Here are a variety of methods to choose from as you begin to uncover your true self, take off your masks and realize the Bodhisattva at your core.
“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” -Buddha
For many of us, the process of self discovery is a continuous journey with no real beginning and no real end. As eternal beings, under constant evolution both physically and spiritually, our perception of ourselves and the ways we project that into the world are in constant flow, much like the reality we live in. But you don't need to go on a pilmgramage to discover yourself, there are plenty of free and afforable tools to use from the comfort of home.
Underneath it all is of course our true nature, our Buddha self, but to get to that it is helpful to understand what has been layered over top of it. By gaining insight into the masks that we wear and the ways that our conditioning interacts with our predispositions, we can have greater clarity as we uncover who we are at our core.
There are many modalities for diving into self inquiry, with the ones shared here being those that I have used in my own personal work, have found insightful and that fill me with greater curiosity.
"Awareness is the greatest agent for change." -Eckhart Tolle
The purpose of using these tools is not to land on one definition of who we are, but more to get a sense of the ways that we show up and relate with the world, what our habits and patterns are and to see more clearly both our strengths and weaknesses.
It is important that we use these tools to gain understanding of what our areas for growth are, without becoming attached to them as labels for our identity. I may see myself reflected in a certain enneagram type, but it is a hindrance to cling to that as a liferaft for my sense of self. It is a tool to help me uncover my true self, not the definition of who I really am.
As you step into this process or take further steps along the path of self awareness, you may find it helpful to keep a journal specific to this work where you can compile your findings all in one place.
I also want to add that it is important to use these tools simply for yourself, and not as a diagnostic exam for other people in your life. You know what goes on inside of your own head and heart, anything else is a guessing game that's not worth playing.
Myers-Briggs Personality Test
Developed by a mother and daughter pair during World War II, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is based off of the work of Carl Jung and uses 4 areas of distinction to then create 16 personality types. Scored on a sliding scale, the categories differentiate a person's inclination towards extroversion or introversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling and judging or perceiving.
When I first took the Myers-Briggs test I was an undergraduate employee at the University of Washington. Even a decade later I still receive the same categorization as an INF/TJ (introverted, intuitive, feeling/ thinking and judging) and I have consistently gotten the same results any time I have taken one. (I differ on whether I get placed as thinking or feeling, but on my most extensive test taken it showed me right on the border).
While this framework is not without its criticisms, many people find it helpful and accurately descriptive. It is important not to take the labels at face value, as for example judging is not to be interpreted as judgemental, but is actually attempting to describe how one comes to make decisions regarding their outer experience.
To take a test and to learn more about the different types, a great place to start is the Myers-Briggs Foundation.
The Big 5 Model
Similar to the MB, but much more widely accepted as the standard in psychological personality testing, the Big 5 personality traits boil down our essence into 5 main traits. On a spectrum, the characteristics of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. These can be remembered through the acronym OCEAN.
These tests are both widely used and available online. Unlike the MB the Big 5 doesn’t offer a polar labeling system, so it is not the trait itself that offers any information, but simply where you fall on the spectrum.
Within psychology it is mostly held that these aspects of our personality are quite fixed and that we simply are the way we are.
Clifton Strengths Assessment
Created by Gallup, this test does exactly what it sounds like - it highlights your strengths. The idea is that by revealing your unique set of talents, you can develop them to your advantage.
Along with showing you your strengths, it will also give insight into your weak areas, but the goal is not to work on elevating your weak areas to level out with your strengths. Instead the information is suggested to be used to further your development in your natural gifts.
The assessment categorizes people using 34 traits and assigns you with your top 5, which they say only every 1 in every 33 million people will share. Unlike most of the other tools though, this one only comes as a paid option.
"Should you find a wise critic to point out your faults, follow him as you would a guide to hidden treasure." -Buddha
This tool was developed by the Good Life Project and is an attempt to help you find your purpose and the work that you are uniquely designed to do. The concept behind this assessment is that we each have something that will ignite our inner spark and fuel us to work with passion and enjoyment.
Along with your primary Sparketype which showcases the positive side of your motivation, the test also offers up your shadow Sparketype, which despite the name actually represents the work that you do in service of your primary spark. You may also enjoy this avenue of working, but it is done as an aspect of your primary Sparketype.
This tool is available for free, allowing you to learn your primary and shadow types, but to get their Mastery Guide you will need to pay for it.
