In both business and life, our unique gifts, perspectives are what makes us sought after and valuable. Even in traditional job searches, the term ‘culture-fit’ is out-dated, it’s about being a ‘culture add’. It’s about what you can bring and how you can add value being yourself. Cultivating a strong sense of self will allow you to do this. A strong sense of self is key to authentically expressing yourself and bringing your unique gifts into the world. It’s what will allow you to share parts of yourself with others while still maintaining a strong sense of self-identity. This is how we develop meaningful connections.
Developing a strong sense of self takes work. Some of us may have had life experiences that shaped us and helped us develop a strong sense of who we are. Whilst for many of us, we are still trying to figure it out. There’s no right or wrong in this. What is important is to acknowledge where you are in this developmental stage so that you can actively work towards cultivating what is needed for your development.
Here are 5 symptoms you may experience when you lack a strong sense of self (and what to do about it):
1 – Symptom: Feeling disconnected from your own needs, desires, and dreams
- Solution: Clearly define your likes, dislikes, and values
- Try this: Using this Values exploration table, think about the behaviours and attributes of people you like and write them down. Then think about the behaviours and attributes of people you don’t like and write them down too. Look at both of your lists. What do you notice? What seems to be important to you? Write down your answers. These are your values. Knowing what you value will help you connect to your own needs, desires and dreams.
2 – Symptom: Finding it difficult to set goals
- Solution: Redefine what success, happiness, and fulfillment mean to YOU. Next time you start feeling insecure, unworthy or like you’re not measuring up, ask yourself, “Am I believing something I haven’t questioned?” and “Am I using someone else’s yardstick to measure myself up to?”
- Try this: Continuing on from the previous activity, now that you know what is important to you and what your values are, write down your definition of success. What does success look like to you? Using a Success Wheel, write down all the elements of success. Knowing what success looks like for you will help you to set your own goals. Otherwise, you’ll forever be striving to meet other people’s definition of success – which will leave you feeling unfulfilled
3 – Symptom: Not knowing what you want to do with your life
- Solution: Explore your passions
- Try this: Passion Mapping – using a Passion Map, write down all the things that you are passionate about. What makes you excited? What makes you feel alive? What activities call to you? Writing it down will help bring sparks of insight into how you would like to spend your time and energy – helping you begin to form a picture of what you may want to do with your life.
4 – Symptom: Inability to create strong boundaries (resulting in massive energy loss)
- Solution: Take responsibility for yourself only (not other people). Having a weak sense of self means that you are prone to over-empathise with others to the point of taking responsibility for their feelings and actions. You need to realise that the only person you are responsible for is yourself. Keep affirming this to yourself and you will find it easier to strengthen your identity as you’ll no longer be giving all that energy away to others.
- Try this: Think of the things that are directly within your control and therefore in your domain of responsibility – write them down in this Sphere of Responsibility diagram. Things that are outside your direct control, and therefore not your responsibility are to remain in the outer circle.
5 – Symptom: Scattered priorities (e.g. not knowing how to manage your time and energy)
- Solution: Stop the busyness and tune into your inner self. You must be willing to question all the ways that other people try to influence you and ask “Does this feel true to me?” and “Does this feel right?”
- Try this: Pay attention. Firstly, begin by paying a little more attention to how you spend your time and energy in everyday life. Observe with curiosity the choices you make. What are you prioritising and why? Using this Priority template, begin to plan your time based on your highest priority. Make sure you include self-care in your high prioriy list (rather than leaving it for if you have time) – though it may seem counter intuitive, self-care will help you top-up your energy and in effect, you’ll get more out of your time.
What I have personally come to realise is that Self Care is a constant factor in this exploration of cultivating a strong sense of self. We simply can’t get away with ignoring ourselves or doing things at the expense of ourselves.
Explore further: You might be thinking how does having a strong sense of self impact your purpose. In my opinion, the purpose is not about ‘finding’ it – rather it’s about aligning to it. Which means if you’re not being authentically you, aligning to your purpose will be an elusive struggle. You’ll keep searching for it ‘out there’ but like all things of great value, you’ll never find it until you go within. Cultivating a strong sense of self is part of the inward journey.
Start by cultivating your sense of self and stay tuned for the next part of my research into the ‘Developmental Stages of Women’ where we will dive deeper into what it really means to cultivate a strong sense of purpose.