Your sense of self is your perception of who you think you are. It includes all of your beliefs about yourself, in addition to the physical, social, intellectual and personal attributes you think you have.

Do you know someone who is really sure of themselves and who they are? They know what type of just about everything they like, how they like to dress, sports they like to play, job they are going to go for after college and whether they want to get married and have a family? It is like they have their life planned out.

They seem like they are the lucky ones. Even if they don’t achieve all that they have planned to, they will come close to it because they know who they are. They have a realistic or “actual” sense of sense and they care about and value themselves.

They are not influence by any thoughts about who they think they should be (an” ideal” sense of self), or what the rest of the world thinks they should be (an “ought” sense of self.) They pay attention to what is in-synch with their talents, intellect and life purpose. This is what will really bring you happiness and success.

 A good sense of self is important because it provides all of us with boundaries and helps people understand what is most important to them. It also seriously reduces stress and boosts clear thinking. Having a strong sense of self is heavily reliant on one’s internal state of mind. You can develop a strong sense of self with some work.

Think if you have ever known someone who floats from group to group, friend to friend, and in each social situation, they take on the likes and personality of those they are currently with. This person has a low sense of self and they are searching for who they are, hoping that by moving from group to group, friend to friend, they will find out who they are.

Sadly, this is a futile exercise and can lead to some very negative consequences like depression, suicide, and drug and alcohol addiction, to name a few. All of the time, they are just trying to find out who they are. Often, they end up quite alone because they have an ideal version of self that they wish they could be and are never likely to achieve. It is a figment of their imagination and not based in reality.

Turning to escapism may relive the pain of loneliness and despair for short periods of time yet it will not help someone find their sense of self.

When you feel bad, sad or depressed, some helpful strategies can be:

  1. Change your self-talk. Rather than making negative statements about yourself to yourself, try and change them into positive statements. It will make you think clearer.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to what is outside of your control. Tell yourself that there is a lot of hope for you and how you feel is temporary. Imagine you are feeling happy and you are working towards a good outcome for something that is bothering you. Everyone goes through periods of not feeling good enough, smart enough, beautiful or handsome enough, too short, too fat, and the list goes on. Work on being the best person with what you have. It is totally possible for you to shine!
  3. Practice self-acceptance, kindness to yourself and start doing something, rather than sitting and thinking about how bad you feel. See if you can reframe your thoughts. Aim for a small change, rather than a large change based on a perfect result. Little by little you will achieve things.
  4. Stop being hard on yourself. It will not get you where you want to go and will make you feel bad. Try and show some compassion (sympathy and concern) for yourself, like you would if it were someone else. You totally deserve it. Having compassion for yourself will help you with achieving your goals because you are reframing your emotional environment from one of being hard on yourself to one that is providing yourself with support and concern. Focus on what you need to do and keep on going.