Do You Know Yourself as Well as You Think You Do?

Do you know yourself as well as you think you do? Most people don't. Often, you must face a new situation to gain self-knowledge and discover things you were completely unaware of.
Do You Know Yourself as Well as You Think You Do?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Do you know yourself as well as you think you do? Surprisingly, you might not. This is because you might be taking for granted some parts that don’t really define you. You may even be underestimating your abilities and potential. It may be that you’ve changed so much in recent years you’re not even aware of how much you’ve evolved and why you react the way you do to certain things.

Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz once said that people become obsessed with “finding” themselves even though everyone is always evolving. Humans aren’t stable entities to decipher as if we were a mystery. Instead, we’re constantly changing and merely retain the essence. In other words, certain qualities that are more or less stable.

Thus, you’ll likely encounter multiple challenges even if you take an inventory of who you are in order to discover what’s inside you. Even your own mind can betray you at times. The brain likes to give somewhat misleading explanations about your own personality. For example, it may tell you that you’re somewhat fallible and even insecure.

However, life sometimes puts you to the test and, as it turns out, you may react in a most extraordinary way.

“I think it’s good for a person to spend time alone. It gives them an opportunity to discover who they are and to figure out why they are always alone.”

-Amy Sedaris-

A woman in a field.

Five symptoms you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do

Everyone has blind spots, that is, psychological mechanisms that keep them from seeing themselves as they are. Sometimes, their mind is filled with defense mechanisms that protect but hinder themselves from seeing things as they are. You can, for example, deny being insecure and tell yourself it’s because you’re cautious and careful.

In other words, people often camouflage character traits as a self-protection mechanism, even though we do so unconsciously. Moreover, figures such as Dr. David Dunning, author of the Dunning-Kruger effect theory, point out that each one of us reinforces certain narratives about the self no one can contradict. This is because doing so would cast doubt on self-worth and self-esteem.

In addition, studies such as those conducted by Costa and McCrae are a reminder that personality traits begin to stabilize around the age of 30. From then on, everyone defines themselves by a more or less constant pattern in the way they are. However, as this document explains, certain experiences and events often change some of these traits.

So how do you know if you know yourself as well as you think you do? Below are some questions to reflect upon to find out.

1. You feel lost and don’t know what you want yet

Everyone’s felt lost at some point in their lives. However, sooner or later they clarify their values and purposes, reformulate their goals, and then, bam! They find a new direction.

You may need to do some introspection if you’ve spent a significant part of your life without really knowing what you want, what you expect, and what you’re looking for.

Thus, ask yourself what you want and what you expect from your life in order to learn who you truly are.

2. You still don’t understand why you make certain decisions

Evaluate the decisions you’ve made up to the present moment to find out if you know yourself as well as you think you do. It might be time to stop if you don’t know how you got to where you are and if you don’t understand why certain things happened the way they did.

A person who doesn’t know their needs and desires and just goes with the flow and lets others decide for them does so because they don’t really know who they are and what they want.

The person who knows themselves knows that their decisions seal their destiny.

3. You don’t know yourself as well as you think you believe what others say about you

Think about this for a moment. Anyone who allows themselves to be influenced and gives validity to what others say about them doesn’t yet know who they really are. This is because anyone who knows themselves in-depth seldom pays attention to what others may say or think.

Self-knowledge gives you confidence. Thus, the labels your environment puts on you don’t define you.

4. You look for answers on the outside and not inside yourself

Not being in tune with your needs, not understanding why you feel the way you do, and blaming others for your frustrations are all dynamics of a person who’s always looking for answers. Mainly because they don’t know their needs. Nevertheless, they don’t know what they deserve either.

For example, sometimes, people make others responsible for their own happiness and solve their problems when this is every person’s responsibility to themselves.

You may not realize it but everything you are and need is within you. Thus, you take responsibility for your own life when you really know yourself. Then, you force yourself to take care of yourself, understand your emotions, and take care of your well-being without depending on others.

A man in the street.

5. You forget your own priorities and focus on those of others

Think about what your priorities are in order to find out if you know yourself as well as you think you do. Once you’re clear on them, also ask whether you’re actually honoring them.

Those who aren’t clear about who they really are put their heart, eyes, and attention on other people. They let themselves be carried away and become, unknowingly, secondary characters in their own play. Few things are as dangerous as losing oneself.

Therefore, you must gain self-knowledge in order to protagonize your own story. This is because knowing who you are enables you to set your priorities straight and get where you want to be.

To conclude, the exercise of knowing who you are is something you must do daily. It’s a journey that never ends because to grow is to mature, to change, and to freely develop in order to always be in tune with your inner voice.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ardelt, M. (2000). Still Stable after All These Years? Personality Stability Theory Revisited. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63(4), 392-405. Retrieved March 14, 2021, from
  • Oh, I.-S., Wang, G., & Mount, M. K. (2011). Validity of observer ratings of the five-factor model of personality traits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(4), 762–773.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.