At some point I read that we humans are the means of the universe to think about itself. Questions like, “Who am I?” or “What is the meaning of life” are phrases we use to explain ourselves and the world around us. Millions of years of evolution have taught us that everything that makes us up (body and mind) has a specific purpose. I firmly believe that one of our main tasks in life is to understand ourselves and our way and thereby help all people and living beings.
However, this is not an easy path. And also, not a short one. This path is our own. This means that it often makes no sense to compare oneself with others. In both directions. It makes no sense to tell other people how to live their lives and it makes no sense to blindly follow what others say. But again, it is all about the right balance. To close yourself off completely is also suboptimal. We should always remain open to other people’s advice and ask for help when we need it. It is our own path, but we cannot go it alone. This already scratches the surface of this complex issue of self-knowledge.
But what is the best way to go down this path? I think that’s one of the things you have to figure out for yourself. Perhaps your path will lead you through reading countless books. Or perhaps it leads to gathering experiences or exchanging ideas with others. Probably it is a mix. What I would like to share with you is what I think is helpful to follow the path.
For one thing, it is how you deal with yourself on the path. We lead ourselves astray if we are not honest with ourselves. Likewise, we walk in the dark when we are afraid to deal with the depths of ourselves. Yes, this can be difficult and here I would like to refer to the sentence from above: “We should always remain open to advice from others and ask others for help when we need it”.
Besides the openness and curiosity towards ourselves, it is in my experience important to treat ourselves with love. Love means to have understanding, to build ourselves up, to forgive ourselves and to point to our positive qualities. This is important when we are open and honest with ourselves. Only in this combination can we feel reasonably safe on the path.
The second tip is to appreciate questions. From my point of view there is little that has helped me on my path as much as dealing with (difficult) questions. It is important not to dismiss questions as too easy, difficult, idiotic etc. Give every question that has the potential to help you to more self-knowledge enough time and attention to answer it.
The third tip is to learn from people you appreciate or admire while remaining open and critical. Questions like “What do I value in this person” or “What do I want to learn from this person” can teach you a lot about yourself. But it is also important to remain critical. Just because we appreciate a quality of a person or because he or she has said something we think is right, does not mean that this person is perfect and/or always right. Again, the quote from Immanuel Kant for enlightenment comes to mind:
“Enlightenment is man’s exit from his self-inflicted immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s mind without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-inflicted when the cause of it is not the lack of understanding but the resolution and courage to make use of it without the guidance of another.”
In addition, always be prepared to throw overboard knowledge about yourself and others that you have already gained, if you find that this is no longer true. We and our environment are constantly changing. You are not the same person you were 10 years ago. Therefore, do not have the expectation of yourself and others to always remain the same.
I think that is enough for today. The topic is complex but incredibly valuable. Gaining this understanding brings me inner peace. Of course, it is not always so and of course it is sometimes a difficult and painful way, but still the inner peace I have already gained outweighs this. It also gives me confidence for the future and that I am not so wrong with my path =).
Take care of yourself, Stephan