7 Ways to Better Understand Yourself

Discover how self-assessment could help you.

Self-assessment is the process of exploring and evaluating yourself (or your skills, abilities, traits, personality, or performance). Usually, when we self-assess, we’re measuring how we stack up against some standard. This standard can be institutional (e.g., course grades); we might also set our own standards or try to live up to someone else’s expectations.

Your self-assessment can be narrowly or broadly focused. Evaluating your performance on your last chemistry exam (and how you can do even better next time) is an example of a narrow self-assessment. As a broader self-assessment, you might try to describe and understand your entire personality and its many facets.

Dreams & Goals

There are many types of self-assessment, including:
1. Life self-assessment

“Taking stock of your life” is a form of self-assessment. Especially if you’re dissatisfied with the way your life is going, you may choose a broad self-assessment to identify the source of your discontentment and possible steps to resolve it.

2. Career self-assessment

A career self-assessment can help you gain awareness of your strengths, goals, areas for improvement, interests, and workplace values.

View from back of bearded  man in suit looking at the mirror while being in a shop
3. Ethics self-assessment

If you ever feel lost, conducting an ethics and values self-assessment may help you find a path forward. You could list every recent situation when you felt content, happy, or proud. Then try to identify where those feelings came from. By distilling these feelings into core values, you can create a map to a fulfilling life that can guide you through many tricky decisions and tough times.

4. Relationship self-assessment

If you’re struggling with relationships, you can compile a list of your values and needs in relationships. You might also assess the kind of relationship partner you typically are. This assessment can increase your confidence by giving you a good idea of what you bring to the table in a romantic relationship or friendship. It might also help you move on if a partner or friend isn’t a good fit, whether you or they ended the relationship.

5. Financial self-assessment:

If you plan to retire by a certain age, or if you’re working toward a big purchase or a savings goal, a financial self-assessment could help. You can assess your income and income potential, areas of overspending, and investment choices. This information can point you toward changes that might help you reach your goals.

6. Health self-assessment

 A health self-assessment could include test and exam results, issues that decrease your quality of life, goals, potential changes, and barriers to those changes.

Create an exercise routine
try mindfulness
7. Implicit bias self-assessment:

To promote justice and equity in our communities, we need to evaluate how we might contribute to problems. A good reading list or discussion group can facilitate this process; you can also assess your level of implicit bias using Harvard’s Implicit Association Tests.

Self-assessment can be a powerful tool to identify your goals, the resources you can use to achieve them, and possible barriers to progress. Self-assessment might also give you a satisfyingly detailed grasp of your skills, traits, and abilities. Later on, you can use this data to measure your progress and refine your strategies.

See below for examples of potential self-assessment questions.
  1. What do I need most right now?
  2. What are my three most important life goals? Goals for the next 5 years? Goals for the next 6 months?
  3. What values do I use to make decisions?
  4. What behaviors or personality traits cause me the most trouble?
  5. What kind of friend am I? What kind of partner am I? What do I look for in friends and partners, and have those criteria been working for me?
  6. What change to my health would improve my life the most?

In addition to asking yourself some questions, journaling can be a useful tool to add depth and detail to a self-assessment. You can journal in any way that feels most useful to you–digitally, on paper, with guided journals, with blank journals with space to doodle, etcetera.

In Sum

Self-assessment is the “act of judging ourselves and making decisions about the next step” (Boud, 2013, p. 1). You can self-assess your personality, relationships, career, academic performance, health, and many other domains. Scales, worksheets, and journaling can be valuable tools in the art of self-assessment. With self-assessment, you can gather detailed and invaluable data to focus your learning, track your progress, and understand your resources. Although self-assessment can help you reach your goals, please remember that it may be only part of the solution for many issues. You might get the best results by combining self-assessment with the right outside support.

  • Boud, D. (2013). Enhancing learning through self-assessment. Routledge.