Know yourself: the power of knowing yourself
Know yourself : these three words together are one of the most known and impactful philosophical expressions of all time, let’s discover something more.
We cannot transcend what we do not know, to go beyond ourselves we must first know ourselves.Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
This maxim, if we can define it this way, is absolutely one of my favorites.
Thanks to the fact that the topic of awareness is particularly dear to me, which also passes through self-knowledge, I could not fail to write an article about it (if at the end of the post you will agree with me on the importance of awareness, visit the dedicated section of the blog).
As loyal readers of my articles know, I like to share stories and parables (by clicking here you can find all those I have published) that help us to know ourselves and to increase our awareness.
In fact, I anticipate that in this article we will see an incredible introspective parable, but let’s start from the beginning.
Why know yourself and why we have to understand this
If you are not a fan of psychology or philosophy you may wonder why I consider the maxim of knowing yourself so important.
Knowing yourself means knowing what you want to do in life, what are our values and our lighthouses that define us and by virtue of this awareness we are able to make better and conscious decisions.
People who know themselves are able to make decisions quickly and decisively because they are clear what their values are and they know how to evaluate well whether a direction is in line with their path or not.
The most undecided and insecure people are those who know each other less.
Furthermore, when we know what are the most significant things in our life we enjoy greater inner clarity.
Who does not know himself does not have a great decision-making ability, says yes to everyone and not having a direction goes a bit in all directions without reaching specific objectives .
It seems absurd but we are constantly looking for information about ourselves from the most bizarre sources.
We try to understand each other through online tests evidently carried out by 14-year-olds, by videos on Youtube and by prophets everywhere.
We even rely on the stars to get to know us better.
This need is all the stronger as the knowledge of ourselves is scarce.
Regardless of whether these methods work or not and whether we believe in them or not, it is clear that our knowledge of ourselves is very poor.
But how is it possible that the stars, a stranger or a test with 5 or 6 questions can know us better than we know ourselves?
Warning : I’m not saying that the horoscope or other forms of divination don’t work, since I don’t have the tools to verify I keep my mind open to all possibilities.
I would like to point out that these tools, if they are true, offer a much lower knowledge of themselves than we could obtain by actively working on ourselves .
Obviously these hasty tests or these forms of divination make a lot of hold on us, because they allow us with no effort to have the illusion of knowing us better and they are often real flattering operations that make us feel better about ourselves but which do not they open their eyes to the knowledge of ourselves .
Instead, having a real knowledge of ourselves is often the result of great difficulties to overcome and techniques that can reveal aspects of our personality that we don’t like.
In this regard, take a look at the technique of the flow of consciousness, it is one of the most powerful techniques for knowing yourself.
Now let’s see an incredible parable that will clear up our ideas immediately.
Know yourself: a parable tells us who we really are
One day, at dusk, a farmer sat on the threshold of his humble house to enjoy the fresh air.
Nearby, a road led to the village and a man passing saw the farmer and thought: “This man is certainly an idler, he does not work and spends the whole day sitting on the doorstep.”
Shortly thereafter, another traveler appears.
He thought: “This man is a Don Juan. He sits here to watch the girls go by and maybe annoy them. “
Finally, a stranger heading for the village said to himself: “This man is certainly a hard worker. He struggled all day and now he enjoys a well-deserved rest. “
In fact, we cannot know much about the farmer who sat on the doorstep.
On the contrary, we can say a lot about the three men heading for the country: the first was a lazy one, the second a little good, the third a hard worker.
Story taken from: 365 little stories for the soul.
Not bad this story right? Thanks to it we can learn a very important lesson.
What we think of others is often the reflection of who we are : keep reading to understand how to exploit this new awareness to get to know you better.
How to get to know yourself: 3 practical exercises
# 1 The exercise of the riddle
The parable we have just seen offers us an interesting starting point to better understand ourselves through others , in fact what we think of other people is very useful to know ourselves better.
