A year ago, I returned from a 10 day retreat in Bali.

The goal of the retreat was to discover my identity, my purpose. To know myself so well that I stopped questioning my decisions. To uncover the pieces I’ve clouded over and hidden away in the darkness. My girlfriends and I lead this retreat for ourselves. Our team was strong: A highly successful life and business coach, a personal stylist who focuses on the inside before the outside, a woman who transformed her life through digging deep and me – the no nonsense acupuncturist that doesn’t let people lie to themselves.

Since that time, a blog was born, I’ve run my first successful online course and have started to build an online presence. More has changed in the last twelve months than in the past 5 years. We continue to talk about the topic of identity and getting to know ourselves better. I often write about personal transformation and health but not often about identity which as been so crucial to my own growth. Then, yesterday, someone asked on a forum how she should get to know herself.

I sat down to think about what processes we used while in Bali. I know that most spiritual leaders would tell us to spend some time in peace and quiet until we realized that our true identity is love but – I needed something more concrete than that.

This whole process for me started before I moved to California in 2002, 15 years and a continent ago. I grew up in Massachusetts and was known for being a bit of a… strong personality. When I was on my way to California, I decided I didn’t want to be known this way anymore and made a conscious effort to be nicer to people. Sometimes, it even worked.

I worked at a bar at that time and a customer of mine offered to send me an in depth assessment test. It was meant to show not only what I was capable of but what would satisfy me. I was reminded of it recently and found the results (from 2002!) hidden away in an old inbox. Here’s the lowdown: I have the mental capacity but would be super unhappy as an Aeronautical Engineer. On the other hand, being a College Professor showed 87.5% satisfaction overall.

It was the beginning of a long term love affair with personality tests for me. I love them all. The short ones on facebook that tell you what ice cream flavor you are, the professional Myers Briggs, VIA Character, The Four Colors, Face Reading – if there’s a test out there, I’ve done it. Probably multiple times. Based on science, spirituality, someone’s opinion, I don’t care – I want to know. And if you’re like most people, you do too.

Those 10 days in Bali were spent looking into handheld mirrors and describing what I saw, reviewing my style choices for clues about what I am presenting to the world, writing down the history of my life told in my own terms and meditating and chanting to remain connected to myself and my friends. It was full of self assessment, outside assessment and honesty. I did not hide and if I did, someone called me out on it. We talked about so many things that I already knew but now they were being brought to the surface to be examined. We discussed how to use different pieces of ourselves best, where we can transform, who we could emulate to push ourselves to the next levels of growth.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this trip, made with 3 girlfriends, changed my life. I spent the year prior to this in a tailspin after losing a guru and my identity along with her. Bali and my friends gave me a chance to get it all back. And get it all back I did. I combined parts of myself that I thought were impossible to meld. That snarky New England girl is so useful when she is paired with the wisdom I’ve gained through stillness and meditation. The fury that lies behind my sense of injustice is invaluable when combined with my ability to explain complicated things simply. The opposites in me have created a whole that I didn’t know was possible.

On that note, I encourage everyone to get out there and get to know themselves as well as they possibly can. This intimate knowledge of who you are allows you to trust your decisions, your needs and your desires. It allows you to show up authentically and create space for others to do the same.

Carl Jung said “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are” and I, for one, agree with him.


  • Caitlin Donovan

    Burnout Expert

    Caitlin Donovan is one of New York City’s leading burnout experts, host of “Fried – The Burnout Podcast,” and author of the book The Bouncebackability Factor. Her master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine enables Caitlin to combine Eastern wisdom with her natural practicality. After treating more than 25,000 patients, Caitlin added 1:1 coaching, corporate workshops, and keynotes for companies such as PTC and Lululemon – all with a focus on burnout. She has been featured on podcasts and online magazines such as “Elephant Journal,” “Thrive Global,” “Addicted 2 Success,” and “Your Story. Your Health.” as well as quoted in Oprah Magazine. Caitlin and her husband spent 12 years living in Europe, but now make their home in New Jersey. When Caitlin is not speaking or coaching on burnout, you can find her with her husband and their white fluffy dog hiking around NJ and NY. caitdonovan.com friedtheburnoutpodcast.com