Tell me about yourself.
Whether you hear these words as you introduce yourself to a new group of people or read them on an essay assignment, they can be intimidating.
In general, we’re taught not to brag, but how can you write about yourself without at least doing a little bit of bragging? And what exactly are you supposed to tell about yourself—your whole life story, your hobbies, your accomplishments, or something else?
Many students often find that personal essays are the most difficult to write because there’s no evidence to back up your claims as there are in analytical essays. And there’s no way to tell what the person reading your essay is looking for.
But stick with me. I’m here to show you how to take the stress out of the situation, so you can write an essay about yourself that you can feel proud of.
How to Choose a Topic for an Essay About Yourself
In a general sense, you are the topic for this particular essay. But writing about yourself shouldn’t be just a list of all the information you have about yourself—it should be much more narrative.
In The Story Is True: The Art and Meaning of Telling Stories, author Bruce Jackson really drives this point home in the following passage:
The stories people tell about themselves and their lives always occur after the fact. Life itself has no narrative. It is serial and multiple: a million things happening at once, and then another million things happening at once, forever and ever. Narrative is one of the ways we apply order to that unimaginable overabundance of information. The process begins with exclusion of almost everything. In that regard, stories are like photographs. A decision about what a photograph will be is simultaneously a decision about what a photograph will not be; stories, which tell about and describe a finite number of things, simultaneously do not tell or describe everything else.
So the question is, what do you choose to include and exclude from your personal essay?
If you’re having trouble deciding, you probably fall into one of two camps. You either have so many experiences or accomplishments that you can’t choose just one, or you think you have lived such a boring life that you can’t think of anything at all.
Let’s tackle these issues one at a time.
When you have too many ideas
Most personal narrative essay prompts will include something beyond “write about yourself.”
Typically, a prompt will relate to interests, accomplishments, relationships, or experiences that have impacted your life in a major way. This helps narrow the field of topics down a little bit, but you still may have a hard time just choosing one.
So start by brainstorming and writing down all your ideas. Then, go through and eliminate the ones that don’t fit the topic well, as well as ones where you would struggle to meet the word count.
Here comes the hard part. Start eliminating topics that you’re not passionate about. Do that over and over until you’re left with just one. Passion pushes your personality to the forefront of your writing.
And because the essay is about you, you definitely want your personality to show.
When you don’t have any ideas
This was always my problem when I was writing about myself. I live a pretty mundane and monotonous life. This was even more the case when I was in school. So I get it.
But just because your life feels boring doesn’t mean that it is boring.
So think about what makes you tick. What do you do for fun? Who are your favorite people to hang out with? What makes you who you are?
For me, I might write about my love of jazz and how that alienated me when I was younger, but how I found inspiration through it—and a pretty awesome social group.
The hardest topics to write about if you’re in this category are probably those relating to your accomplishments. If you aren’t involved in sports or haven’t made the honor roll, it doesn’t mean you haven’t accomplished anything.
In fact, even if you are involved in sports or on the honor roll, I would still encourage you to take this advice: think about the most difficult time in your life and write about what you did to overcome it.
Personal achievements still count even if you didn’t get a trophy. They make for a better essay.
Hardships and relationships are what give people their character. Use that. Write about it.
Figuring out what to write about is only half the battle, though. The other half is figuring out how to write about it.
Structuring and Writing an Essay About Yourself
Personal narrative essays are a lot different than pretty much any other essay out there.
Not only do you have to rely on your own anecdotes instead of contextual evidence from literature or articles, but you also have much more freedom in the structure and flow of things.
That freedom can be intimidating to some. It makes figuring out the structure pretty difficult. But like with any essay, an outline can help. Here’s one using the jazz example from above:
- Music is my inspiration, and jazz shattered the rules of any music I had heard before.
- Most sixth graders didn’t understand. Got picked on, and other kids broke my CDs. (Yes, this was before iPods and smartphones.)
- Solace in music
- Love of jazz didn’t waver; it strengthened.
- Found my passion in playing jazz piano and pursuing a career teaching others about jazz history.
- Social group
- Adults appreciate jazz a lot more. In college, I found tons of people interested in the genre.
- Could have conversations about the merits of different subgenres. Heightened my creativity.
- Lesson: What makes you an outsider at a young age could end up being what brings you closer to people as an adult.
I included three body sections in my outline, but you can go for more or fewer depending on your topic.
Notice I wrote “thesis” in quotations in the introduction section. That’s because a thesis statement for an essay about yourself is quite different than a thesis statement on a literary topic.
For a personal essay, you don’t want to give too much away at first. You’re not giving the reader a preview—you’re setting up the narrative.
Your introduction should be captivating, drawing the reader in. There are several ways to do this, but the thing to remember is that you should be descriptive. The phrase show, don’t tell rings true here.
Saying, “I’ve loved jazz since I was in the sixth grade and continue to love it to this day,” is telling.
On the other hand, starting off like this would be showing:
The moment I heard Louis’s trumpet, I was hooked. It broke all the rules I had ever known about music. It was liberating. Thrilling. And I could not get enough of it. Jazz became the only music I listened to from 11 to 15 years old. Other kids may not have understood, but jazz spoke to something in my soul, something inextinguishable.
The key is to create a good hook to draw readers into your narrative right away.
Once you get into the body paragraphs, keep the momentum going. Describe the feelings you had, the sights, smells, and sounds of your experience.
Like the introduction to an essay about yourself, the conclusion can take many forms. Sometimes, like in my example, it will be a lesson you learned from your experience. Other times, it will just be what feels like the natural end to the story.
If you’re writing about something you’re still dealing with today, you can write about how it will affect you in the future.
For example, if your essay is about how you were bullied, you can end by saying that you now know how to spot bullying behavior and will stick up for people in the same situation.
Tying up your essay with a lesson is a personal preference of mine because it allows you to make your essay more relevant. Lessons don’t just apply to you—many people can learn from them.
Still Not Totally Confident?
That’s okay. No one is always 100% confident about their writing.
But that’s what Kibin’s team of editors is here for. Once you have the first draft of your essay done, a Kibin editor will take a look and make suggestions about everything from grammar and spelling to tone and flow.
Writing an essay about yourself can be difficult. But if it’s a difficult topic or one you’re passionate about, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Here are a few examples you can use for inspiration:
Want a deeper look at a few narrative essays? Read 2 Narrative Essay Examples That Tell Fascinating Stories.
Good luck with your essay!
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.
Writing an Essay About Yourself
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.
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Tags: Students tips