“Know thyself.” This ancient Greek aphorism, attributed to the philosopher Socrates, is as relevant today as it was over two thousand years ago. Yet, despite the wisdom of this maxim, many people struggle to truly understand themselves. We often seek external validation, compare ourselves to others, and avoid uncomfortable truths about our personality and behavior. However, achieving fierce self-knowledge – a deep and honest understanding of our strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs – is essential for personal growth and fulfillment.
Why is self-knowledge so important? One reason is that it helps us make better decisions. When we know our own preferences, goals, and priorities, we can align our choices with them and avoid wasting time and energy on activities that don’t matter to us. For example, if you’re an introverted person who values solitude, you’re unlikely to enjoy a job that requires constant social interaction. Knowing this about yourself can help you choose a career path that aligns with your needs and strengths.
Another reason why self-knowledge is crucial is that it allows us to improve our relationships with others. When we understand our own emotions, triggers, and communication style, we can express ourselves more clearly and empathetically to others. We can also recognize when we’re projecting our own insecurities onto others and take responsibility for our behavior. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that self-awareness was positively related to relationship satisfaction and that couples who had higher levels of self-awareness reported more empathy and fewer conflicts (Impett et al., 2014).
So, how can we cultivate fierce self-knowledge? Here are some tips:
- Practice mindfulness. Being mindful is paying attention to the current moment without attaching any value to your ideas or emotions. Doing so can help you notice your own habitual patterns of thought and feeling, allowing you to avoid responding emotionally or irrationally out of habit. Researchers discovered that those who participated in a mindfulness meditation program had greater self-awareness and less biases, as reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Lueke & Gibson, 2015).
- Solicit opinions. The feedback of others may be a great source of insight into one’s own shortcomings, but it can also be painful to take in. Take criticism in a constructive manner and use it to improve by maintaining an open mind and a development mentality. Instead of taking criticism as an indictment of who you are or what you can do, try to see it as a chance to grow and develop. People are more likely to take initiative after receiving feedback that is presented as a learning opportunity, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Heaphy & Losada, 2016).
- Think about the things you hold most dear. You act and think in accordance with the values and ideas you hold most dear. Think about what you value and why you value it.
In conclusion, fierce self-knowledge is the foundation of personal growth and fulfillment. By understanding ourselves deeply and honestly, we can make better decisions, improve our relationships with others, and live more authentic and meaningful lives. So, let’s take Socrates’ advice and get to know ourselves. It’s a journey worth taking.
Heaphy, E. D., & Losada, M. (2016). The role of positivity and connectivity in the performance of business teams: A nonlinear dynamics model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(9), 1201–1217. https://doi.org/10
Impett, E. A., Gordon, A. M., Kogan, A., Oveis, C., Gable, S. L., & Keltner, D. (2014). Moving toward more perfect unions: Daily and long-term consequences of approach and avoidance goals in romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(3), 524–545. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036408
Lueke, A., & Gibson, B. (2015). Mindfulness meditation reduces implicit age and race bias: The role of reduced automaticity of responding. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(3), 284–291. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550614559651