We often go through phases in our lives where we are trying to find our way back to center, our true self. Perhaps we are attempting to redefine and rediscover who we are after loss, grief, or pain. Maybe the world has gotten to us. These self discovery journal prompts are created for such a time as this.
The Art of Being Ourselves
A few years ago, I was taking a painting class with my 8-year old daughter. As the instructor was attempting to guide us in proper watercolor technique, I watched as my daughter lay the color down on her paper with grace and ease. The paintings she created were beautiful and natural. Watercolor techniques require that you begin by wetting special paper with water and then layer by layer you put color down, letting the paint do its thing. The most beautiful paintings are the ones where you put the color down and then let it be. You add finishing details later after the colors blend and flow on their own. There is intentionality to this process, but there is also a certain element of letting it be what it is, with the details and polishing coming at a later stage.
When I would lay color down, I would try to direct and control the paint from the very first step. So often in life we try to direct, control and manage all aspects of our lives. Sometimes this also includes managing how the world perceives us. Rather than allowing ourselves to be exactly who we are, we contort ourselves into societal expectations of who we think we should be.
When I asked the art instructor why I was struggling with the paint she said, “You are trying to control the process too much. Watch what your daughter is doing. The world hasn’t gotten to her yet.”
The World Hasn’t Gotten to Her Yet.
This seemingly simple statement hit me like a ton of bricks. “The world hasn’t gotten to her yet.” At this young, innocent, beautiful age and stage, she was free of the boxes that society tries to put us in. She didn’t feel compelled to contort herself into something she’s not. She didn’t feel the need to manage, direct or control the outcome. Instead, she was happy just letting it be. Letting the paint be. Letting the outcome be. And letting herself just be…her. She didn’t need to unlearn anything.
Life can pack a good punch sometimes. As we go through time, circumstances and experiences, both good and bad, the world can get to us. If we experience great loss, difficulty, or even daily challenges and struggles that lead to burnout, spending time in self reflection can help us return to our center. Time with our thoughts can help us to come back to ourselves. Listening to our inner voice can help to quiet the outside noise and drop the world’s opinions, perceptions, and expectations of us.
To Everything There is a Season.
If we think about the seasons in nature, at the peak of each season everything is in bloom and beautiful. In the height of spring, summer, fall or winter, nature is gorgeous right?
When spring blooms are at their peak, we see cherry blossoms, daffodils, lilacs, and bright blue skies.
In the height of summer we see vibrant green trees, colorful flowers in bloom, green grass, summer sun, longer more carefree days, and the warmth of the sunshine on our skin.
In the peak of fall, the hues of color are everywhere. Reds, oranges, and yellows top the trees and grace the porch steps with mums, pumpkins, and gourds. Apples and summer crops are harvested and we stand in awe of the world’s beauty and bounty.
Even in the coldest days of winter, snow glistens on the barren trees and glazes the ground, sparkling everywhere. On the most incredible winter days, nature delivers us a winter wonderland.
Now consider the periods of time between seasons. What do those in-between times look like? It’s often brown, gray, dirty, muddy, and messy. Finding beauty in these periods of time takes more work and effort. The beauty is not always obvious or easy to see between seasons.
Without darkness, there’s no light. Without struggle and pain, there would be less appreciation for ease and joy. And without the in-between seasons when the leaves fall, the skies turn gray, the days shorten, and the ground and trees are brown and muddy, we would not fully notice the more beautiful days. To everything there is a season.
During tough times when we are between our own seasons of life, we might feel lost or stuck. We might see only gray. Things might feel quite messy and murky. We might not have clarity on what we think, or how we feel, or what to do next.
We might even reflect on our own identity, contemplating who we are in this season or phase of our life. Sometimes, we can wonder how we got to this place and what on earth we should do about it.
Time to Quiet the Outside Noise.
In these times, the best thing we can do is shut out the outside noise and listen to the sound of our own heartbeat. Our own voice, our own thoughts, and our own heart will guide us back to what is real and true. Then we need to generate the courage to go for it. There’s a space between knowing what we want and going after that dream that’s often messy and difficult. The time and space between our Knowing and Doing can be painful. It’s the equivalent of being “in-between” nature’s beautiful seasons. It can be gray, dark, and utterly messy.
This is the time to begin a journey of self discovery and listen intently to our own hearts.
The Journey of Self-Discovery
If you feel you are in a season of self-discovery, here are 8 steps to begin walking a path back to your center.
1. First, Slow Down.
If we are racing through life in a constant state of being busy and consumed with productivity, it’s difficult to think straight. In fact, the very act of staying busy can keep us (either intentionally or unintentionally) from listening to our own thoughts and heart.
If we feel lost or stuck in our lives, one of the very first steps is to slow down and quiet the outside nose. Take time to feel your feelings, listen to your thoughts, and pay attention to what’s going on in your heart.
Don’t drown out the thoughts and feelings with distractions like social media scrolling, staying overly busy, or any other unhealthy approach or distraction. Tune into yourself and even if it causes discomfort, feel all the feels. Try to remain with your feelings without muting them.
2. Spend Time in Self Reflection using Self Discovery Journal Prompts.
Now that you’ve slowed down enough to actually hear yourself think, begin to reflect on those thoughts and feelings that are surfacing. Journal as much as you can. Use self discovery journal prompts to reflect on your values, your feelings, your current life, and about yourself. It’s time for the inner work.
Take time for daily reflection. Get comfortable being alone with your thoughts. If possible, journal outside in nature. Nature is grounding and centering. Spending time in nature will help guide you back to center.
