Although we do not like to admit it, many times we remain stuck in the most basic levels of self-knowledge. Many of our thoughts and actions operate on autopilot, have a life of their own and act below the radar of our consciousness. It is not a bad thing because habits, routines and reactions help us to simplify the day to day. Stopping to think every moment would take too much time and, above all, would represent a huge waste of mental and emotional energy.
The problem arises when we run on autopilot for so long that we forget that we are on autopilot, so we are not even aware of our habits, routines, emotions, impulses and reactions. Then we no longer control them; they control us.
A person who has developed a good level of self-knowledge can say to himself, “Wait a second … maybe I’ll have to change this habit that is hurting me” or ask, “Maybe I’m overreacting?” A person who has not developed self-awareness will continue to live with the automatic pilot, victim of his own negative habits, recurrent thoughts and inappropriate reactions. As a result, he can sink into a self-destructive cycle.
How to know yourself? The 3 most important self-knowledge questions
Level 1 – What are you doing?
Sometimes we avoid pain through distraction. We will move our mind to another time or place where we feel more secure and isolated from the pain of everyday life. It is easier to plunge into the mobile phone, television, social networks or let the mind wander towards a golden future making plans that we will never carry out in practice. Just to try to forget. There are many shelters where we can hide to suppose that everything is perfect and that we do not need to change anything.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with distracting ourselves. Distraction is important for happiness and health. But we must make sure that the distraction is not a smokescreen that hides other problems that will continue to grow while we look the other way.
We cannot get drunk with distraction. We cannot spend much of our free time drowned in a sea of distraction that leads to a state of semi-conscientiousness or chosen lobotomy.
In fact, when the hidden goal of distraction is to escape from reality, we end up tired. That distraction is not healthy, it does not report satisfaction and much less happiness. It is just a fleeting, almost addictive remedy, which we will have to resort to every day since we do not solve the real problems.
Therefore, to pass over the first level of self-knowledge it is important that you spend time with yourself, reflect on your daily habits and ask yourself if they really lead you to the place where you want to be or if, on the contrary, they are a subterfuge that feeds dissatisfaction. Ask yourself if what you do every day really satisfies you and contributes to your well-being or it is a learned habit that does not give you anything.
Level 2 – What are you feeling?
Have you ever been upset and when someone asks you why you are angry, you answer that you are not angry? When we operate on automatic pilot and use distractions to avoid thinking, it is normal for emotions to accumulate and end up exploding, although we do not always recognize it.
In this second level of self-knowledge is when we begin to discover who we really are. Connecting with our emotions is a very intense process that reveals parts of us that we did not know or that we were hiding because they scared us or caused a cognitive dissonance. If we are not hypocrites with ourselves and we dare to recognize and explore absolutely everything we feel, we will discover new facets of our “ego”.
Unfortunately, instead of looking inside, many people try to escape from those emotions through experiences that blunt them affectively. We have not been taught to explore emotions but, on the contrary, to repress them and hide them, pretending they do not exist.
Therefore, some of the most important self-knowledge questions are: What are you feeling? Why are you feeling it?
It is about assuming that emotions are like small compasses that indicate what we like and dislike. It is not necessary to make value judgments. We are not better or worse for feeling a certain way. What is really important is to be aware of those emotions and manage them in an assertive way. Anger and sadness, for example, can become powerful creative engines. It all depends on how we use those emotions.
Level 3 – What are your blind spots?
It is likely that the more you delve into yourself, the more you ask yourself how to become self-aware and the farther you get on that path, the more things you will discover that you do not like. Sometimes that path can be scary, especially if you think there is only a “right” way to feel and think.
You are also likely to realize that your thoughts, arguments and actions are mere reflections of the thoughts, arguments and actions of those around you. It is normal. For many years you have been subjected to their influence without questioning them.
At this level of self-knowledge, the most important thing is to be aware of your blind spots. That is to say, those things that you have been hiding because they did not correspond with the idealized image that you had of you. Or also of those limiting beliefs that you have fed on yourself, the recurrent negative thoughts that you have been cultivating. Recognizing your blind spots will prevent you from becoming a slave of the defense mechanisms.
It is a level of integrating self-knowledge, in which you begin to reflect on your actions, thoughts and emotions to find the maladaptive patterns that have no reason to be and hurt you.
Some self-knowledge questions that can serve as an example are: When you get angry do you react arrogantly? When you grieve, do you mask it with anger? Knowing your behavioral patterns will allow you to find more assertive, healthy and satisfying ways of dealing with reality.
Self-knowledge must be followed by self-acceptance
Going through all the levels of self-knowledge will not do much good if they do not lead to self-acceptance. In fact, self-awareness itself does not make us happier. In some cases it can even make us feel more miserable, especially if combined with ruthless criticism.
Therefore, you must be clear that this path of self-knowledge has as its final goal self-acceptance. Only then you have taken the qualitative leap and you will be able to find inner peace. The self-acceptance born of self-knowledge is an incredible force, source of happiness and self-confidence to face any adversity.