Here are the steps to follow to perform this exercise.
- Get a pen and paper (you can use your smartphone but handwriting makes the exercise drastically more effective)
- At the first opportunity, take 30 minutes and go to a crowded place like the main square of your town, a central street or a busy intersection
- Find a spot where you can watch passersby and where nobody can disturb you (just like in the story we saw)
- Observe some passers-by who gravitate to the area and write down the first considerations about them (what work do you think they do, because they are in that place or how they got there)
- Do the exercise with at least 10 people (without getting noticed and looking like an idiot)
Now we can take advantage of the moral of the parable to understand something more about ourselves.
Do you notice repetitions, oddities or something that refers to a concept that returns ?
I cannot give you specific examples otherwise I would contaminate your reasoning, if you have difficulty read the parable again.
What you wrote about the people you observed can say a lot about you.
# 2 We are closer than we think
Knowing ourselves better is often not as difficult as it seems.
There are many currents of thought that affirm that in order to truly know ourselves we need a sort of interminable inner coring .
I only partially agree with these statements but without a doubt our being “something” is understandable much more easily than we think.
In fact, there is no need to reflect for days looking in the mirror trying to have lighting, often something much simpler is enough.
Your action defines who you are.
We are all good at declaiming our inner values and norms on social networks or with our friends, but how do we behave in life?
What is around us, our context, our habits are a clear and real index of who we really are .
Not who we think we are or who we want to be, but who we really are.
Including this we must become aware of our actions to understand what our real values are.
Take a pen and paper and write down all the actions you have done this week, both routine and non-routine, for example.
- I brushed my teeth 3 times a day
- I begged on the subway
- I have helped an elderly person
- I bought a new smartphone
Obviously the list should be very long, but once completed it will give us a very real vision of ourselves: the same vision that others have of us .
For example, if we think we are deeply altruistic people, we should find an action like giving alms.
If it is not on the list it means we are less altruistic than we think and the vision we have of ourselves is incorrect.
It could be almost surprising to find that we are very far from our mental image (by clicking here you can find the article dedicated to the ego where I explain how to restructure it).
But continuing to believe that you are another person will not allow us to truly believe in ourselves and to define who we are.
# 3 Get to know yourself on an introspective journey
Along the path of life we continue to meet ourselves in a thousand disguises.Carl Gustav Jung
There are many types of introspective travel, the most important of which are those within ourselves.
However, it is often possible to combine these two aspects to get to know each other better.
What am I talking about?
I’m talking about a trip (even just a trip to the mountains, by clicking here you can find the lessons that nature taught me) entirely dedicated to introspection.
It is not necessary to go to exotic countries such as India or Thailand (which you can do if you have the chance), but it is enough to take advantage of a physical, material and real journey to facilitate a journey within ourselves .
As we said in point # 2, what we are looking for is often much closer than we think.
However if we are not used to reflecting on ourselves, a real trip can be of great help (if you cannot take a trip at this moment in your life, follow the advice I gave you in point # 4 of this article dedicated to peace inner).
During the trip there are a series of precautions to be applied to facilitate introspection:
- Writing a personal diary (perhaps using the RELO method)
- Immerse yourself in new cultures and customs different from ours in order to question our beliefs and our points of view
- Use the riddle technique we saw in step # 1
- Pin our feelings and emotions often
- Meditate whenever possible
How much do you know yourself?
How much do you know yourself? This is one of those questions that only you can really answer.
There are no tests that can provide you with a more precise answer than you can give yourself.
But it is not easy.
A whole life may not be enough to get to know yourself, plus a serious problem.
As people we continuously evolve.
In particular, if we have decided to invest in ourselves (as I have been recommending on the blog for years) we change and evolve very quickly.
If I look back I see a very different person even just from a year ago.
And I will tell you that from a relational point of view it is very difficult to sustain continuous change.
If you want to move to a higher level of self-knowledge take a look at the Self-Discovery Diary, my book on Amazon.