Download this workbook with 50 self discovery journal prompts for self reflection. Self-discovery journal prompts are a great way to focus on your own personal growth.
3. Think about your Passions and Dreams.
Think about your passions and dreams. What are you doing when you feel most like yourself? What makes you feel fulfilled, whole, true, real, lighter, free, and lit up from the inside?
Try new things, get out of your comfort zone. Join a painting class, a pottery class, a writing class, a yoga class, a photography class, or a nutrition class. Learn how to garden, cook, bake, or how to create something that makes you feel more like you. There are online courses for any topic our heart desires. Try new things. This is a journey of exploration.
There is no growth in our comfort zone. One of my favorite quotes of all time is by the late American poet Mary Oliver, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Discover your passion, go after that big dream in your heart.
4. Express Your Creativity.
Most people will say, “I’m not creative.” That is simply not true – everyone has a creative side. We are all unique beings with our own fingerprint to leave on this world.
That same person who says they aren’t creative may decorate their house beautifully for the holidays or cook an incredible meal, or design a beautiful garden, or find a way to fix anything that breaks. That is creativity…an expression of themselves.
There is something so powerful about creating. When you create something that didn’t exist before you, you are leaving your fingerprint on this world. Put something out into this world that couldn’t exist in that same way without you.
5. Set Goals Related to your Most Authentic Self.
Think about your future self. How can you live in such a way that you won’t have regrets? What are your biggest goals? What’s on your bucket list? What are your short-term and long-term aspirations?
Contemplating our ideal life may be exhilarating or it may be overwhelming. Visioning our future life can be empowering, but it’s also empowering to take one small incremental step each day toward our goals and dreams. Stay committed and focused on your most important life goals.
6. Begin to Manage Time Differently.
If we give all of ourselves to others, there will be nothing left for us. Make time for your passions, make time for you. Create free time, white space in your calendar. We cannot give all of our time away and continually pour from an empty cup.
7. Identify your People.
Spend time with people who appreciate you for who you truly are, people who you don’t feel like you need a cover in order to be around. Who can you confide in? Who is your safe space? Authentic and genuine friendships allow us to be exactly who we are. Find your people.
8. Find a Coach you Trust to Guide You.
A coach or a mentor can help guide you to be more authentically you. If you are struggling with mental health, seek a professional counselor. Many people interested in personal development and growth see a therapist regularly as part of their self care practice.
Coaching and counseling are important components of a healthy life. Both offer new lenses through which to view our lives and the world around us. A good coach can help reframe difficult life circumstances and help on a path to rediscovering ourselves.
Identity is such a powerful and personal thing. Identity also evolves and changes over time. Life circumstances and new seasons of life can cause us to re-evaluate who we are. As we gain new wisdom, insight and perspective, our sense of self can shift and evolve. What is true for us today in this stage of life may be very different than what was true for us in previous seasons of life. This is particularly true for people with a growth mindset who are focused on ongoing personal growth and development.
Self-Discovery Journal Prompts
Self-discovery prompts are a powerful way to lead you through self reflection, examine your personal beliefs and thought patterns, and gain a better understanding of yourself. Here are 15 journal prompts to get you started. Download the workbook with all 50 journal prompts.
With each journal entry, we reflect on our lives, our beliefs, our desires and goals, and our authentic self in the current season of life.
- How do I react when things don’t go as planned? Do I handle this well? In what ways can I grow to handle life’s curveballs a little better?
- How do I handle difficult situations? Am I able to pivot and adjust as necessary?
- Who am I with when I feel most at home?
- Who makes me feel most like myself?
- What lights my heart up from the inside?
- How do I express my creativity?
- Do I remain in my comfort zone or do I stretch myself to work toward goals that fulfill my soul, yet require me to step outside the safety of what I’ve always done?
- Does my daily work make me feel fulfilled and energized or drained and depleted?
- Do I go through life “checking boxes” or do I feel energized when trying to live outside the box?
- What are the traits of people who light me up? Do I have those people in my life?
- What limiting beliefs do I hold about myself?
- In what ways does my own inner critic hold me back from moving forward on my biggest goals and dreams?
- A deep-seated passion within me that I haven’t given enough time and space to is…
- I feel a disconnect between my heart and my mind as it relates to…
- How does the disconnect described above feel in my body? What happens when I’m feeling this disconnect?
Self Discovery Journaling Practice
Create a journaling practice that is part of your daily life and your daily routine. Reflecting on just one prompt a day helps us slow down, make time for ourselves, and allows for quiet reflection on what’s in our own hearts.
All the while take care of your precious self. Give yourself grace. Slow down, you’re doing just fine.
Download all 50 self reflection journal prompts in this special workbook I’ve created to help guide you on your self discovery journey. Journaling prompts are a powerful tool for self growth. Use this list of journal prompts to get started. Happy journaling.
I also offer a 3-part workshop series called, Rediscovering You. It’s a personal growth and development program that will begin to guide you back to you. I created this program specifically for women who feel they have started to lose their identity to all the roles they hold in their lives.
As mothers, professionals, wives, and caregivers, we often give so much of ourselves to other people, leaving little for our own self. Over time, this can deplete our sense of self. Over time, the world gets to us. If you feel lost or stuck, this program is for you. Learn more about this self discovery program here.
Melissa Therrien is the founder and author of Live Each Day, an inspirational lifestyle blog created to explore life well-lived.
Melissa offers programs designed to coach busy, motivated women to rediscover themselves and take action to pursue their passions.