When you’re reading an autobiography of an exceptional person, such as Fidel Castro, you can’t stop thinking: “some people have so much to say.” After reading a great autobiography example, writing a personal essay seems like a mission impossible.
Who are you? Where do you stand? What’s your role in this world? When you contemplate on these questions, you’re puzzled. Transferring those thoughts in an essay about yourself is a huge challenge, but you have to face it at one point or another.
You don’t even know how to start an essay about yourself? Well, the good news is that you’re not alone. When you’re asked to showcase your personality and interest in a personal essay for school or for college/university admissions, you have a huge goal to meet: show you’re a great person without sounding like an egomaniac. We’re here to help you with that.
In the continuation, we’ll teach you a valuable lesson: how to get better at writing about yourself.
1. Introduce Yourself
This is the hard part: how to start an essay about yourself. You can’t just begin with “Hello, my name is Daniel and I want to be a truck driver when I grow up.” This is not an email you’re sending to someone you want to meet; it’s supposed to be a piece of academic content.
Maybe your life hasn’t been that special. When you’re reading the personal stories of Anne Frank, Benjamin Franklin, or Maya Angelou, you think you don’t have anything to write about. You’re wrong. Every person on this planet is special. You have a lifetime of experiences, skills, and talents behind you. That’s what you need to present in few paragraphs. Brainstorm with these questions on your mind:
• What’s your purpose?
• What are you planning to achieve in your life?
• What do you want people to know about you?
• What interests do you have?
• What achievements have you accomplished?
• Who are you?
“Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla.” That’s how Nelson Mandela’s autobiography starts. An autobiography is much different from a personal essay – it’s longer and gets into details. However, you can take the beginning of this book as an inspiration. Do you notice how many things Mandela told about himself in a single sentence? That’ what we call powerful writing about yourself.
2. Focus on Your Talents and Interests
When you’re writing a personal essay for admissions or for a college course, you can’t focus on great experiences. If you’re like most other young people, you still haven’t changed the world, but you have a bright future ahead. The best solution is to focus on your talents and interests.
If you’re not sure where to start, pick one thing. Do you like reading? You can tell how your favorite books influenced you personally. If you love music, you can write about the way your favorite musicians shaped your taste, style, and lifestyle. Brainstorm and sketch out few possible answers to the questions listed in the previous tip. With that method, you’ll certainly have a good foundation to start a paragraph describing yourself.
Remember: you’re writing a ‘tell me about yourself’ essay; not a complete autobiography! You have a limited word count. That’s why you need to pick a specific interest or experience and describe it in detail. Although you’ll be focusing on a single aspect of your life, it will still convey a lot about your personality and life.
Maybe you’ll be inspired to write about a sensitive subject, such as a person who influenced you a lot, but is no longer with you. Maybe you want to talk about mental illnesses, political issues, or religious views. In that case, you have to be mindful of the audience you’re writing for. Remember: your points of view must not be insulting for the readers. You’re still free to write anything in a personal essay, but remember that you should stay humble and respectful for other people’s opinions and beliefs.
Extra tip: if you want to protect someone’s identity, it’s okay to change some details, names, dates, and other facts.
4. Read Samples
Here is the best tip on how to get better at writing personal essays: practice! However, it’s not easy to sit in front of the computer, open a blank document and start practicing. In order to understand how a personal essay looks like, you need to go through few successful samples. Reading autobiographies is a plus.
This brief sample essay about yourself will give you an idea:
“Who knew that being an only child, something I had absolutely no control over, would label me as someone with a syndrome in society? This label is given to people who are growing up without any siblings. By default, an only child is seen as selfish. To make things even harder, I was the only grandchild on both sides and I didn’t have many friends as I was growing up. I was brought up in a world of adults, so I should be selfish by default. That’s what people say…”
Do you see the depth in this paragraph? You see a person who is struggling because of a label. They are stamped by the way society sees them. Where will this paragraph lead to? Will this person prove to be what everyone expects them to be, or will they show they are anything but selfish? The first paragraph triggers the reader’s curiosity. That’s the exact effect you want to achieve.
Let’s look at another example.
“I am a person who sometimes feels I have no real identity. Many factors in my relatively short life have contributed to making me into a person who feels no real sense of belonging to a family, community, or even country. I may only be 18 but I feel like I have already lived three lifetimes: three lives, three families, three countries.”
This paragraph is intriguing. It makes a very bold statement but only hints at why, and your interest is piqued and you want to know why this person feels like this. What happened? What dramatic events has this person experienced, lived through in a short lifetime? You feel the emotion of the statement and want to read on to understand more. It’s not easy to write something about yourself. Some students even prefer doing an in-depth research on any topic over personal writing. That’s because with this type of paper, you’re supposed to do some research in your own soul. Is there anything more challenging? With the right focus, you’ll get there. You’ll write a great essay that will present your true character.