“Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know myself, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties and its very atoms” –Khalil Gibran
One of the keys to prosperous living is knowing and understanding one’s self. It’s like finding your identity and so be able to determine your purpose. After all, what good would life be to you without having a spiritual identity? What would life be if it is not purpose driven?
I’m sure at some point of your life someone has asked you, who you are, or you may have asked yourself the same question. What did you say? Did you hesitate for a while, or stuttered for words? Or did you say something like, “my name is…I live at….i’m the child of a doctor, teacher, you name it”? If you stuttered, that may be an indication that you are not clear on who you are. If you did the latter, what you merely did was to describe yourself in ‘physical’ terms. That’s the physical, external, superficial person. You are more than that—much more!
Put simply, who you are is about how you think, behave, act and react. Having knowledge and understanding about yourself can be your greatest asset. Self-awareness can help you to function effectively within your world and cause you to reach your greatest potential. You need to understand who you are by appreciating where you came from, where you are and where you are heading. Without this fundamental knowledge we all can become lost in existence—lost in time.
The difference between ‘who we are’ and ‘who we have become’
In trying to become self-aware, it is important to understand that there is a difference between who you are and who you have become.
How many times have you stared back at yourself in the mirror and asked “who am I?”, “just who am I?” You should not feel silly doing that. It is a healthy thing to do. I do it. In fact, I believe it is a sign of maturity when you dare to ask yourself “who am I”. More than that, when you come to a point in your life when you find yourself in front of the mirror, that right there can be a defining moment. A moment where you look yourself in the eye and demand answers. Often times this happen when we are at crossroads and trying to find some directions; when we feel sad or when others disappoint us even after we have given them our all.
Although it should not be so, situations like these have a tendency of causing us to question ourselves. This does not signal lack of self-confidence or self-esteem. I am almost certain that even the most confident of the confident have asked themselves this very critical question, “who am I.” When the answers are not easily forthcoming or visible to the naked eye, we should resort to searching our soul to get them. Soul-searching is very beneficial and often times it is required for us to do in order to discover more about self and to make informed decisions.
Persons have tried astrological readings to figure out just who they are. Some actually believe these finding and maybe you do too. You may even have tried a personality questionnaire which tallies your score based on your answers and from that give you a personality assessment. Those sources may give you a sense of who you are but how could you be certain that the assessment is accurate?
I have tried these sources. After navigating between a number of websites, I manage to gather the common commentary about my ‘star’ sign. “Open-minded, strong, assertive, able; independent, unpredictable, original, uninhibited, intelligent, resourceful; rational by nature and exceedingly firm in opinions; wonderfully creative and artistic and can normally do more than one thing very well; drawn to novelty like a magnet, and loves reaching out to touch every person or thing that fascinates with its newness; infamous for spontaneity; sees everyone as a friend, and views each with complete impartiality and equality; a kind of mad scientist – aloof, scatter-brained and non-conformist; preoccupied as there is always some new thought, discovery, idea, plan or person to pursue, study, assess and put to good use in the world; loves humanity above all; a social experimenter and futuristic defender of the oppressed and downtrodden; hold strong tendencies toward communication; carry an important sense of mission and want to be able to get your message out to as many people as possible….”
There were more descriptions but those mentioned are the ones I most identified with. It was like looking at myself in the mirror when I read. Of course, there is no problem with trying various means of figuring out your identity or personality, but for me, while those words sounded great and encouraging, I still found myself in front of the mirror.
The truth is, who you really are is more than anyone can predict by mapping information based on your birth date and ‘star sign’ or by asking a random set of questions. Only when you do self-introspection—looking very deep within yourself, can you really begin to unearth your personality in the purest and truest of form. There is no one that can know you better than you do.
Sigmund Freudians would tell you that who you are has a lot to do with your genetics. Sociologists would accredit one’s personality more to his environment and the experiences (the Nature and Nurture Theories). Without having to subscribe to any one school of thought, it’s probably safer and more logical to think that a little bit of all—genetics (how we were born), environment and experiences—are the factors that collectively shape who we are and who we become. I decided to call them The GEE Factors.
Unfortunately, we do not really get to choose what genes we end up with, what environment we are reared in in early childhood nor, often times, the experiences that come before us. Although we are unable to change our genes, we certainly can change our environment and moderate a great deal of our experiences based on the choices we make in life. One writer said that “these experiences build up an image of who you are and this self-image dictates your life as you know it.” Even though that may sound logical, is it true? We do not need to allow the image created by our experiences to dictate our lives. We hold the power to change that.
Again, who we are, in purest form, is the sum total of our environment plus our experiences minus genetics. Therein lies the difference between who we are and who we have become. Moreover who we became is only a representation of our temperament or as I put it, a temporary mental state. Because the state is temporary it suggests that we have the power to navigate between the fixed (genetic state) and temporary states once we are aware of and understand who we are. No, you are not being asked to be two different personalities; what is being required is for you to consider the GEE factors (genetics, environment and experience) and find your personality balance somewhere in between.
One may ask, why do I have to do that? Why can’t I just be who I am (from birth), or who I have become? The truth is, that’s the whole point of self-awareness, so that you can determine what works best for you as an individual and how your attitude and behavior affects your world. Perhaps more importantly, who you are may not be who you wish to be or it may not be working for you. Consider someone born with genes that trigger negative attitudes and behavior. Now consider that same person raised and nurtured in an environment that fosters pleasant and harmonious experiences that more or less caused the natural (genetic) tendencies to be suppressed or obliterated altogether. That person is obviously better off due to his environment or pleasant experiences. Conversely, imagine someone born with genes that produces in them a person of pleasant personality and positive attitudes and behavior but who is raised in an antagonistic and destructive environment. Overtime and due to the negative environment in which he or she is reared and/or the negative experiences, that same person can be transformed into someone who is aggressive, dishonest, hostile, deceitful, resentful, volatile, deviant and delinquent, have poor self-esteem, you name it.
That is why knowing you can help you strike the perfect balance. Furthermore, in a state of self-awareness is when us human beings are most powerful!
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