships, and be more honest.

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The importance and benefits of knowing one's self

Knowing yourself is about knowing what makes you tick. It means identifying what matters to you, your strengths and weaknesses, your behaviors, tendencies, and thought patterns. This list describes the importance and benefits of knowing one's self:

1. Despite your quirks, flaws, and insecurities, you learn self-love and acceptance. Once you do, you can walk through the world with more confidence and care less about what people think. 

2. You can change your personality flaws and improve on your weaknesses. You are empowered to become who you want to be. This will help you become a better, more well-rounded person.

3. You’ll have more emotional intelligence, which is key to knowing others. You’ll be more conscious of your own emotions and feelings, making it easier to understand another person's point of view.

4. You'll be more confident. Self-doubt disappears when you know and accept yourself, and others won't influence you as easily. It'll be easier to stand your ground.

5. You’ll forge better relationships. It’s easier to share yourself when you know yourself. You’ll also know what kind of people you get along with, so you can find your community.

6. You’ll be less stressed. Self-awareness will help you make decisions that are better for you. And when this happens, you become less stressed about what people think or whether you made the right choice. 

7. You’ll break patterns of disappointment. You'll find repetitive behaviors that lead to poor outcomes when you look inward. Once you name them, you can break them.

8. You’ll be happier. Expressing who you are, loud and proud, will help you improve your well-being.

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9. You'll feel more alive. Being who you truly are will give you energy, make you excited about life, and make all your experiences feel richer.

10. You'll have more self-worth. Why is self-worth important? Because it helps you avoid compromising your core values and beliefs. Valuing yourself also teaches others to respect you.

11. You'll understand your values. We can’t understate the importance of knowing your values. They will help you make decisions aligned with who you are and what you care about.

12. You'll find purpose in life. Knowing purpose in life will give you a clear idea of where you should go and what you should do. 

Getting to know yourself is hard. It involves deep self-reflection, honesty, and confronting parts of yourself you might be afraid of. But it’s a fundamental part of self-improvement.

If you need help, try working with a professional. BetterUp can help you navigate your inner world.

How to know yourself better

Now that we’re clear on the importance of knowing yourself, you might not know where to get started. Let’s get into it.

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Check your VITALS

Author Meg Selig coined the term VITALS as a guide for developing self-knowledge. Its letters spell out the six core pillars of self-understanding:

These are your guides for decision-making and setting your goals. Understanding them will help you make decisions aligned with your authentic self. Here are some example values:

1. Values

  • Honesty
  • Being helpful
  • Loyalty
  • Trust 
  • Wealth 
  • Family

You can see how each of these might lead to different life choices. For example, if you value honesty, you might quit a job where you have to lie to others.

2. Interests

Your interests are what you do without being asked, like your hobbies, passions, and causes you care about. You can then try to align your work with these interests. Here are some examples:

  • Climate change. If you’re passionate about this issue, you might choose to work directly on the problem. Or you can make choices that allow for a more sustainable lifestyle, like owning an electric car.
  • Audio editing. Perhaps you’re an amateur musician, and you spend your time recording and editing audio. You can start working as a freelance editor or find a job that uses these skills.
  • Fitness. If you love working out and value helping others, you might consider becoming a trainer at your local gym or leading a running group.

Not all of your interests need to be a side-hustle. But being aware of them can help you make decisions that better suit your desired life. It is really about knowing your priorities.

3. Temperament

Your temperament describes where your energy comes from. You might be an introvert and value being alone. Or, as an extrovert, you find energy being around others.

Knowing your temperament will help you communicate your needs to others. 

If you’re a meticulous planner going on a trip, you should communicate this to your more spontaneous travel buddy. They might feel suffocated by your planning, leading to arguments down the road. Bringing it up before your trip will help talk it out to avoid conflict later.

4. Around-the-clock activities

This refers to when you like to do things. If you’re a writer and you’re more creative at night, carve out time in the evening to work. If you prefer working out in the morning, make it happen. Aligning your schedule with your internal clock will make you a happier human being.

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5. Life-mission and goals

Knowing your life mission is about knowing what gives your life meaning. It gives you purpose, a vocation, and something to strive for.

To find your life mission, think about what events were most meaningful to you so far. For example:

  • Leading a successful project at the office
  • Influencing positive change through your work
  • Helping someone else succeed

There are many ways to fulfill a life mission. You can fulfill your goals with the skills and resources you have. For example, “helping someone succeed” could mean becoming a teacher or mentoring a young professional.

6. Strengths and weaknesses

These include both “hard skills” (like industry-specific knowledge and talents) and “soft skills” (like communication or emotional intelligence).

When you do what you’re good at, you’re more likely to succeed, which will improve your morale and mental health.

Knowing your weaknesses and toxic traits will help you improve on them or minimize their influence on your life.

How to improve your self-knowledge?

Are you ready to get started? There are many ways to understand your inner self:

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How coaching can help

A professional coach will encourage you to reflect on and reframe your inner thoughts and patterns. They understand that, in many cases, impulsivity holds you back from attaining your full potential.

The amygdala — an almond-sized region of the brain partially responsible for emotions — releases dopamine to reinforce impulsive behavior. This happens every time you open Facebook instead of working, eat chocolate while on a diet, or get angry at your colleagues instead of helping solve the problem.

Self-awareness can help you overcome your impulsivity. Armed with the right tools, you can break unhealthy or unwanted behaviors. 

A coach can help you meet these ends. They can teach you:

  • Mindfulness: the acceptance that nothing is inherently good or bad 
  • Metacognition: the awareness that your mind is the root of your actions
  • Reframing: the power to react differently to an event or circumstance

These three elements can help you strengthen your self-control. You'll keep a cool head in stressful situations, communicate more effectively with others, and become a better leader overall.

In other words: by checking in with yourself, you avoid wrecking yourself.

At BetterUp, our coaches are trained in Inner Work® and understand the importance of knowing yourself. This is a lifetime journey. But together, we can make your life better.

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Published July 11, 2022

Allaya Cooks-Campbell

BetterUp Staff Writer

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