If I were to ask you if you’re self-aware, you might answer with a resounding ‘yes’. You rock with introspection, you reflect on your choices and decisions, and you analyse events to get a better understanding.
Sound like you? Read on, my lovely.
In the quest for deeper understanding of ourselves, we can find ourselves wading in the depths of introspection, finding that we’re stuck in a loop of analysing, dissecting, and questioning every facet of our choices so we don’t leave any stone unturned. While this sounds amazing and like the path of growth, there’s a teeny, tiny snag.
That relentless self-examination and questioning you engage in might be the very thing in the way of the self-understanding you seek, and it could be holding you back from truly knowing yourself. In fact, research suggests that while 90% of people believe they’re highly self-aware, only 15% truly were when tested on actual measures of self-awareness.
The majority of us seem to be confident in our self-knowledge, yet we’re mistaking our mental gymnastics for genuine understanding.
[Yes, take a pause here, my lovely.]
The research conducted by Tasha Eurich, an organisational psychologist, is staggering, and points to the subtle but crucial difference between self-intellectualisation and self-understanding, which are often confused.
So what are they, and what are the differences between them?
Self-intellectualisation is like subjecting yourself to a never-ending mental puzzle, attempting to decipher the intricacies of your identity and unravel the origins of your patterns and choices. You remain in this loop with the question, ‘Why?’ because it’s a symptom of internalised shame.
When you’ve internalised the belief that something is wrong with you or that you’re broken, you only ever see yourself, your choices and your behaviour through this lens, leading to an ongoing pursuit of collecting evidence to support this belief. You develop an unconscious endeavour to validate this perceived ‘brokenness’ in almost every interaction, every response, every decision, and everything that you experience. You ask yourself:
- Why do I keep doing this?
- Why haven’t I changed?
- Why am I like this?
- Why did I let this happen?
- Why am I so darn stuck?
This constant analysis of your motivations, patterns, and flaws with ‘why’ questioning traps you in a self-deprecating loop, never allowing you to truly understand who you are. ‘Why’ slams the door on the nuggets of wisdom in your unconscious mind, keeping you in a mental prison.
No wonder you feel stuck. Makes sense now, right?
On the flip side, self-understanding is where you cultivate a deep, intimate relationship with your inner world. With self-understanding, you connect with your emotions, your desires, and the essence of what truly matters to you. It’s about knowing, not just analysing, what makes your heart sing, what your needs are, trusting your God-given intuition, and freeing yourself from the clasps of harmful self-judgement.
Self-understanding gently nudges you towards ‘What’ questions, opening you to curiosity, awareness, and understanding. So instead of the barrage of shame from ‘why’, you get to open up to yourself and lean in.
Doesn’t that feel better? Doesn’t that feel like you’re moving towards showing up in the way you’d like to? Questions like:
- What am I feeling right now?
- What’s my soul yearning for in this moment?
- What’s important to me in this conversation?
- What do I want to get out of my day?
- What brings me joy?
Your path to truly know and understand yourself in your journey to embody the next best version of yourself isn’t lined with endless analysis, my lovely, it’s paved with gentle curiosity.
Next time you find yourself in a loop of ‘why,’ take a deep breath, place a hand on your heart, and shift your focus ‘what’ instead.
Your inner landscape will reveal itself to you, one ‘what’ at a time.