When are you a good person? Inspired by Plato, Hartman and evolution, I described my answer to this question in my book Excelling in Freedom | A Recipe for Personal Development. To become, be or remain good, I have formulated six questions. These six questions are important to grow into a good person. Or, that help you stay good. So that you can lead your own life and make a meaningful contribution to the world. I will explain these six questions one by one in a series of articles. I will also provide some exercises and activities to find answers to these questions. The first question is: Who am I?
Who am I?
‘We will have to choose
between truth or appearances
you can lose yourself
by never being yourself.’
Toon Hermans (a verse from the book “24 Roses”)
Ancestors, upbringing, family, experiences, friends, innate talents, learned skills, choices you have made, the fate that has befallen you, character traits, …. These are all things that ensure that there is not one other person in the world who is identical to you. There are persons who are similar to you, or with whom you have something in common. It is possible that a pattern of a parent (or ancesters) repeats itself in you. Yet you are different. