What Is Self-Discovery and Why Is It Important?

Self-discovery is the process of gaining understanding of one’s personality, potential, passion, experiences, as well as all the other conditioning that makes the individual distinct from others, and finding how best they can be maximized to live fulfilling lives.

This definition is just an overview. This article is aimed at giving you the indepth meaning and complexity of self discovery. But before then, let’s consider what brings the need for self discovery.

Why Is Self-Discovery Important?

The call for self-discovery is built on the premise that humans have a specific wiring which is their default state and the state they will naturally tilt to no matter what external factors contribute.

This is not just a premise; it is the truth!

Science has shown again and again that beyond what the environment demands from individuals, there are certain traits that are specific to individuals which they naturally manifest at different situations.

This what has brought about the several personality theories which are all in a bid to understand the distinct makeup of humans and how they can maximize their nature for effective living.

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It also holds true that individuals who are forced either by situations in the environment they find themselves, or any other factor to function in capacities that do not fit their distinct makeup end up being frustrated, living dissatisfying lives, and performing below both the expectation of the system and their maximum potential.

In a study that was conducted on the effect of job functioning on the psychological well-being of individuals, it was found that people who had work overload still experienced greater levels of psychological well-being than individuals having role conflict. This shows that performing in a capacity that is clearly stated and that fits one’s personality improves productivity, well being and satisfaction.

Also, individuals can handle work overload with less stress if it is a job position that the fit for, as against the so much stress that comes with an unfit position even if there is less workload. It is therefore, needless to say that the earlier individuals discover themselves— their potential, personalities, weaknesses and passions, the better they will be in their journey to success and fulfillment.

Self-Discovery Is Discovering Your Potential

As identified, one of the core aspects of self-discovery is discovering your potential. Your potential are the things you can do which you have not done.

Most of our lives, we have been trapped into doing only certain things, performing only within certain capacities and releasing only enough ability from within us as the environment demands. This conformity to culture, however, had robbed us of the definition of potential.

Although we define potential as what could be done, we don’t define it as all that could be done that hasn’t been done yet. This means once a thing has been done, it is no longer a potential; it is an ability.

The potential of a sports car is not 80km/hr because the driver drives it that speed. Rather it is the highest speed built into it by the manufacturer. Same way your potential is all that is built into you that you could do.

The continuous release of potential (doing what you could do that you haven’t done), is one of the strongest sources of fulfillment for any life.

Discovering your potential therefore entails examining the little despised energies which you have to see how they can be channeled into doing great things. It also entails examining the energies which are misplaced (i.e either underutilized or used for doing unproductive activities) and channeling them into highly productive and fulfilling activities.

Self-Discovery Is Discovering Your Passions

Self-discovery also involves discovering your passions. Your passions are the activities or causes that you can spend so much time on without getting bored, tired or discouraged even if significant results are not gotten immediately.

On a broader sense, your passions are causes which you are readily motivated or do not need motivation to engage in. They are the things you are ready to pursue.

They are reasons which may not be defined but are so strong that they pull you and you just keep lingering on and devoting so much of yourself (time, resources) to them. They are the things which you are willing to sacrifice other things for.

These passions are not general to all. Many people around you may find it boring and wonder why you are so engrossed with it. Those are your passion and they are worth taking note of and harnessing.

Your passion may not be clear-cut defined to be something worthwhile; they may be things you don’t find any meaning in yourself. Self-discovery is the process of looking into your little, and maybe meaningless passions and building them into noble causes that will greatly benefit you and the world.

I stated earlier that your passion will keep you on a path even if you get little results or make insignificant progress while doing those things, but what is typical of people who follow their passion is that they get great results.

Their passions for those causes will give them the staying power to practice (when there’s no result), seek for improvement to get better results; it will also keep them committed till they accumulate more and more better results and build satisfying lives or get remarkable achievements.

Self-Discovery Is Self-Awareness

Another aspect of self-discovery is self-awareness. Self-awareness is being conscious of your most likely and natural behaviours and the various psychological conditions that cause those behaviours.

For instance, if you are someone who always look down while walking in front of a crowd, self-awareness is (i) being conscious of the behaviour (walking head down), (ii) being conscious of the psychological reason why you bring your head down (lack of confidence, a mere habit or any other reason).

Self-awareness can be taken further by trying to correct the psychological reason of that natural behaviour if it is one that is undesired.

To fully understand self-awareness, it should be contrasted with self consciousness. While self-consciousness is a feeling of anxiety or a change in natural behaviour caused by the realisation that people are present or are watching you, self-awareness is being conscious of your self-consciousness.

For example, if I no longer laugh as I would normally laugh because of the presence of some people, self-awareness is when I know that my laugh has changed and I know the reason why it changed. Self-awareness is important and should be cultivated for the following reasons:

Importance of Self-Awareness

1. Self-awareness prevents self-deception

It is important that you are aware of your reflex behaviours and their causes so that you don’t deceive yourself by thinking you are something else that you really are not.

