Discover Yourself in Twenty Minutes

Who are you? If you can’t promptly answer that question you don’t have a very clear picture of your own identity. Having a clear image of yourself is essential in relationships, self-confidence and growth. Just as it’s impossible to reach your destination when you don’t know where you are, it is impossible to become who you want to be when you aren’t clear on who you are.

Popular culture has gotten hold of this idea that you need to travel around Europe and possibly even experiment with crazy substances to ‘find yourself’. Although all this traveling might expand you, I think that it is actually a lot easier to discover your identity. In fact, I think it should only take about twenty minutes.

Why Discover Yourself?

Before I go into the actual process, I think it is important to figure out why determining the identity you currently have is incredibly important.

Critical for Growth

In order to improve you must first ascertain where you are and then how you want to be. If you aren’t sure where you are, it is impossible to start making movements towards where you want to be. A lot of pop psychology tells you to accentuate the positive and push aside the negative, but unfortunately without first recognizing the potentially negative you can’t fix it.


I had an interesting conversation with a friend recently about this idea of your own identity. I likened relationships to selling a product, where the product is you. I pointed out that, unfortunately, no matter how fancy your ad campaign is, if people are unsure what the product is they will be hesitant to buy it.

By determining exactly what product you are selling along with its features and weaknesses you will unknowingly market this product to whoever you meet. Because most people aren’t quite sure what product they are selling they can’t possibly market it effectively.

But when you know exactly what you are selling then you can start to present yourself in a way that will attract people who are interested in buying this product. Of course this is true of all types of human relationships, be they friendship, business or intimate.

Self Satisfaction

Knowing that, for right now, this is who you are, has an amazing level of self-satisfaction. When you are completely honest or unsure about who you are it is easy to get trapped into looking at tiny imperfections because you can’t perceive the whole. Discovering yourself inevitably creates the paradoxical situation where you both accept who you are without removing the desire to improve it.

Have Twenty Minutes to Spare?

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think uncovering your identity is really as difficult or momentous as it is often perceived. I think that you can get a really good grip on your current identity in about twenty minutes, and all you need is a piece of paper and a pencil (or a computer).

Start the exercise by simply creating a list of all the attributes and ways you define yourself on a piece of paper. Now it is easy to make a fairly short list describing pretty obvious attributes, but I think you need to get a little more depth. Keep writing on your list until it has at least 100 to 200 points about yourself. I did this exercise a few days ago and I found that the first fifty points or so were relatively easy but the last twenty five caused me to really think deep and hard.

Write down items that describe anything that you would associate with your identity. This means accomplishments, failures, strengths, weaknesses, personality traits, interests, hopes, past, future, etc. I’m fairly young so I would argue that my list would probably be short compared to people who have lived longer. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything more. Then write another twenty five points.

Stick with the exercise until it is finished. Again it may take as long as twenty minutes or more if you are a slow writer, but it will give you immense clarity and satisfaction afterwards.

Write the Good and the Bad

This list is not a resume or a way of perceiving yourself in a positive light. This is a method of determining exactly what your current identity is, the good, the bad and the ugly. If there are parts of you that you dislike, write them down too. You will be the only person reading this piece of paper, so get everything out there.

You might feel uncomfortable writing down negative aspects of yourself. You may have wanted to push some of them away or avoid them. But part of discovering yourself is also finding the parts that maybe you dislike, are afraid of or even hate.

When you write these things down, realize that they are a part of you too. Accept the truth that these are components of your identity. Uncovering these parts can be the most difficult, but it is absolutely necessary if you want a clear identity that can be improved upon.

Look at Your List

When you look at your list, which will likely be several pages long, you may be astounded at just how large and complex your identity is. Your current identity has hundreds of intertwined factors that create your life. Some of them you might not like, others you might feel incredibly proud of.

The next step is to get complete acceptance of this list. If you don’t feel the list is complete, go back and add more to it, but ultimately you must look at your immense list of qualities and accept that this is who you are right now, in this very moment.

