Do You? Can You?
Human self-deception is one of the most impressive software programs ever devised. David Nyberg
When asked what was the most difficult thing, the Greek philosopher Thales replied, “To know thyself.” When asked what was easiest, he replied, “To give advice.” Later Socrates made the aphorism “know thyself” well known. And since then how to know yourself has been popular advice. Here is some more easy advice.
Most people think they know themselves. I think I know myself. You probably think you know yourself. But do I really know me? Do you really know you? Why is to know one’s self so difficult? The main reason: subjectivity.
Our subjectivity isn’t objective. To be objective is to be uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices. Subjective is defined as: taking place within a person’s mind such as to be unaffected by the external world. To know oneself is to know what is going on in one’s mind. What is going on in one’s mind is very personal and unique. Each mind inhabits a private universe of its own devising, Diane Ackerman. And looking at it from inside is very unreliable.
Subjectivity means that as we struggle to understand the process of perceiving, our process turns into being circular. When we look into what is going on in our minds, we are both the observer and the observed. We are both the subject and the object. Therefore, we can’t avoid our subjectivity, which is a subjective self-serving bias. Self-deception becomes the software of each person’s unique mind. Many cognitive biases have been identified that describe this self-deception.
The bottom line: You can’t know yourself by yourself.
Self-awareness (knowing yourself) requires both self-reflection and feedback from others. Because of the self-deception software of the human mind (ever-present subjectivity), we have limited insight into our thinking process and the causes of our own behavior.
When looking at oneself, the eye can’t see itself without the help of a mirror. When looking inside oneself, to know oneself, Peter Senge says you need a human mirror, the help of feedback from another person, — a ruthlessly compassionate partner. Well, maybe not ruthless, but a compassionate partner who knows you and will be honest.
Self-awareness may or may not be the most difficult thing; it clearly is extremely hard.
There are three things extremely hard, Steel, diamonds, and to know one’s self. Benjamin Franklin