Sometimes we may find ourselves experiencing a sense of unease without fully knowing the reason why. Sometimes we might be full of ambivalence in our decisions. Sometimes we think we know what we want, only to find ourselves dissatisfied, or wanting something entirely different later on. Sometimes the perception we have of ourselves does not match our actual behavior, or does not match the perception others have of ourselves. Sometimes we may not know what caused a shift in our emotional state.
These might all be cases of lacking self-knowledge. We can always grow in self-knowledge, and in the areas where we do not know ourselves well we still trust that we are known and loved, as Rowan Williams writes, “I do not know myself; but God knows me. God’s knowledge of me is available not as a picture I can grasp or as a piece of information, but in the form of trust in God’s love – faith, in other words.” (Williams, Rowan. On Augustine. Bloomsbury Continuum, 2016, p. 14). This gift that allows me to trust in One who loves me, also gives me the courage to know myself more deeply.
Where does one begin in gaining better self-knowledge? It might be a good idea to have some type of map to guide us in the journey of knowing ourselves better. In What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It) organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich focuses her work on precisely creating such a map of categories for helping others know themselves better.
Expanding on her ideas, we can reflect on the following sets of questions to reflect on how well we know ourselves:
How well do I know what I want? Do I pursue it?
How well do I know what matters most to me? Does how I spend my time and money correspond to what I think matters most to me?
Do I have clear goals?
Do I know what motivates me to act?
Do I recognize my own patterns of behavior?
How aware I am of the times I have deceived myself?
When I fail at something, can I figure out what I did wrong?
Do I know my ideal work environment?
What activities do I find most fulfilling and rewarding? Do I spend enough time doing such activities?
Can I predict how I will feel and act in a given situation?
Do the perceptions others have of me match my own?
Do I know how my words and actions affect others?
Do I respond appropriately to how others perceive me?
Do I seek feedback?
Awareness of Privilege/Power
Do I know of how my gender, race or ethnicity, and socioeconomic background might provide advantages?
Do I know how I might be overconfident in positions of power?
Does my knowledge or education prevent me from overlooking certain evidence or dismissing what certain people might have to say?
Do I know the expectations I have on the world?
Do I know what level of influence I have on others?
Do I know the commandments, the capital sins, the precepts of the Church, and the social teaching of the Church?
Do I know the dominant sins in my life?
Do I know the virtues that come more easily to me?
Do I know my duties and responsibilities toward God, myself, my neighbor, and the Church?
Do I know the unique vocation(s) God has given me to grow in holiness?
Do I recognize the voice of God in my life?
Do I know my location as a member of the Body of Christ?
Do I recognize the spiritual dangers that affect me most?
Do I know how I resist God’s sanctifying grace?
Am I humble during moments when I experience closeness to God?
Am I really capable of receiving what I ask of God?
Do I know which ways of thinking lead me away from God?
Augustine Scholar John Cavadini writes, “The content of self-awareness, for those truly self-aware, is much more disturbing and mysterious, more exciting and hopeful, more treacherous and full of risk. Someone who is self-aware is aware not of “a self” but of a struggle, a brokenness, a gift, a process of healing, a resistance to healing, an emptiness, a reference that impels one not to concentrate on oneself, in the end, but on that to which one’s self-awareness propels one, to God. (Cavadini, John. Visioning Augustine. Wiley Blackwell, 2019. p. 141) Armed with the knowledge that God loves you, and so much that Christ gave himself for you, ask Him for the grace of self-compassion to know yourself better, so that you can better know Him and thus love Him more.