Improve It

Now that you have a comprehensive list of your identity, everything is out in the open. No longer are parts of yourself veiled, hidden from view. With your current identity precise and clear, the true work begins. This is the work of crafting exactly what you want from your identity. Make it the way you want it to be and determine how to express it in the best way possible.

When I was discussing with a friend this idea using a product analogy, I likened this revelation to discovering you are a blender. Up until this point you might have realized you had an electrical cord, a few buttons and glass container, but you weren’t sure exactly what you were. Upon realizing you are a blender, you can now go about taking what might be a mediocre blender and making the best blender possible.

You need to do the same thing with your identity. Find the parts of yourself that you didn’t like and begin the process of changing them. Find the parts of yourself that you did like and accentuate them even more throughout your identity. One of the things I discovered was how open I was to trying new things. I feel that this aspect needs to be accentuated more in my own identity.

Don’t Become a Toaster!

Back onto my silly household appliance metaphor of human identity, I think there can sometimes be the temptation to turn your identity into a universal product that everyone wants. So instead of just being a great blender, you also want to be a great toaster and possibly a microwave. Aside from the difficulty in adding all these features, you end up being a neutral product nobody really wants to buy.

Part of discovering your identity is in determining the best way to market that identity. Of course not everyone wants a blender, but coming up with a message that best illustrates the benefits of being a blender will not only improve your relationships but make you more secure within your own identity.

My favorite example of this self-marketing was when the dating guru Mystery took the example of a computer programmer and how to make it appear more attractive. By likening computer programming to understanding the patterns in nature and even human consciousness, he made the profession sound almost mystical and beautiful. There are infinite ways of viewing something, so pick a good one. A lot sexier than it currently appears to most people.

This was an example of how two people with the same identity can market it, not only to others but to themselves, in the best light possible. By finding your identity, improving it to where you want to be and discovering the best way to project that identity to yourself and others, I think you are on your first steps to creating a life you really want.

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  • Ben Casnocha

    Not all who wander are lost.

    (some proverb)

  • Scott Young

    True, Ben, true.

    But this post isn’t about the wandering, but the being lost. Wandering can be good, but I don’t think it is a good idea not to know where you are. Thanks for the comment.

  • Matthew

    Wow, what a great post. ^^^ I agree with the above, being lost is one of the worst feelings in life.


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  • max night

    “I am who I am because I am who I am.”-I think that was Popeye the Sailor. For some odd reason I keep thinking that if you are the one trying to discover yourself, its like you have a mental illness or something, because why would your indentity be lost if you are the identity? I believe there is no “your identity” because arent you the identity itself?

  • Lule Dennis Kaddu

    This is very amazing because the greatest discovery which one can ever make is the discovery of oneself.
    Knowing oneself is one of the gifts God gave us in abundance and can only be unveiled when you accept who you are and what you are, then you have it!

  • Lou Albert Russo

    Thanks for this. I believe we all ask this question because there is a constant need to adjust to an ongoing ever changing answer for all of our lives into our last breath on earth, and for some beyond even this. I found the list is a good approach into the query with the realization day to day changes will occur outside our control. We must constantly adjust the answer to our identity. In terms of these changes our identity dissembles and reassembles or suffer the floundering effect it has on us in various forms of self denigration. Anyway that’s my comment. I could be wrong, but that’s as I see what is a very good, very healthy, very rewarding line of thought. And sharing it with others seems to make it make more sense than trying to go it alone.

  • Luke

    I think searching for your identity is a normal healthy part of life. It doesn’t mean that people actually go on a “hunt” for who they are. It’s about coming together as a stable adult. Finding out your weaknesses, as well as strengths, interests, tastes and goals. Once you discover who you truly are that is when you can be at most peace.

    I find that people these days are so apt to act fake to impress this one or that one that a lot of us forget or even lose who we really are. If we are always changing to conform to others so they will like us or think we are interesting etc. than we begin to lose our true image and become sad and unsatisfied with our lives.

