We've all at one point or another had to introduce ourselves. We usually say our names, origins, Jobs. But who are we really more than the labels we are given from the external world? What does it really mean to know yourself?
Levels Of Understanding Yourself
About a week ago, I was visiting family and on my way back, I realised I had forgotten my favorite earphones at home. This was about to be a long flight most-likely with long waiting times too because I was way too early in the airport and I realised that this was the first time in a long time where I didn’t have some entertainment whenever I’m alone. And as hours went by I noticed how restless I was becoming. Just waiting there for boarding, not doing anything, tick tock, tick tock. This reaction surprised me because I’ve always taken pride in being able to spend so much time alone. I always thought I was the kind of person who can always be entertained by their own thoughts.
Which in a way, I found it quite enjoyable and maybe even needed to get some time in my days without any other humans but the truth is I’m never really alone with my thoughts. I’m always consuming something. Be it music, a book, podcast, series, youtube video, scrolling on my phone. This error in my self-knowledge surprised me quite a bit. It got me thinking, How much do I really know about myself? How much do we really know about ourselves?
As children most of us have been asked what we want to be when we grow up. Whatever we answered then, we think hard and long about it as we near college and choose a skill to master. We’re told this is the key to having a successful and just an easy peasy life.
But is this really true? I mean, I’ve met many people who’ve completed many degrees, achieved the highest honors and even if they can tell you all about world history or explain the most complicated scientific theories are still at loss of explaining what emotions they are feeling, or what makes them happy, what they’re looking for in a relationship or life.
And there are people, maybe in small little towns, often older people who understand human nature. They’ve grasped and always pursued their true interests even if it was the opposite of what society expected. They have empathy for other people and could imagine emotions could originate from many sources and are not to be taken personally. You can see they are living in flow.
Which isn’t a surprise if you really think about it. Most people spend years studying a subject but most of us are terrified of spending time alone. But How else can we know ourselves then? I mean, we wouldn’t claim we know someone without spending anytime with them. And if we don’t even understand ourselves how can we understand and form deeper connections with others? And what does it even mean to understand yourself?
There are of course many stages to understanding yourself
What is the issue with this you ask? The thing is if we build our entire self-identity based on the external world, we’ll have no option but to live a life inauthentic to ourselves. Depression, they say, is when your body is saying what you’re doing, how you’re living is not in alignment with your authentic self.
Of Course this is sometimes difficult. Most emotions are really complicated, you might really dislike or immediately love somebody for no other reason but because they embody all the characteristics you’ve suppressed in yourself for example. You might be angry at somebody and still miss them at the same time. Emotions like this take time to figure out. Some answers are also hard to hear, if we’re really honest, they make us uncomfortable and threaten your self image, so it’s also important to make sure the stories we tell ourselves are true because there is nothing easier than tricking ourselves.
This requires carefully studying our childhoods to see where our patterns came from. Specifically our childhoods because that’s the time where we were the most impressionable. The things that happened often when we were under 6 year old can be the reasons why we get that anxious feeling whenever somebody gets too close to us when we’re 60. Our childhood influences how comfortable we are asking for what we want, making mistakes, being independent, or relying on someone else, how comfortable we are with our emotions and so much more.
Once we become aware of this it becomes a lot easier to stop our self-sabotaging, to go after what we really want and to explain ourselves to the people around us and to new people we’re dating. The only caveat is to avoid judging yourself for what you’re feeling.
In a nutshell it’s realising that the I, I’ve been talking about all this time doesn’t even exist. The me,I keep thinking about all day, is a construction of my ego that was built over centuries of evolution to protect myself. Because without an ego, you have no reason to run away from hunting lions or snakes that are trying to have their dinner. While too much ego is a sign of narcissism, without any ego, there is no sense of self-importance and therefore no motivation to rescue oneself. It means in the grand scheme of things, nothing we are or do matters. our big careers, the money we die to accumulate or the material things we dream about getting all don’t really matter.
So, what about all things I talked about so far? What does it mean to know yourself if you don’t even really exist? Because right now, to all of us, we feel real to us. And our pain and suffering is real. Our Joy, fulfilment, despair, desire, all our emotions are real. In Fact it in our makeup to suffer as long as we live. Whether it’s a breakup or a loss of a child, losing a job, just your normal morning anxiety, or a good 3 hours of existential crisis in the afternoon, it’s all real to us at this moment. Whether you’re a billionaire or a homeless person we are all made to want things, to make connections, lose them, to witness births and deaths, find meaning in this weird blurb of life.