Self-discovery: What It Really Is, And 4 Myths About It

Knowing yourself is not about isolating yourself and concentrating on your own thoughts.


The ideas that Sigmund Freud proposed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are no longer valid when trying to explain human behavior, but there is some truth in them: in each person, there is a gap between what is wants to do and what is said to be done. Most of our mental life is secret, and the motives that move us to perform all kinds of actions are to some extent hidden.

That is precisely why what we usually call self-discovery takes on value . In this article we will see what it is exactly and how it has an impact on our daily lives.

What is self-discovery?

Self-discovery is a process by which we generate a concept of ourselves that is realistic and close to reality, regardless of biases that depend on our optimism (idealizing our self-concept) or our pessimism (creating an image of ourselves that is too negative because of the sadness or low mood). Thus, it is a complex process, since to get involved in it you have to renounce those immediate and intuitive impressions that come to mind just at the moment in which something happens capable of appealing to our sense of identity.

Keys to reach a realistic self-concept

When it comes to knowing yourself, you have to avoid easy and intuitive explanations about who you are. As a small guide, in the following lines you can find key ideas that you should take into account before launching into self-discovery.

1. The truth is hidden in self-justifications

If we human beings are experts in something, it is in creating narratives about who we are and what we do. These narratives can help us create a concept of the “I” that is coherent, consistent and easy to memorize, but at the cost of sacrificing part of the veracity of that self-concept.

For this reason, to bet heavily on self-discovery, it is worth focusing our attention on thinking about those aspects of ourselves that we least like and looking for explanations about what it is that really moves us to act like this in these types of situations. After all, in these cases what we have more at hand are the self-justifications and the half-truths that we tell ourselves.

2. Self-discovery is not based on introspection

Many people believe that discovering oneself is basically resorting to introspection to find mental contents that had remained hidden until then. That is, to achieve this, you have to do something similar to staying in a quiet and isolated place, closing your eyes and concentrating on analyzing your own flow of thoughts.

However, this view of the mind is an illusion, since it is influenced by a philosophical stance known as dualism. According to the dualism applied to psychology, the mind and the body are two different things, and that is why in order to develop self-discovery it is necessary to try to “annul” the body and focus only on the mental, which supposedly would have different layers of depth, since Despite not being something physical, it emulates what it is and, albeit metaphorically, has volume.

Thus, undertaking self-discovery initiatives is not about concentrating on yourself and forgetting what is around you. In any case, we must stop to analyze how we interact with our environment during the day to day. We are what we do, not what we think.

3. The opinion of others also counts

It is not true that each of us has clearly privileged access to information about how we are.

In certain aspects of our lives it is clear that we know more than the rest, especially in relation to those facets of our own day to day that we prefer to keep hidden, but in relation to the global conception of who we are, friends, Family members and in general people from our closest social circles know a lot about our identity and style of behavior.

In fact, unlike what happens with us, since they do not have the need to make an effort to keep the most negative aspects of who we are away from their consciousness, they are often able to weigh in a more balanced way what are the strengths and the imperfections that define us. Of course: it is important not to be labeled and be clear that time and experiences can change us.

4. New situations tell us more about who we are

When it comes to embarking on the path of self-discovery, it is important to completely reject essentialism. What is essentialism? It is simply a philosophical position known to feed the idea that things and people have a clear and distinct identity from the rest of the elements, which remains constant and resists the passage of time.

When someone says, for example, that an old acquaintance was born from the neighborhood and will remain from the neighborhood regardless of what happens to him (for example, winning the lottery), he is holding an essentialist perspective, even if it is without knowing it.

Essentialism is an obstacle when it comes to self-discovery, because it is not true that we are born being one thing and die being exactly the same.

If our explanations about who we are are not altered, no matter how long we continue to live new experiences that provide us with new information about our identity, something is wrong. Possibly we continue to cling to those myths about ourselves through which we manufacture a self-concept automatically, without noticing it.

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