  • shalaka agarwal

    good exercise….i think it can help u out a lot….will do n den will tell u more

  • henry

    Obviously I found this site for a reason, and although I haven’t tried your exercise yet, I really liked your examples. I seem to pride myself in being “mysterious”, multidimensional, and “undefined”. I avoid labels, but evidently it’s not effective with relationships. Like you say, people seem to want to be able to label you (ie, toaster, microwave, vacuum, etc)

  • Lindsey

    I think your list is a wonderful idea. I’m not a fan of lists, lol, but it would help people. Youre trying to find yourself but you cant be told that. ^^ It’s what you have to see for yourself. And I guess all I have to say about it is thank you. Because theres a lot of people who will pretend to tell you who you are.

  • Zeb

    Thank you for compiling this guide. What I would sincerely appreciate is if you would share your list – or even a small selection of your list – so that I can better understand what kinds of things found helpful for identifying yourself. Secondly – once you had your list, what changes did you make to, “become a better blender”

    I find that as I endeavor to be open minded, tolerant and accepting of everyone’s thoughts and opinions, I often struggle to identify what it is I myself believe or think.

    Your thoughts and time are appreciated.

  • Soul Searching

    I haven’t ever thought of myself as a “blender” or any household item really. But perhaps this metaphor will help … looking forward to making a list.

  • Clancy

    I have always had a certain identity about myself that I was never quite able to show others, and now that I am 26 I feel like it is getting t be a bit late to really shw the world the real me. Right now I am going through a really rough seporation with my wife so I think this is the best time to rediscover myself and atleast accept myself for who I am and not try to just change my feelings to fit every situation.

  • pallavi

    great !!!!! i loved ur article . i will surely dis one

    thanks alot

  • lou

    great…..ive written a very long list and ive found as i have been writing it ive found myself writing about the person tht i think i want to be….im feeling quite positve thts me? but ive been in hiding for so long i havnt been able to show myself as ive always worried what other have thought of me. and now im sick of pleasing others its my time…to shine lol
    i know the real me is still inside but she needs a lot of help with showing herself and to make my family work (realationship) ive got to be myself again my parter doesnt like the me ive become and neither do i.
    so thank you for helping me……i hope tht in a few weeks i can discover myself again!!

  • Dina


    Is there a problem when I can’t make the list? I written down 15 things/words in a few minutes, but I can’t think of anything else. How do I unlock that door if it’s closed?


  • Gaurab

    Thanx! I hope it ‘ll help me to love my life. I ‘ll try.

  • Lisa

    It’s great that there is something in this article that stands out: a little self-effort. Sometimes many of us don’t want to do the work it takes to get the weeds out, because we think we don’t have the ability to. That was me, at first. I think looking at it as a “labor of love” will definitely turn weariness into enthusiasm, which might even transfer itself into our other relationships. Encouraging words. Thanks for posting.

  • http://http// Abdul Kayom

    This post suggests very simple but very very effective idea to discover oneself which is the most essential thing one should(if not must) do….

  • samuel adobi

    I feel, discovering who you are, has to do with the attitude of ones mind set. In the sense that, orientation of the mind goes a long way by interacting with the right people at the right place and time. More so the ability to live above nagative act in life.

  • SMJ

    Fanks for the write ups, but am abit still in some dark in writing mine. I’d only thought of a few and its like am exhausted. Pls more clues, maybe an example drafted or real. Please!

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  • Teenager

    Is it bad that I found it extremely hard to do the first 10 words? I’m on 15, I have some work to do!

  • Dia

    Hi I am Dia From India,I am on the way to discover myself and I am learning to get master in yoga. :)

  • Anni

    Hi Scott,

    I realize you wrote this post a long time ago but it is strikingly similar to Steve Pavlinas “how to discover your life purpose in about 20 minutes” which he wrote even 5 years earlier.

    Did you get your inspiration there or did you come up with your version of it all by yourself?

    I like both posts and find them very inspiring, yet it struck me how very similar in detail your idea was. Maybe it really is a good way of discovering oneself.

    Just a thought.

    Wish you all the best

  • Scott Young


    You know, it may have been inspired by that post. I used to read Steve Pavlina, so my early writing borrows a lot from his style and thinking. I hadn’t seen the connection until now, but if I was too loose with my citations, I appreciate the comment as a reference to other readers!