Greek philosopher Aristotle once said: “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” He was right, of course. But in the midst of our seemingly busy lives, how often do we have the time to understand ourselves? And when we do get the time, we probably end up analysing others’ lives through the bright screens of our smartphones.
Let’s take a moment and keep those gizmos aside. Let’s now try to analyse our own lives… Not easy, is it? It takes time and consistent effort to introspect. But is it really important to know ourselves like the detailed pages of a book? In order to answer that, imagine this: how would it be to live with someone you barely know? And, what if that someone is you? If that doesn’t make it imperative to know ourselves well, nothing else will.
When bogged down by life’s problems, most of us tend to turn to friends or loved ones. “Why is this happening to me? What do you think is wrong with me?” we ask of them. It is only natural to take advice from friends and family. Support from our loved ones can certainly help us move forward. But they might not necessarily know what is best for us. It is entirely up to us to look within and figure that out.
Introspection is a deliberate act. It is not something that comes naturally to a person as we always want to believe that we are on the right track.
Nineteenth-century Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung had once said: “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Media professional Prem Paul Ninan believes this with all his heart. He writes down his thoughts on paper to assess what he has achieved, what is yet to be done and how he can do it. This physical practice helps him reflect on his life and gain clarity of thought. “Introspection is a deliberate act. It is not something that comes naturally to a person as we always want to believe that we are on the right track. Introspection is not a mental exercise, but a physical one,” he says.
It would do us good to take a leaf out of Prem’s book. Consciously looking at key areas where we have fared well or lagged behind can give us a clear, overall view of the decisions and actions we take in life. This helps us capitalise on our strengths and work on our weaknesses. Lahore-based graphic designer Dania does this periodically to keep herself ‘aware’. “One of the best things about self-reflection is comparing your present self with who you were before a significant event occurred in your life. You can then acknowledge and appreciate the sea change you have undergone,” she observes.
Irrespective of the time of the year, introspection is a good idea. It’s what helps us become a better version of ourselves.
Author and poet Gregg Krech writes in his book Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection that self-reflection involves a willingness to squarely face our mistakes, failures and weaknesses. It helps us be honest with ourselves. It makes us admit and overcome failures, making us more accepting of ourselves. “This acceptance,” says media professional Anusha Ravi, “is the first step towards solving problems and improving our lives. Once an individual accepts reality, they can begin working towards getting better.”
Inner work is a lifelong process. Anusha believes when a person decides to introspect, the time of the year does not matter. She is right, of course. Irrespective of the time of the year, introspection is a good idea. It’s what helps us become a better version of ourselves. Isn’t that what we all strive for? But many of us consider the dawn of a new year to be an auspicious time to introspect and evaluate our lives. For many, like Dania, New Year has become a symbol of change and new beginnings–a suitable time for introspection. So, if we believe in the magic of new beginnings, this New Year can be an ideal time to look within. Because life has given us yet another opportunity to reflect, evaluate, learn and start afresh.