I wonder how you would define the importance of knowing yourself.
The first practical difficulty I have to face is to distinguish between me and my behaviours.
Know thyself! If I knew myself, I’d run away
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
So often we use expressions such as, “I wouldn’t like that”, or “That’s just not me”, or “I couldn’t do that”, or “That’s just my make up.”
Can you hear yourself saying any of those things? If not those precise words, perhaps you use some sort of similar expression.
Have you stopped to think carefully what you mean?
Let me give you an example. My friend, Jack, has a best friend who I will call Freddie.
Jack is a placid, laid back sort of guy. He’d have to be in order to be best friends with Freddie with whom he spends an enormous amount of time.
Freddie is the sort of person who will take offence if you so much as glance in his direction.
If someone inadvertently brushes past him in a crowded public place, he will instantly square up to that person and assume he is seeking a fight.
Jack tells me about the latest incidents involving Freddie from time to time, and the other day added the words, “He can’t help it, of course; it is within his make up.”
Is it heck! Freddie has behavioural problems that he needs to address and control, but so long as his friends tell him that he can’t help it and that it is an inbuilt part of his personality, he will carry on his own sweet way.
Michel Harper is another friend who believes his behaviour is part of his make up. He is a worrier.
His wife says he has been the same for as long as she has known him.
He worries about himself. He worries about his children. He worries about almost every item on the daily news bulletin and then worries about what might happen next.
He told me all this over lunch one day, and then added “But I can’t help it; it is just the way I am.”
I told him quite frankly then and there that it wasn’t the way he was but it was just behaviours he had got used to.
He was pretty surprised because, firstly, no-one had contradicted his statements before and, secondly, it didn’t occur to him that he could do anything about it.
I gave him some NLP techniques to start him off and he reported back to me within a couple of weeks that he was feeling much better with himself and the world.
We need, therefore, to question ourselves closely when we hear that little voice in our head saying things like this.
Let me touch upon that very tricky question of sexuality that almost every journalist likes to raise with famous personalities in order to satisfy public prurience.
It is sad that they should seek to do so because it is really nobody’s business but the individual whom the journalist is threatening to expose or encouraging to come out.
This article, just like others on this website, will be read in all parts of the world, so attitudes will vary according to your own views and maybe the prevailing views in your home country.
In my early days practising law I saw a number of men sent to prison because of their involvement in consensual gay relationships with other adult men.
It wasn’t unusual to see sentences of up to 5 years imprisonment imposed. No coercion was involved; merely affection, and often love, for one another.
Recently a prominent young UK sportsman felt it necessary to publish a video to say that he was dating a guy but added that he still fancied girls.
Who cares, you might ask? Journalists had been asking questions and it probably wouldn’t have been long before one had published anyway.
It took enormous courage for the young man to do what he did, but if it were not for the public’s unhealthy interest in other people’s sexuality, he may not have felt it necessary.
When we think about relationships, whether they be straight or gay, it may be as well to ask ourselves why we think as we do.
Is it because that is the way we are or are we reacting to a behaviour that has been perhaps conditioned by our surroundings and the views of others?
It is for me to decide who I should love, but who am I to question who you should or should not love? Who am I to decide how you should find happiness.
It seems to me that this is a behaviour that is well within my control, and I should be very careful how I exercise it.
I was discussing music with an acquaintance the other day. My musical tastes are, I like to think, very wide. There isn’t much in the way of music that I don’t like.
Things haven’t always been that way though. Until I met my wife I had much narrower tastes – pop was about my limit.
But my wife is a classical pianist and also had classical tastes, so she was naturally interested in going to musical concerts and I could hardly let her go alone.
I started to discover music that I never knew existed. If you’d asked me when I was a young man if I’d like to go to a classical concert, I might well have said, “I don’t think I would like that” and decline your invitation.
You may well recall making comments like that a few times in your life.
The difficulty about that sort of comment is that we are seeking to make judgments about things we have never experienced.
If I have never been to a classical concert, an opera, a ballet or an oratorio, how can I possibly hazard a guess about whether I would like it?
Once you start to consider statements like this, the more nonsensical they sound, but I still have to be careful I don’t fall into the same trap when something new is suggested.
Then there is that most limiting of statements that we are so fond of making – the ultimate cop out for not giving something a go – “I wouldn’t be any good at it”.
Really! You’ve never even attempted it and you know you wouldn’t be any good at it. So you’re a clairvoyant too?
I have given just a few examples, in this short article, about the importance of knowing yourself.
Next time you are beginning to form an opinion about someone or something else, or make an excuse for the way you are acting, think carefully and ask the question: “Is this really part of my make up – is it me – or is it just a behaviour that I should consider modifying?”
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