Self Knowledge in a False World
“Know thyself” was one of the most important concepts within early philosophies, it was just one of just three maxims inscribed at the entrance to the legendary temple of Apollo, and frequently referenced in the writings of Plato.
Yet fast forward to today and it seems like nobody really cares to “know thyself”, because we do know about ourselves we were never taught to question it. I believe that’s because “who we are”, our entire understanding of “self” is a complete lie, a myth, an elaborate trap of a false reality, a system designed to turn us into profit.
Because the “less” we understand ourselves, the more easily we consume costly external “solutions” and the system only cares about profit.
My experience has been that the more that I’m able to understand what my “self” actually is the more freedom I unlock to actually create who I am. Which is why I am now a completely different person than I was even a few short years ago.
So today, in this video, we’re going to start taking a sledgehammer to this silly idea that we hold of what the “self” even is, with the goal being that, maybe some of you guys can start to feel that same freedom to create who you are as well.
Let’s start from the beginning, What the hell is this “self” and why does it even matter?
The “self” only emerges in the presence of other “selves”
Imagine a scenario where you’re the only person in the world. How would you come to know your “self” if that were the case? Well, you couldn’t. If you exist alone, the notion of “self” has no meaning, without at least one other person, there’s no “context”.
How would you describe light if there was only darkness? You couldn’t.
And so much in the same way, ‘‘self’, by definition, requires there to be other “selves”. So now let’s say that we consider our “self” to be kind, I certainly see myself as a “kind” person. How do we come to believe that we are “kind”?
Do we just, “independently” in the absence of others, believe ourselves to be “kind”? No, as we just covered, we need other “selves” to form any idea of who we are.
So, is the idea that we are “kind” simply what others believe? Of course not, we’re talking about an idea that we hold.
So, pay attention here. The idea that we hold of our “self” as being a “kind” person, is actually, what we think other people think we are, if we see ourselves as a “nice” person, what we’re really saying is that we think that other people think that we’re nice.
If I see myself as “smart”, what I’m really saying is that I think that other people think that I’m smart. And so, without exception, everything that we think our “self” to be, is actually just a culmination of everything that we think others think we are. Interesting, no?
So now that we’ve established that the “self” is based on how we think other people perceive us, we can start to understand how much control we actually have over it. So how do we do that?
Well, I think it starts with understanding a hidden truth of how we interact with others.
We only share what we want others to perceive
We are these vast oceans of consciousness wrapped up within this “skin of self”, a skin that we construct using what we think that others think of us. Once we understand this, we are free to begin to understand that every single thing that we say or share with others is not just what we want to say and share.
Every interaction that we have with others, without exception, is what we want them to perceive. When we say things to friends, post things to social, or even create videos for YouTube, we are, at all times, projecting this idea that we hold of ourselves.
Now I know what you’re thinking, this is upsetting to hear, you may even find it offensive because there’s an implication here and that implication is that we are not 100% authentic, not “perfectly” authentic.
Of course we’re not “perfectly” authentic. Perfection is an “ideal” and ideals are perfect things we on the other hand are imperfect things. To think that we are perfectly authentic is to think that we are gods, a form of self-worship with fatal consequences. We can never be perfectly authentic, but we can of course, be more authentic.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with the fact that everything we say and share with others, we are “choosing” to say and share, the trap, however, is to not be conscious of this. It’s why platforms like Facebook and Instagram are inherently skewed towards inauthenticity. On these platforms we have all the time in the world to carefully choose our words and curate the perfect photo, we’re sharing not with one person, but with hundreds or thousands of people, the pressure of external validation is enormous.
So again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the fact that we’re not and can never be “perfectly” authentic, in fact, it’s the exact opposite. When we believe that we are perfectly authentic, we can easily confuse who we “project” ourselves to be, as perfectly authentic representations of ourselves.
And so the trap here is when we start to believe that our “projections” are real, we start to confuse who we really are, vast oceans of consciousness, with who we “think” we are, and the line between the true reality and the false reality begin to blur. We’ve lost ourselves in the woods and aren’t sure which direction leads to home. So how do we find the way home and in the process, come to “know thyself”?
Well, we can tell when we’ve confused the projection of ourselves with the reality of ourselves because when this happens, it’s characterized by an obsessive seeking of “external validation”, if the projection is all that exists, then external validation is the mechanism through which it feeds.
However, as we’re about to dive into: external validation, when balanced with internal motivation, is actually the means by which we escape the woods and return home to the true self.
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External validation helps us navigate who we really are
If our entire idea of “self” is actually what we think that others think of us, then in many ways, external validation is actually just external affirmation of what we think of ourselves, in this way, external validation is actually an extremely important tool for understanding who we are because it shows us how accurate our idea of who we are actually is.
Right? I mean if we didn’t receive external validation for the things we do, how the heck would we have any idea of whether or not the things we do were actually who we believed ourselves to be?
Here, let’s make this a bit easier, I’ll give you some examples.
If we want to be a good athlete, we need the external validation of actually winning in athletic competitions.
If we want to be good at business, we need the external validation that comes from motivated employees and satisfied clients.
If we want to be a great teacher, we need the external validation of our students actually learning whatever it is that we’re trying to teach them.
If we want real confidence, we need to do difficult things. Are things difficult because we see them as difficult? Or because we think that others think those things are difficult?
Now each of the examples, of course, should be balanced with our own “internal” sense of validation, where we seem to go wrong is when we only seek external validation.
We can somewhat observe this on Facebook and Instagram, right? Like when someone posts something about a tragedy, but they make the post all about themself, how “upset” or “outraged” they are, we can roughly tell that what they care most about is themself, and not the tragedy.
But we have to be careful here as well, because we can also easily fall into the trap of “judging”. The real trick here is to understand that being able to observe these things in others requires us to be able to observe these things within ourselves. To say that a different way, to observe these things in others requires us to first be able to observe them within ourselves.
Alright guys, let’s bring this all together: The “Self” can only exist via other “Selves”. The “self” is not “what we think we are”, so much as it is “what we think that other people think that we are”.
When we interact with other “selves”, we are “projecting” the idea that we hold of our “self”. In every interaction we have with others, we are not merely choosing what we want to share, but also choosing what we want others to perceive.
When we confuse our projections with our true selves, we can get lost in the false reality. This can be observed through obsessive seeking of external validation, when balanced with our own internal validation, external validation becomes a tool that can help us to understand whether or not the things we say and do are consistent with who we are, “who we think others think we are”.
By understanding the pivotal role that “others” play in knowing ourselves, we can truly begin to “know thyself”.
In the words of Maxwell Maltz:
“Our “self-image” is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self-image and you change the personality and the behavior”.
When we understand that every single thing we say and share with others is because we are actually choosing to say and share those things, we can gain the power to say and share different things, which is the beginning of fundamentally transforming who we believe ourselves to be.
When we see external validation not as an obstacle to knowing who we are, but as an invaluable tool on the path to self-discovery, that when properly balanced with our own internal validation, is how we come to more authentically understand ourselves.
And funny enough, as we come to truly know ourselves, we begin to unlock the freedom to actually “create” who we are.
Alright guys I think that’s enough for today. I’m very interested to see what sort of insights and takeaways you had from this video, if you took away anything interesting please leave it in the comments below. And if you want more content like this, click subscribe and click that god damn notification bell.
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Ciao and cya in the next video.