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Self-Discovery Essay

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Throughout one’s lifetime changes in a person’s views toward life are inevitable. Those changes can be seen as either positive or negative based on the experiences a person goes through. Some changes are seen as internal while others are seen as external. For instance, in Monkey by Wu Cheng-en and Candide by Francois-Marie Arouet De Voltaire, both authors are using their characters to portray self-discovery by having them go through a series of obstacles. As a result the characters changed their attitude toward life through the many obstacles that they had to undergo. Self-discovery is an essential part of a person’s life which can be seen internally or externally through a person’s characteristics and…show more content…

These sets of beliefs set up the naïve Candide for a journey that will include many obstacles that he will have to overcome due to Pangloss’s philosophy. Throughout the novel Candide is a victim to many misfortunes which makes him question his beliefs. This is seen when Candide says “If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others like?” (Voltaire, 529). These questionings leads Candide to undergo the process of self-discovery. Throughout the novel Candide is expected to grow as an individual while his beliefs are being destroyed by the misfortunes of his life. “Even as his friends die around him and he is beaten, tortured and left with nothing, Candide still believes in the philosophy of Pangloss” (www.associatedcontent.com). Candide must kill in order for him to hold on to these beliefs and his dream of marrying Cunegonde. This is seen when Candide kills both the Jew and the Inquisitor in order for him and Cunegonde to be together; “…he ran him through and laid him beside the Jew” (Voltaire, 533). We can see that Candide isn’t internally trying to change his beliefs because he is still holding on to the philosophy of Pangloss, even though he’s experiencing a number to misfortunes. Candide gains wealth and is offered a life of happiness in the city of El Dorado, but he doesn’t stay there because he wants to find Cunegonde so they can get married. He

Awareness is the first step in the creation process. As you grow in self awareness you will better understand why you feel what you feel and why you behave as you behave. That understanding then gives you the opportunity and freedom to change those things you’d like to change about yourself and create the life you want. Without knowing who you are, self acceptance and change become impossible.

Be As Specific As You Can

General answers will only give you a general sense of who you are. The more specific your answers, the more impact they’ll have on your life and you’ll have a much clearer picture of yourself. I can not emphasis this enough. Be specific. Be specific. Give specific answers. When you think you’ve been pretty specific, make it even more specific.

Questions, Not Judgments

Don’t ask yourself  these questions with a judgmental tone. They’re not accusations, or calls for you to defend yourself. They’re questions to help you discover who you are. Be honest, gentle, and nonjudgmental. No one has to see your answers. This is between you and you, and no one else.

Letting It Flow

If while answering the questions you come up with your own line of questioning, then definitely follow it. (You’re the expert here.) Also, if you answer, “I don’t know”, to any of the questions, give yourself the freedom to take a wild guess. The guess will allow you to continue. You know more than you think you do!

Be Totally Honest

Honesty leads to true awareness, but it requires courage. It’s the courage to face what you fear or find difficult to accept about yourselves. When you summon the courage to take ownership of your actions, thoughts, and feelings, you will recover the blueprint of your life. You’ll be able to face your fears and find the inaccurate beliefs that created them.

“We make our world significant
  by the courage of our questions,
  and the depth of our answers.”

– Carl Sagan

When answering the questions below, see if you are substituting rationalizations for your genuine feelings. Check inside and see if you are asking yourself  “How SHOULD I feel?”, rather than “How do I really feel?”. Monitor if you are speculating intellectually about the answer, rather than getting in touch with what you are thinking or feeling.

Know that in the past you had reasons for being dishonest and that those reasons may no longer be useful or serve you. Know whatever you discover about yourself, you can handle with ease and acceptance. Trust that the information you uncover will in some way lead to a greater sense of peace about yourself. That the answers to the questions will take you by the hand, and lead you to where you want to go.

Becoming honest is an act of self renewal. What a sense of freedom you’ll feel when you’re able to admit to yourself…”I want this, or think this, or feel this because I’m afraid that…[fill in the blank]. This is the first step toward discovering hidden fears. What a wonderful place to know where you are! It’s difficult to reach a destination, when you don’t even know where you’re starting. You need only to gather your courage and look for your beliefs you have about yourself and your world. The rewards of doing so will lead you to places of happiness you never knew existed.

This page is filled with questions. I’ve divided the questions into the following categories: Social, Emotional, Significant Relationship, Spiritual/Ethical, Financial, Career, Personal, and Personal Definitions. They’re worded in a way to help you get a clearer picture of who you are. Clarity is the goal here, but remember, have fun with the questions. This isn’t intended to be a struggle!


What type of people do I enjoy spending time with?
(intelligent, open-minded, out-going, self-righteous, reflective, quiet, funny, a bit sad, optimists, readers, pessimists, thinkers, sports-minded, active, perceptive, debaters, joke-tellers, etc.)

Why do I enjoy those specific qualities in people?

Do I seek out people similar as I, or different from me? Why is that?

Do I have many friends as I just described? Why or why not?

