Who are you? Can you answer that question for yourself? And if you can, is the answer based on outside views of yourself. Like the things you do, the way you look, the people you spent time with? Or is it based on your past, your background, where you came from, memories, religions, beliefs, and education? Answering the question of who we are isn’t as easy as we think it is. Because who are we? Can we even define ourselves in words or one sentence?
Not only will that be hard to do, but it will also most of the time not be true. Because the way we define ourselves isn’t set in stone. In a year from now, we will have changed the way we look, we will have grown, learned new things, maybe even have a different job. So that must mean that who we thought we were wasn’t really who we were.
This understanding of ourselves, who we truly are is at the basis of learning how to think.
This understanding of ourselves, who we truly are is at the basis of learning how to think. Learning how to understand. Because so often do I see people thinking they know themselves, yet they only know the outside version of themselves. We don’t know who we are on the inside, we haven’t even observed ourselves close enough. Yet every moment alive changes us, our bodies change every minute, cells are replaced, and we change. So we are never something set in stone.
Yet most of the time we are defining ourselves in terms that are rigid and almost set in stone. Like I am an engineer, or I am the daughter of… But is that who we are deep down? If our jobs change we aren’t an engineer anymore right? And the fact that you are a child of someone doesn’t define the complete picture of who you are. To understand ourselves we must see the entire picture of life. But how can we see that entire picture, if we can’t even define ourselves in words?
A Place of Knowledge
Knowing yourself is something often discussed in the self-help industry, as well as the self-development industry. But at the very same time, we believe that we can change ourselves, that we have control over our feelings and thoughts. Which are two opposite beliefs. On the one hand, we want to know who we are, and on the other, we are trying to change who we are. We read to learn more about ourselves, that’s how the self-help and personal development industry was created. The belief that we should control ourselves, and mold ourselves into forms and shapes that we define as perfect.
It’s also in these industries that we try to find or create our sense of happiness, and try to find our purpose in life. We read books, attend webinars and masterclasses, all to improve and develop ourselves. And I have been part of that. I believe this is a beautiful thing, to understand that we can change ourselves, but there is one thing I missed. That I completely overlooked, yet without knowing this we will only cause destruction and pain to ourselves and the world.
It’s not the improvement part that’s destructive. It’s the not knowing yourself, not understanding how to think for yourself that’s destructive.
You might then ask why I think that improving yourself is a destructive way of living? It’s not the improvement part that’s destructive. It’s the not knowing yourself, not understanding how to think for yourself that’s destructive. During my young adult life, I read countless books on developing myself, books like 5 am club, hyper-focus, or enlightenment now. All amazing books with a lot of knowledge in them. And that’s exactly what’s such an important thing to understand, and the thing that’s destructive about self-help or development.
It’s the understanding that knowledge and wisdom are fundamentally different. Knowledge is lessons learned by others, given to you in the form of a book or a video, any sort of medium that allows the sharing of lessons and ideas. These are things like methods as the 5 am club, where you get up each morning at 5 am and discipline yourself to work out 20 minutes, then 20 minutes of spiritual work, followed by 20 minutes of learning. This is a method created by another human.
A Place of Wisdom
Wisdom is a lesson that comes from a deep understanding of oneself.
Wisdom on the other hand is a lesson that comes from a deep understanding of oneself. That’s why I asked you if you know yourself if you know who you are. You see, I believed that I knew who I was, through self-help books I disciplined myself to do a lot of things, to create habits, and improve myself, but that never helped me understand in a profound way who I was. And without that understanding, none of these habits will ever stick without the destruction of yourself, without repressing some sort of part of you. Without that understanding of all these lessons and methods, all this knowledge can become destructive. Even methods like the 5 am club can be really bad for your mental and physical health if you do not have the fundamental understanding of yourself. Because these methods can become ways to suppress what you feel as well. They push away the feeling of being tired by working out, instead of listening to your body and getting rest.
That approach of following others’ advice without tapping into your natural wisdom is destructive. Because without understanding what you feel, who you are, and what you want, you will only be pushing things further away by following methods and lessons that others created. Because all these people you follow in the self-help and development industry have one thing in common. They learned the lesson they now preach themselves, by self observance. And this is a fact we completely miss.