For instance, in walking with your head down, you know don’t confuse your lack of confidence with humility once you are self-aware.

2. Self-awareness is necessary for change

It is only after you have discovered the behaviour and the cause can you work out a change strategy if the need be. A person who hasn’t agreed to or found out about their lack of confidence cannot work towards building the confidence

3. Self-awareness is necessary for self-acceptance

Self-acceptance is a state where you are no longer threatened or ashamed about any aspect of your life, even your weaknesses. You have come to accept it as who you are and are not struggling to be anyone else. 

While self-awareness will help you change what needs to be changed, it will also help you know what cannot be changed so you can accept it.

4. Self-awareness builds your self-esteem

After you have accepted yourself and your weaknesses as who you are, your perception about yourself becomes solidified. Your weaknesses no longer make you see yourself as a substandard person, and that way, your self-esteem is built. 

Note self-acceptance builds self-esteem because self-acceptance doesn’t mean you accept your flaws and conclude they can’t be any good. To the contrary, self-acceptance is saying, I am a beautiful person with these flaws. I am not a flaw in person.

Self-Discovery Is Discovering Your Weaknesses

As I have already started pointing out, self-discovery involves finding your limitations and weaknesses. As much as you know your potential, you should also know what you can’t do, what you should stay away from and what you should outsource for your holistic growth as an individual.

The first result of knowing your weakness is that it saves you the stress and waste of time doing what you aren’t good at or built for would have brought you.

Contrary to what the experience is in schools, you don’t succeed in life by trying to be good at what you aren’t wired for, but by finding, developing and nursing what you are already wired for or good at and bringing in others into the team who are good at other things you need.

Secondly, knowing your weaknesses is the only opportunity to find those inevitable virtues needed that must be cultivated which you do not already have. As much as I stated earlier that you shouldn’t kill yourself trying to be good at what you are not wired for, that does not mean you should not work on yourself and be better at what you do.

For you to be truly effective at what you are wired for they are various skills and virtues that must be developed. For instance, if you’re wired for public speaking (you are a captivating speaker), you still might not have the right diction and vocabulary. Those are weaknesses that can be worked on and you must work on.

Same vein, if you have a defect in your character, that is another weakness you can work on and must work on for you to succeed at what you are wired for. However there are some things that you cannot work on and you shouldn’t worry yourself about like your height or voice texture.

Discovering Your Limitations

You may discover that some weaknesses that need to be worked on might be the result of limiting past experiences: growing up in a dysfunctional home, holding onto limiting belief systems or the experience of some trauma. The weaknesses and limitations incurred from these experiences can become so part of you that it becomes difficult to separate them from your personality.

Self-discovery is finding them (those limitations) and digging them out so they can be worked on. Low self-esteem, shame-based thinking, guilt and all limitations/hurts of this kind usually take longer time to be worked on than other weaknesses but they must be brought out for healing to take place.

Self-Discovery Is Assessing Your Satisfaction With Your Life

Self-discovery also involves judging your satisfaction at each phase of your life.

Deep within you, there’s a deep clamour to be in a certain state or to do certain things. However, you can get so lost in activities (sometimes, the activities you started because of that clamour) that you will lose touch of the clamour.

Within that clamour is a voice that truly represents you– it gives a clear picture of you, aside from the expectations of the environment and the influence of people. Within that clamour is your ‘self’ and it is in staying in touch with the desire of the clamour that gives you true satisfaction in life.

Most times, that desire from within us is not popular or prestigious and we might deceive ourselves into believing that what is popular is what we want. But for everyone, the desire for fame and prestige is a secondary level desire.

The desire of the inner self or your spirit  is usually very simple: “I just want a peaceful life. I just want to live a life that will be beneficial to those around me. I just want someone to be grateful I lived.” But it is the voice of rest. It is so quiet that we don’t listen to it.

Self-discovery is finding that voice and honestly comparing how your life’s activities are matching to its desire. The degree to which your life matches the desire determines your level of true satisfaction in life. It is the seemingly little things that usually bring the deepest satisfaction in life.

Once that voice can be found and made loud enough that you can hear it in every activity you do, it will guide your life and actions to a place of peace and ease.

Related: 11 Benefits of Self-Discovery (#5 Is My Personal Favourite)

Self-Discovery Is Key To Making Right Life Decisions

The essence of the entire process of self-discovery is so that you can make right life decisions. Self-discovery will guide you in your choice of career.

In discovering your strength, weakness and passion you will know which path to take in life that will maximize your potential to produce a fulfilling life.

Self-discovery will guide you in your choice of relationships because knowing who you are will help you know who you can live with and work with. It will help you know the strength you should watch out for in relationships that will complement your weaknesses, and the passion you should watch out for which will serve as strong bonds for the relationship.

In one sentence, the benefits of self-discovery is that it helps you find where you truly fit with respect to your personality, potential, passion and unique experiences.