How many close friends do I want based on the amount of time I have?

What would those close relationships look like? What would be the biggest aspects? (talking, shared activities, working on projects together, laughter, storytelling, playing games, etc.)

What are two of the most favorite things I enjoy doing with others?

Where have I met most of the friends I currently have?
(family, work, community, childhood, online, etc.)

What does where I met these friends tell me about myself?

Why am I still friends with those people?

What is the single biggest attitudinal change I’d like to make when with people? (be more myself, be more out-going, be more honest, initiate more conversations, be more comfortable, be more open, be funnier, interrupt less, initiate more activities, etc.)


List three situations and/or times when you were the most happy in your life. Specific instances…What elements were present when I felt that way? How was I feeling about myself during those times?

What do I fear most in my life right now? Why? What would it mean if that happened?

When do I feel the most angry or frustrated? What is it about those situations that I feel that way?

What is my definition of love? (not Webster’s)

What are my primary beliefs about love? (it’s easy, scary, short-lived, feels good, not possible, difficult, etc.) Where/when did I acquire those beliefs? Do I still believe them? Why or why not?

Do I have much control over my emotions? Why or why not?

What emotions do I want to feel most of the time?

Significant Relationship

If NOT currently in a marriage/life partnership/relationship

What specific characteristics do I want my ideal life partner to possess? (generosity, open-mindedness, funny, gentle, strong personality, quiet, organized, similar beliefs about politics, finances, parenting, etc, fun, honest, similar goals, attractive, playful, out-going, etc.)

Why do I want them to have those characteristics?

How would I feel if I never had a life partner? Why would I feel that way?

If currently in a marriage/life partnership/relationship

Am I happy in my current relationship? Why or why not?

What is the biggest problem I see in the relationship?

In what way would I like my partner to change? Why is that important to me?

Could I be happy if that person did not change? Why or why not?

What did I appreciate about this person when I first met/knew them?

What do I appreciate about them now?

Why are those qualities important to me?

What is the single biggest attitudinal change I could make that would enhance this relationship?

Spiritual / Ethics

Do I believe in God? If not, how do I believe the universe operates? Why do I believe that?

How has my childhood effected my beliefs about God/or lack there of?

What characteristics do I believe God possesses? Why do I believe that?

What is my relationship with this God/Universe?
Is it the relationship I want? Why or why not?

In what way does my spiritual beliefs effect my day-to-day life?

Do I have a code of conduct that I follow? If no, do I want one? Why or why not? If yes, what is it and why those codes?


What beliefs did I “take on” from my parents in regards to money? (it’s difficult to get, it’s scarce, you should only have so much, it’s easy to make, having it /not having it says something about me, live for the moment, give it away, I’ll never have enough, it’s a secret, saving is important, etc)

What does money mean/represent to me?
(security, aliveness, freedom, love, peace of mind, etc)

Do I feel peaceful or anxiety in regards to money?
Why do I feel that way about it?

How much money do I feel I deserve to make a year? Why that amount?

What would it mean to me if I made more or less than that amount? Why do I believe that?


What types of things did I enjoy doing as a child? (building things, drawing, sports, writing, solving puzzles, being with animals, my chemistry set, organizing games, talking, anything physical, playing house, cowboys and Indians, etc) Do I do anything today that has similar qualities to it?

How do I currently earn my livelihood? How did I come to be so employed?

What was present during the times I loved my work?
What were the elements present in those situations?

Am I currently doing the type of work I love to do?
If not, what type of work would I like to do?
If yes, what would have to change for me to enjoy it more?
What attitudinal change could I make to enjoy it more?

What has stopped me so far from pursuing the type of work I love? Do I want to continue allowing that to stop me? What could I do to change that?

What is my definition of success? (not Webster’s) that?


What skills have I acquired that I’m proud of?

What accomplishments am I proud of?

Beginning when I was a child, what are the 10 most significant events in my life? Why did I make them significant?

What period of my life do I like most? Why?
What period of my life do I like least? Why?

What are five of my greatest strengths?

What do I desire most right now? Why do I desire that?

If I was to receive an award, what would I want that award to be for? Why that?

If I was to pick out a general theme that showed up often while answering these questions, what would that theme be? What does it mean? How do I feel about that?

Personal Definitions

In addition to asking yourself questions, you may also want to investigate your personal definitions of common words. I know when I went through this process of self awareness, I found I only had a very general sense of the meaning of words. It wasn’t until I came up with my own precise and specific definitions, that their meaning became clear. Although my definitions were not that drastically different from the dictionary’s, the words had more impact on my life once I defined them myself.

What is YOUR definition of the following words?
– love
– success
– honesty
– happiness
– soul
– true
– acceptance
– inner peace
– trust
– appreciation
– knowing
– believe
– reality
– fear
– joy
– judgment
– anger
– mistake
– sex
– friend
– guilt
– intention
– responsibility
– myself

Copyright © 1997-2005 Jennifer Hautman

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