Just think about this for a second. How did someone like Robin Sharma who created the 5 am club method come up with the idea? How did he create that method? He didn’t create it because he read a lot of books, or attended a lot of masterclasses. He created that 5 am club from self-knowledge, of observing and understanding himself. He looked inward and understood where his pain and frustration came from. That’s why something like the 5 am club works so well for him, it came from a place of wisdom, a place of self-knowledge. Which can only be experienced in one way.
Experience That Inner Wisdom
The lessons I learned and the advice I followed, coming from countless people both in the self-help industry as well as people close to me, helped me tremendously. Yet none of the advice stuck, and profoundly changed anything without me understanding myself first. Because to fully feel alive we need to understand ourselves, and the only way to do that is to think for ourselves. Instead of following the advice and lessons we read in books, see in videos or movies, or are given to us by guides or gurus including this very story, you should learn to think for yourself. That includes not following this advice and continuing to follow the advice of others. The only way to deeply make a change within one’s being is through self observance and with that, understanding oneself more and more.
The way all these famous writers of self-help books have changed their life wasn’t through reading another’s work, it wasn’t through classes or gurus. Most of them profoundly changed their lives through self-knowledge. Through observing themselves, their lives, and the way they lived. Take Lisa Nichols for example, she was at a very low point in her life. Where she was broke, worked a job she didn’t like and was lost. She shared this story on many podcasts, shows, and countless books. She was at an absolute low point in her life, but what she didn’t mention in that story was that she read a book, or attended some so-called gurus masterclass.
One must observe himself, understand himself and where his or her problems come from. Before change can take place.
She did it herself. She observed herself, learned about herself that way and received the only wisdom there is. The inner wisdom we all have. She observed her life and all the misery that was in it. Through that observance, she started to change on a deep level. In her heart, she started to change. She shed layer after layer of all the old beliefs she had and started to grow from the root up. She didn’t skip steps by reading a lot or following the advice of others. This can speed up the process of self-development, but that growth isn’t from the root up. One must observe himself, understand himself and where his or her problems come from. Before change can take place.
You see we all have a fountain of inner wisdom that we can tap into. And we should learn how to do that. It’s by thinking for ourselves. Learning how to think. But how do we do that? How can we learn to think for ourselves? This is a question I’ve asked myself a lot of times because I didn’t understand how I could know something without the help of someone else. Until I found the works of J. Krishnamurti. He didn’t give me a lesson, he didn’t give me a method to understand myself and tap into my inner wisdom. All he said was, that one should observe himself, and acquire self-knowledge through that. Only through that self observance can one both be happy, and grow.
The whole point of meditation, it isn’t to calm the mind or to achieve any goal in specific, although a lot of what we read about meditation is focused on this fact. Meditation is about observing oneself with everything that comes up, without the need to change it or acquire anything.
At first, I didn’t understand what this self-observance meant. I was meditating, but I didn’t feel that this was what Krishnamurti meant with self-observance. And unknowingly I was starting to think for myself. He gave me a question to ponder on, something to think about. And slowly I started to see that this was actually what self-observance was. To observe myself, and think about what I became aware of. That’s the whole point of meditation, it isn’t to calm the mind or to achieve any goal in specific, although a lot of what we read about meditation is focused on this fact. Meditation is about observing oneself with everything that comes up, without the need to change it or acquire anything. Rather be at peace with it, and let it go.
That inner wisdom we all carry with us isn’t acquired by practice, or a method, or someone telling you what to do. That inner wisdom only comes from one thing. Answering this question. Who are you? Are you observing yourself as you are? Are you understanding yourself? Are you understanding the problems you are going through in your life? Can you see that you are? That all there is, is this moment right here, and can you observe whatever is happening, and open up to the beauty of it? In short, can you think for yourself, and understand what is going on?
Observe yourself, start listening to your inner knowledge, the wisdom everyone has from the moment they were born.
Observe yourself, start listening to your inner knowledge, the wisdom everyone has from the moment they were born. Are you following your own wisdom? Or are you following the knowledge of others? In other words, are you living your life, are you thinking for yourself? Do you know yourself? And are you therefore alive? Because today you live, observe what that life is to you, and make the most of it.