While tools such as this offer some insight, personally I have found a deeper understanding of myself through actually going through the process of weeding this information out on my own, rather than taking a quick survey. A great book to guide you through doing this is Finding Your Element by Sir Ken Robinson.
Astrological Birth Chart
For my 30th birthday my mom gifted me reading with an astrologer. I have since learned as much as I can about the positions of the astral bodies at the moment of my birth, having long been intrigued by the concept of our traits and fates being written in the stars.
While, like all of these tools, the information gained can be taken with a grain of salt, I have found again and again that there lies inherent truths in these cosmic codes.
Most people know their sun sign, or the position of the sun on the day of their birth, but there is much more to astrology than simply grouping yourself with everyone born within 30 days of you for every year throughout history.
You can easily gain access to your birth chart for free online, astrology.com is a great starting point. Apps like Co - Star and Chani are also very helpful since they will interpret all of the alignments for you and save your information so it's easy to come back to. To take it further, books like Use Your Planets Wisely can allow you to read into things for yourself.
Of course you can also find a professional astrologer to read your chart for you. While a more expensive option, you may very well find it worth it. Wonder Girl is my favorite online astrologer offering this service.
Once you know the constellation and house placements on your chart you can begin to gain better insight into your innate tendencies as well as information on your karmic path. For example, my south node is in my 10th house, placing my north node in my 4th house. This offers the idea that in my past life I was focused on gaining status through my career or work life, but in this lifetime my focus should be on matters of home and family.
Before ever knowing this information I have always had the lingering feeling and thought of wanting to go home. Coupled with the knowledge gained from my birth chart I trust that this is a form of inner guidance and not just a conditoned thought pattern.
"The priviledge of a lifetime is being who you are." -Joseph Campbell
A bit more new age, this system was channeled through a man called Ra Uru Hu in the late 80s. Human Design is basically a complex combination of western astrology, the chakra system, the I’Ching and Sephirot of the Kabbalah. In an essence, it maps out how energy moves through you specifically and gives a blueprint for where you are most vulnerable to conditioning and where you remain most true to your nature.
Because it has so many factors and is so individualized, this can take time to fully understand and gleam real insight from. While it can be overwhelming to start out with, once you have grasped some of the main concepts it can be a rewarding venture.
Human Design attempts to go beyond our basic personality traits by also offering a map for our body’s intelligence that we are not consciously aware of. It is in this unique way that this system stands out as something worth assessing as individuals, for we clearly differ in our physical forms so it makes sense that we would also differ in the ways we process and digest energy through them.
A good jumping off point for learning about the Human Design system is the Jovian Archive. Another helpful tool is the talking body graph on mybodygraph.com which will help give you a basic understanding of your chart.
In simple terms the Enneagram offers 9 classifications for personality archetypes, but there is an opportunity to go much deeper.
It is said that our type is consistent throughout our lives, and similar to some of the other systems it reveals both our positive and negative traits. What I find is a deeper analysis beyond simple type casting is that the Enneagram pays tribute to the complexity of our humanity through its interconnectedness and its acknowledgement that we are in constant evolution.
For example, wings are the types located on either side of your primary type. So for a type 1, you may sway into the realms of both 9s and 2s. There are also ways that we can integrate traits from types connected across the Enneagram and so much more.
It might be helpful to take a few different online tests to get a feel for what your type may be, and you can also work with a professional who can interview you to help uncover your type, but what is really required to properly type yourself is a baseline level of self awareness and honesty.
Books such as The Sacred Enneagram dive deep into the mysticism of the Enneagram and offer insights into not just the types, but how we as individuals are motivated and what possibilities are open to us when we center our hearts and our minds.
"Knowing others is intelligence, knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power." -Lao Tzu
A Map to Take You to Yourself
Again I would like to reiterate that these are not the be-all-end-all of self discovery, and taking a few online tests is not the real work of becoming more self aware. These tools are just that - methods to use along your journey that can help you to gain a deeper sense of clarity around how your humanity overlays your spirituality.
There is no right way to go about learning more about yourself, and in many cases these tools may offer validation and understanding more than any new information. In a lot of ways, these tests and types are a means of acknowledging the truth about the parts of ourselves that we did not consciously choose. From there we can work with them to begin making choices that direct our growth towards our highest self.
I hope that you are able to use at least a few of these on your path towards better knowing yourself and that as you do so you find yourself becoming more conscious of the self that is underneath it all.