How To Know Yourself – Free Ebook

Many of us are wandering the earth, accomplished
in many ways, capable of fulfillment at points,

but with a fundamental wound that stops us
from becoming who we might be: we don’t

quite know who we are.It isn’t, of course,
that we can’t remember the basics of our

biographies. We’re unsure around two things
in particular: we don’t have a stable sense

of what we are worth, and we don’t have
a secure hold on our own values or judgements.

Without knowing who we are, we tend to have
particular trouble coping with either denigration

or adulation. If others decide that we are
worthless or bad, there will be nothing inside

us to prevent us from swallowing their verdicts
in their entirety, however wrong-headed, extreme

or unkind they may be. We will be helpless
before the court of public opinion. We’ll

always be asking others what we deserve before
seeking inside for an answer. Lacking an independent

verdict, we also stand to be unnaturally hungry
for external praise: the clapping of an audience

will matter more than would ever be wise.
We’ll be prey to rushing towards whatever

idea or activity the crowd happen to love.
We will laugh at jokes that aren’t funny,

uncritically accept undeserving concepts that
are in vogue and neglect our truer talents

for easy popular wins. We’ll trail public
opinion slavishly, constantly checking the

world’s whims rather than consulting an
inner barometer in order to know what we should

want, feel and value.We need to be kind on
ourselves. No one is born with an independent

ability to know who they are. We learn to
have an identity because, if we are blessed,

in our early years, someone else takes the
trouble to study us with immense fairness,

attention and kindness and then plays us back
to us in a way that makes sense and that we

can later emulate. They give us the beginning
of a true portrait of our identity which we

take on and enrich over the years and use
as a defence against the distorting verdicts

from hurried or ill-intentioned others. Knowing
who one is is really the legacy of having

been known properly by someone else at the
start.This early identity-building tends to

unfold with apparently innocuous life-saving
small steps. ‘It must really have hurt,’

a parent might say in response to an upset,
thereby validating an infant’s own feelings.

Or: ‘it’s OK not to feel happy on your
birthday,’ the parent might say another

point, delicately upholding an infant’s
less typical response to certain events. Ideally,

the child isn’t just known, he or she is
also interpreted as likeable. A good parent

offers generous interpretations; they are
on the side of the child and are always ready

to put the best possible gloss on moments
of ill-temper or of failure – which forms

the basis upon which resilient self-esteem
can then later emerge. That is the ideal,

but it can of course go very wrong – and
often does. A parent may offer mirroring that

is out of synch with the reality of the child.
‘Look who is such a happy little boy/girl,’

a parent might insist when the opposite is
the case, badly scrambling the child’s ability

to connect with their own emotions. Or the
parent might only lend the child a very punitive

way of interpreting itself, repeatedly suggesting
that it is ill-intentioned and no good. Or

the parent may simply not show very much interest
in the child, focusing themselves elsewhere,

so that the child grows up with a sense that
not only is it not worth cherishing, but also

– because it has not been adequately seen
and mirrored – that it doesn’t quite exist.

A feeling of unreality is the direct consequence
of emotional neglect.

Realising that we lack a stable identity is
a sobering realisation. But we can, with a

fair wind, start to correct the problem at
any point. We need to seek out the help of

a wise and kindly other person, perhaps a
good psychotherapist, who can study us closely,

mirror us properly and then validate what
they see. Through their eyes, we can learn

to study, perhaps for the first time, how
we really feel and take seriously what we

actually want. We can, by being witnessed
generously, more often take our own sides

and feel increasingly solid inside, trusting
ourselves more than the crowd, feeling that

we might be able to say no, not always swaying
in the wind and feeling that we are in possession

of some of the ultimate truths about us. Having
come to know ourselves like this, we will

be a little less hungry for praise, a little
less worried by opposition – and much more

original in our thinking. We will have learnt
the vital art of both knowing and befriending

who we
really are.

Our Know Yourself Cards help us to better understand the deepest most elusive aspects of ourselves. Follow the link on screen now to learn more.