There’s a pervasive belief that the best way to add value to yourself is to gain a new skill. The more we know about the world “out there,” the better we become.
This view, however, is relatively new in the course of human history. Yes – there have been specialists from time immemorial – but most people never really had to drill down into the nuts and bolts of an activity.
Nowadays, that’s all changed. We all need to understand the topics that allow us to make money. If we don’t, we risk losing value or competitiveness.
For this reason, self-knowledge has fallen by the wayside. People no longer spend time every day, meditating over the causes of their impulses or behavior. They certainly don’t spend a lot of time considering what they fundamentally want from life. Instead, they focus on the external world, never really developing much of a concept of who they are.
Self-knowledge, though, isn’t just an activity for monks in a monastery. It is something that all of us should be doing. It is not a valueless activity. In fact, it could be the best way to spend your time.
Why Self-Knowledge Is So Important
The main reason self-knowledge is so important is that it allows you to identify your true self.
The true self is the person who would exist had you not experienced trauma in your life. It is the character that would emerge naturally, had your childhood been peaceful and contented. It is the person you might have been, had you not been betrayed or abused, especially by people who claimed to love you.
The great thing about self-knowledge and philosophies like Advaita Vedanta is that they provide a glimpse of the person that could have been. They show you a counterfactual reality. By doing that, they introduce you to a world of new possibilities. You discover that you no longer need to be racked by anxiety or have anger issues. Instead, you can break free of those constraints and live life on your terms again, without this gnawing sensation that you’re somehow doing something wrong.
Self-knowledge is crucial because it helps to rid yourself of the corrupting influence of other people. As we go through life, we tend to internalize the personalities of the people around us. Our mirror neurons fire, and we essentially become a mixture of the five people with whom we spend the most time.
However, self-knowledge delves deep into your psyche and allows you to differentiate your motivations from those around you. It helps you create a clear barrier between your personality and that of others. You begin to see what you want, not what you think you should want.
How To Achieve Self-Knowledge
Self-knowledge is all about asking yourself “why” questions. Ideally, you want to be child-like in your approach, probing your assumptions and thinking carefully about whether they really come from you. Sometimes they are the voices of people from your past. And that’s not always a good thing.
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.