know yourself live freely

5 Steps to Know Yourself & Live Freely


Little kids are so free. They can dance like a baboon with a bucket on their head, or sing Jingle Bells off tune in May. They are unfettered by what people think of them.

Living freely out of their true self comes easy.

Or does it?

Maybe their freedom of expression is how they discover who they are.

Knowing yourself does not come automatically. It’s easy to live an aimless, mindless life.

Knowing yourself takes conscious and intentional effort.

Do you know yourself?


I remember a moment when I noticed I didn’t know myself. It was a silly thing. My girlfriend had bought me a bag of cheese flavored chips and said because I know you like cheese.

I was dumbfounded. I wasn’t aware of my affinity for cheese.

How does she know this and I don’t?

I was puzzled but didn’t understand so I lost the opportunity to do something about it.

This realization repeated itself. Each time it frustrated me.

What does it mean to know yourself?


When someone asks Who are you? you answer with your name.

But you are not your name.

It’s something about you—how you are identified.

Other bits of information mistaken for identity are:

  • I am – your age.
  • I am – your race.
  • I am – your nationality.
  • I am – your job or role.

But these things are not who you are.

They describe things about you, or label things you do.

They don’t define you.

Who you are is inside you.

Knowing these things is not knowing yourself.

Knowing yourself does not come automatically. It’s easy to live an aimless, mindless life. Click To Tweet


Knowing yourself is knowing the person inside you.

Who is this person?

It is your likes. dislikes, and inclinations.

It is your hopes, dreams, and beliefs.

It is your thoughts, feelings, and opinions apart from outside coercion.

It is your inner life.

Knowing, and being able to express who you are with confidence is powerful.

Knowing yourself takes conscious and intentional effort. Click To Tweet


How do you get to know yourself?

As I said above, I didn’t know myself.

I went into counseling to write my memoir Emerging With Wings. That journey is where I began to know myself.

I learned I lived my life at the direction of others instead of out of my own self freely. I’ve come a long way.

Contrary to what many think, knowing yourself and living freely takes work.

It takes time, courage, and honesty.

it takes courage




The first thing you need to do is “step away” from yourself to observe yourself.

Notice what appeals to you, attracts you. Notice what feels easy or comfortable to you.

What do you spend the most time doing?

What are your favorite books, songs, and movies?

What do you like to eat?

I like cheese. It’s my favorite food. I know that now.

One of my grandsons’ favorites is ketchup. He even likes it on pancakes. I think it’s disgusting but he thinks it’s wonderful and that’s just fine. He has the right to like what he likes.

You have the right to like what you like.

Simply notice.



Listen to your thoughts. Are you aware of what you’re thinking about? Are your thoughts positive or negative? Are you the master of them or their slave?

Listen to your emotions. How loud are they? Do they bully you or serve you?

Listen to the words that come out of your mouth. What tone do they carry? Do they build up or tear down?

Listen to your body, how you feel in situations. Are you emotionally comfortable?

Take note of what you heard.



Put what you observe and hear together to learn. Did anything surprise you?

Was it hard to look and listen to yourself? If so, there’s a reason.

It was hard for me. I negated my likes and dislikes, my feelings and needs. I had to learn to validate myself.

I have a right to feel what I feel even if someone else does not like it or I cannot find the words to describe or explain…I have a right to have needs, communicate them and to be heard. Having needs is not evidence of weakness – it is human. Needs met feed our wellbeing. They are individual and relative. Everyone deserves to have their needs met. I am learning to identify them in my life. I believe that the unmet needs in our lives talk. They talk trash.*

Do you have unmet needs talking trash to you? Are you mean to yourself?

Are you uncomfortable with yourself or confident?

Does what you spend the most time doing align with what you say you believe? If yes – celebrate. If no, don’t beat yourself up. Now you know and you can do something about it.

Are the things you do out of free choice? Or are they from coercion or fear? Is this an area to grow in?

There is so much to learn and it is a lifetime process.

Learn who you are. The person you are when no one is looking.



Did you discover parts of you that you didn’t like? This is where you need to exercise self-compassion. Forgive yourself and move in the direction of love.

What is the direction of love?

Love always does what is good.

Do you feel loved?

It has to start here. Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

But if you don’t love yourself how can you love others? And how can you love yourself if you don’t know you are loved?

No matter what you noticed when you looked at yourself – you are loved.

No matter what you heard when you listened to yourself – you are loved.

Accept who you are – you are loved.

Life is a journey of learning and growing and the spirit of Grace promised to walk it with us if we’ll allow.

We will have good days and bad days. Help is a breath away.

We all have little quirks—like ketchup on pancakes.

It starts with knowing you are loved.

Knowing, and being able to express who you are with confidence is powerful. Click To Tweet



Looking and listening to yourself to learn and love your true self will produce inner freedom.

Be true to who you are even when others may not like it. Not everyone likes ketchup on pancakes.

Live genuinely—live freely!


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson


What now?

  • Which step helped you the most? Let me know in the comments.
  • Share this with a friend who can use it.
  • For help with listening, get the book The Listening Life here.
  • For help with validating your needs, get the book *Emerging With Wings here.
  • For help knowing you are loved, get the eBook Love’s Manifesto FREE here.


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12 thoughts on “5 Steps to Know Yourself & Live Freely

    1. Self-awareness makes such a difference. I don’t think people understand until they’ve tapped into it.

      My mother-in-law always ate ketchup on her eggs. I could never sit next to her when she did (the smell nauseates me). But she enjoyed it.

      Thanks for sharing, Shayne!

  1. You are spot on with this post. There comes a point in our lives (sometimes more than once), when we just have to take time and consider:

    1.) What in the world am I doing with my life?
    2.) Who am I?
    3.) Do I like cheese chips?

    All of your steps I think are great. The one that helps me the most is “Look.” I consider myself an observant person, but I don’t know the answer to some of the questions you posed under “Look.” I should know those things! So now I will attempt to answer my 3 questions using all 5 of your steps.

    1) I love my family. I write about life and ideas, because that is how I understand what’s happening in the world around me.
    2) A mostly positive force in the world, despite the occasional human emotional outburst.
    3) I love cheese chips. Especially zesty ones. I don’t like sharing, but I am working on that.

    Thanks so much for writing!

    1. Thank you, Krystal.

      It’s funny how we are with ourselves all the time yet fail to know the answer to simple things because we don’t pay attention.

      I’m happy to hear the steps were helpful for you. Thank you for sharing both your questions as well as your answers. Sometimes sharing emotional things is as hard as sharing cheese chips. 😉

  2. Danielle, this post is excellent!

    I went on a similar journey of finding myself through counseling and self examination. I purposely sat down and examined what my values actually were, and what I wanted them to be after I read Mark Mansons “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”.

    It’s very powerful and trans-formative and I love your message here.

    Thank you!

  3. Danielle, this has been so helpful to me. I started to write about Listening to my thoughts & finally released on paper my person inner wrestling following the recent sad death of a friend, which has impacted my life beyond my understanding. It’s a good start for me. I also answered some of the other questions you posed & would like to get back to these after some sleep.

    1. Oh, I’m so happy to hear that. Death impacts us beyond our understanding every time. I’m so happy you’ve gotten some release – it’s the beginning of healing.

      Healing is a process – be kind to yourself and be patient. Sleep well.

Please share your thoughts!