Figuring Out Who You Are

Using some UX concepts to help make sense of what matters to you 😎

“Be Yourself”

And to know our strengths, we need to know who we are right? Now, I don’t know about you, but I didn’t exactly know how to do that early on(😂). After all, school in the earlier years was more focused on teaching you a breadth of subjects rather than self-discovery, with not much soul searching done. It was more like we were just going through school as it was required and less because we wanted to learn what we were truly interested in. We did more of that soul searching in college (or at least we tried to).

Soul Searching

And lots of it (till now)

College is the time for self-discovery. It’s framed as the avenue to figure things out, where you get to try and see what you like and don’t like. For me, there were three avenues that would help in our personal soul searching journey:

📚 Study: Where you take up subjects related to your course and maybe some that aren’t directly related but still important, which ideally leads you to the career that you had your mind set on

👨‍👨‍👧 Orgs: Where you get involved in a microcosm of the real world, doing projects and meeting people with common interests and passions

💼 Internships: Where you kind of put the two above together, and see how what you’ve learned in studies and orgs can be used in the real-world

Ideally, through these avenues, you would know more about yourself. With graduation and getting your very first job is an actualization of that, right? Well… ideally. But what’s ideal doesn’t really happen most of the time 😅

Personally, even after working for nearly three years, it’s something that I had difficulty figuring out. Talking with friends and peers, only a handful truly feel confident about who they are and who they’re becoming. For me, it’s taken a lot of time to figure out and get closer to “becoming me”, to “becoming GM”.

And the biggest learning with that is because: There’s a difference between who you THINK you are and who you REALLY are.

Note: This feeling of not having figured things out is very normal by the way! Don’t take it against yourself.

Who You THINK you are =/= Who You REALLY Are

There is a difference.

Who you THINK you are is based on an ideal that you formed less because of self-discovery, and more because it seems cool on the surface. This ideal of yours is primarily based on external validation, whether that’s from the culture you’re in that says that people should become like this, or from the media that you consume, where marketing runs rampant selling you an idea of who you could be. Examples here include the idea of becoming a celebrity (do you really want to become one or does it just seem glamorous?).

Who you REALLY are on the other hand is what feels natural to you. From things that you’ve done, there are moments that you could identify that felt easier for you to do, as though it was second nature. An example here could be drawing or even speaking. One comes more naturally than the other.

So knowing that…

Well, I have two things I’d like to share with you to help figure yourself out!

If you’re familiar with UX as a process, these may sound familiar

These two were inspired from some things we use in the user experience space. Let’s go through each!

💡 Now’s the time to grab a pen and paper to try and put these into practice! Post-its would be massively helpful for Affinity Mapping.

Milestone Journey Map

What makes this approach powerful is that you are looking more within your own personal experience to find out who you REALLY are rather than who you THINK you are. Grounding it on actual experience always trumps hypotheticals after all! Doing this, you get to see your life on a big picture and see if there are patterns with what’s brought you joy (who you are) and the opposite (less of who you are).

Now, with the Milestone Journey map, we’re NOT going to map out each and every milestone you’ve gone through month-per-month. We don’t really measure things that way but more in moments (Read more about that in The Power Of Moments).

Let’s dive in!

So what you’d like to do first is to take some time to reflect and ask yourself: What are some “core memories” of your life?

Similar to the movie Inside Out, there are moments in your life that trigger a specific emotion. With the Milestone Journey map, we want to map out in the y-axis those “core memories” according to either a positive (smiley face) or negative (sad face) feeling. While the x-axis refers to time passing.

See here for an example of that in action!

A piece of my personal milestone journey map!

As you can see, there isn’t an exact science to go about this. What’s important is that you’re able to form a timeline of your “core memories” and see which ones have been positive and negative. So in this example, I wanted to show you some moments of my life that impacted me. One of my “core memories” was “Getting an internship rejection (Research)” refers to the time when I got rejected from an interview for answering the need for research rather than an immediate solution they seemed to be looking more for.

💡 Even with just these post-its, do you notice a pattern?

Note: I’ve also placed the rightmost post-it higher than the other two as I felt more joy with that “core memory”. Placing post-its in varying degrees will help you piece things together for the next part!

Affinity Mapping

Once you map out your core memories, it’s time to go do some Affinity Mapping. Minus the jargon, Affinity Mapping is essentially grouping common things together according to a certain theme or pattern. With the example above, the core memories I’ve placed on my Milestone Journey all had a common thread for learning and intellectual stimulation. With more memories you have, you’ll also be able to identify similar threads both from what you like and what you dislike as can be seen on the right side of the picture.

Note: I cheated a bit in the example to make the memories a clear pattern (Learning) but when you do yours, it will definitely be a bit tricky to see what’s common at first. Post-its help as you can easily move things around and group them together.

After doing that and you feel that it pretty much captures who you are, now it’s time to do another round of Affinity Mapping and try to ground it into a category to showcase What Matters To You. For me, some of my categories include what you can see in the next picture.

Knowing what matters to you based on your own personal experience rather than what you think clarifies things like an internal compass of sorts! This compass helps you know whether what you’re doing is aligned with what matters to you and what doesn’t. It may not tell you what your next step should be, but it does tell you how you’d want to live your life on a day-to-day and what you’d like to work on.

Just because you have your compass, doesn’t mean things won’t be shakey

I hope this helps you learn more about yourself and know what resonates with you! In being more aware of your identity, you now have an idea of who you truly want to become based on your actual behavior rather than what you think you should be.

Remember that knowing more about yourself is a never-ending process. I’ve been doing variations of this exercise during crossroads of my life, and there have been changes here and there, but the core still looks similar. Try this exercise as well after a few months, quarters, or yearly! Who knows how much you’ve changed over time ✌️

If any of you want to share your own highlights or if you have difficulty trying this out, feel free to reach out! I would genuinely love to hear from you or help figure things out 🤓



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GM Espeleta

Senior CX Researcher @ First Circle, Ex-Market and User Researcher Lead @GCash, Ex-HR Analyst @ JPMorgan Chase & Co. | Making sense of the complex everyday