In our current culture, both personal branding and promotion have never been easier. With social media, for example, we’re able to invent and reinvent ourselves on a constant basis and, in a sense, create the ideal version of who we want to be. We’re able to control what we project and also to whom.
With so much emphasis given on showing ourselves though, it can be difficult to focus on truly knowing ourselves. Distractions abound in all aspects of our lives, and it takes continual effort to bring our attention back to self-introspection, which is crucial for discerning who we are in light of who we want to be.
Despite the effort required, however, isn’t seeking the truth of who we are always worth it? After all, what value do our thoughts and actions have if there is no deeper analysis and understanding of where they come from and how they shape us? As the mystic Thomas Merton put it, “What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?” In other words, though we might be appear to be thriving and successful in the eyes of the world, all of our endeavors are meaningless unless we’re first able to get in touch with our innermost self.
For this reason we must learn to reconnect with ourselves often; and thankfully, it’s simple to do if we just commit to cultivating small habits of deeper self-awareness. We can start by becoming more conscious of our habits and reflecting upon our words and actions as we move through each day. Sometimes, all it takes is a few moments of stillness to perceive the realities in and around us.
Going a step further, we might also start actively reading, journaling, asking questions and taking time for meditation. Reading, for example, is a great tool. When we read something that challenges rather than informs, we can take note of our reactions and probe our thoughts to better understand what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Journaling is similar. When it comes to writing, what we choose to write about is often as revealing as what we write, and can show us what themes and ideas most resonate with our core being.
Whether we’re reading, journaling or just observing our actions, when we’re truly honest with ourselves our inner voice will become louder and clearer. We’ll start to perceive recurring thoughts and thought patterns, and recognizing these enables us to better understand who we are. Additionally, we can then choose to reinforce certain thoughts or change them depending on whether or they’re in line with who we want to be.
If we make self-knowledge a constant goal and uphold it as something worth attaining, it won’t take long before we discover what is most unique and most true in ourselves. There’s no need to “invent” ourselves for show when we have the power to discover and unveil the beauty of who we already are. Each of us is a unique creation. When we understand this, we’re better able to resist unhealthy pressures in life with confidence, knowing the full power of who we are.
As writer Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words remind us, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
What are some of your favorite ways to self-reflect? What have you learned about yourself through them?