Whether you’re a neurodiverse person or not, and you want to see improvements in one or more areas of your life, a key starting point is to learn to practice self-introspection.
Knowing more about yourself can help you better yourself, if that’s your goal. It allows you to brainstorm strategies for achievement that will work with how you already operate.
Unless you know what works for you, you may feel like you’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole with some of your attempts to change anything. Take time to get to know you, and you’ll be better able to pinpoint effective strategies.
Talk to Yourself
I have a lot of self-introspection breakthroughs when I do the simplest thing. I talk to myself!
Realistically, this one might better serve you at home or in a private setting (though – props if you’re comfortable doing it in public too!).
Narrating your thoughts as they occur, or asking yourself questions out loud, may help you work out how you’re feeling or why you’re doing something.
Or, talk to your pet! You might feel better opening up to someone that doesn’t respond – they won’t judge you or criticize you.
Sometimes, just having a conversation out loud can help you come to new realizations.
Keep a Purposeful Journal
Journaling isn’t for everyone, and it might be one of those things you’ve tried over the years but it never really stuck with you.
I read recently that journaling is more effective with a specific purpose, so keep yours with the intention of getting to know yourself better through daily analysis of your behaviors, emotions and thoughts.
This article from Psychology Today offers a deeper dive into some of the questions you can use to guide self-introspection-focused journaling, and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of it.
If you’re looking for a really high-quality journal, I’ve been using Leuchtturm for years and I can’t get enough. I use A5 Medium lined, though they also come in dotted and blank. You can buy them on Amazon or directly from the company.
Discover Your Core Values
At the time of this blog post, I admit I haven’t done this exercise, but it’s been recommended to me a number of times and I’m excited to try it soon.
You start with a list of 100-200 values, and go through a series of sorting steps to pare it down to just 3-5 core values that you’re currently focused on. These values can then be used to help you make decisions, re-examine your relationships, and analyze whether your actions and behavior fit in with a holistic vision of yourself.
When you’re done, paste the values somewhere you’ll see them often, like the fridge, your office, your bathroom mirror. Take a moment at the beginning of the day to reflect on how you can live according to your core values. Re-evaluate them annually – it’s okay if they change as your life changes!
To do this exercise, you’ll need a list of values and a system to pare them down. You can check out:
- The Rediscovery of Me, which includes a list of some values, or you can buy a workbook for $7 that has 200+ values with definitions.
- Tomi Llama, which has a free guide, values worksheet and printable flash cards.
- Taproot, which lists a small handful of values directly on the post.
There are a number of ways to do this exercise, and if you don’t like the resources above, you can search “Personal Core Values Exercise” and to find more options!
Ask for Feedback
This may not be the best idea if you are working on your Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD) or if you’re currently in a tough place mentally/emotionally, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this as an option.
As part of your self-introspection, it’s okay to ask someone who knows you well, and whom you trust, to give you some feedback. Not to be repetitive but, you have to really trust this person. You have to pick someone who will be kind but honest, and provide feedback constructively.
To get the most out of it, make this a guided exercise. Ask really specific questions, like “what three words would you use to describe me to someone else” and “how do I typically react/behave in X situation”. You can either have a conversation, or send them a worksheet to fill out. Pick the option that allows you to absorb the feedback in a way that doesn’t make you feel defensive or angry, even if you don’t agree with the feedback.
Take a Personality Test, or Two
Personality tests are pretty self-explanatory. You answer several questions, often rapid fire (this can withdraw more truthful answers if you don’t have time to overanalyze), and the test places you in one or more categories.
Options abound these days, and they’re popular for a reason. It’s a gamified experience to self-introspection, and for many, being able to put a label on what they are can help them to realize who they are.
Probably the most well-known example is The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, which was developed by the Myers & Briggs Foundation and is based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. At the time of writing, the test costs $49.95 for the online version for “self” (there are options for teams and gifting as well).
If you’re looking for more tests, including some free ones, this article from WorkStyle includes a lot of options with reviews.
Use a Strengths Finder
A strengths finder test is a little different from a personality test in that it focuses less on who you are and more on what you’re good at.
This is a really important part of self-introspection – to know what you’re good at can allow you to make choices that play to your strengths which make you feel more confident in your overall ability.
A popular option is CliftonStrengths by Gallup. Note that it costs money as well – you must purchase a book, which comes with an assessment code that you redeem online for the strength finder assessment. Then, you can choose to sign up and the site will save your results, provide information about each of your strengths, and it even can recommend potentially suitable career paths.
This post from Positive Psychology talks more about what strengths finder assessments are, and provides resources for taking them (for free or a fee) both online and offline.
I hope you find these ideas help guide you on your journey to self-discovery. Talk to me if you’ve already done some and want to share your feedback!