Self-Discovery Is Fulfilling God’s Purpose

Aside from being the beginning of the journey towards fulfilment, self discovery is indispensable if anyone must fulfill the purpose of God for their life because functioning in the capacity at which God has planned for a person to work demands that the individual discovers and maximizes the wiring God has put in them for the specific purpose he created them for.

To put that in English, God created every individual to fulfill a specific purpose on earth and then designed everyone with the right potential, personality, and passion that will help them fulfill that purpose.

Self discovery therefore is the process of understanding one’s personality, potential and passion and finding how best they can be maximized to fulfill God’s plans for their life and help them live fulfilling lives.

The Process of Self Discovery

The process of self-discovery can be summarised in the Self Discovery Cycle. The self-discovery cycle is a continuous process consisting of three stages.

1. Exposure/Engagement

This is the first step in the process of self-discovery. It is the exploration stage; where you get engaged with several activities, communities and relationships. I find it surprising that although it is yourself, you still need other people and the environment to pull it out of you.

There are so many things you can do that you haven’t done or don’t know you could do because demand has not been placed on them by the environment. From school clubs and societies, to church service groups, and any community that gives you the opportunity to relate with new people and try new things, there are so many ways which you could get engaged.

From engagement you will begin to find if leadership is your thing or not; your anger and patience will be put to test; your ability to handle stress, your creativity, your passion and response to various situations will all be exposed and that will give you a clearer picture about yourself that you didn’t have before.

From this relationships also, people begin to tell you about other aspects of yourself that you still aren’t seeing. They will tell you in playful comments or you will notice it in nature of responsibility they keep assigning to you as against others.

From engagements and relationships, you will begin to notice that some abilities you have and have always taken for granted are not common to everyone because you will see others do them very poorly.

Note that the exploration stage also includes learning from books, movies and the internet. The more your understanding increases about life and the world, the clearer your potential and weaknesses become to you. 

You begin to see some bad traits that your environment tolerates as weaknesses that they really are now that people from other environments do not tolerate then. You will also begin to see how your strength should function in the bigger community and how you should harness it.

2. Spending Quality Time Alone

After your exploration (exposure and engagement), the next phase of the cycle is spending time alone to sieve from all you have heard and learnt, what really applies to you. From all that people have said you could do, you begin to look deeply to see if you can truly do it.

From all you could do, you also assess to know which are your major strengths what you can only manage to do excellently. From all you can do, you also begin separate those that brought you the highest level of satisfaction and feeling of fulfillment from those you didn’t enjoy.

From all, you sieve the ones that stirred your passion and you would love to do over and over again.

Exposure and engagement without spending time alone will not help you discover yourself; it will only keep you engaged in so many activities and you might soon have a burnout.

When spending time alone, you compare what you thought you could do and what you discovered you could do, then find out what caused the disparity between them. It is in spending time alone that you examine your weaknesses and identify which ones you need to work on and which you need to accept.

It is in spending time alone that you plan a course of action for working on those weaknesses: you find the causes of the weaknesses and limitation; you seek to understand the nature of manifestation of those weaknesses; you seek to identify what triggers and suppresses your weaknesses and strength, and identify what can be done from where you are to the next step of change or development.

It is in spending time alone that you find your own voice of satisfaction, to understand what it is saying and compare it to all the options you have gotten from your engagement and exposure. It is only in spending time alone that you can truly discover who you are.

3. Progressive journalling

As you look deep within yourself while spending time alone, you then begin to write down all that you have discovered. If you make the process structured by writing it down, you make it faster and more effective. 

Your thoughts become clearer to you when you try to put them on paper than when you just have them in your head. You might think you know when it’s just in your head but it is when you write it down that you truly know what it is you are thinking.

Also, writing down saves you from forgetting the discoveries you’ve made about yourself. I called it progressive journaling because you don’t just write once and leave it. Rather, you keep writing as you make the discoveries.

Personally, it took me five years to fully center down to three things that represent the meeting point of my potential and passion. I had written several lists of things I liked, things I thought I could do, things I hated, things I couldn’t do.

But as I continued in various engagements and spending time alone, I discovered I didn’t like some things I thought I liked and I wasn’t passionate about all the things I thought I was passionate about.

Also I found out I could consistently do some things passionately and I constantly couldn’t do other things passionately. Yet after those five years, I have continued to discover other aspects of myself that were not included in my “Ultimate Three” list.

It is clear that the process of self-discovery to progressive one; the cycle continues. After writing, you do some more explorations, then you sieve them out in time spent alone, and you write them down, then start the cycle again.

Read More About The Self-Discovery Cycle


Self-Discovery is a lifelong process of discovering your purpose, passion, potential, weaknesses, personalities and limitations in order to make informed life and career decisions for a fulfilling life. 

The self-discovery cycle is a process that takes you through the journey of self-discovery: exposure, spending time alone and progressive journalling. Self-discovery isn’t a process that can be completed but as you continue in life, you continually discover several aspects of your life you never knew before.

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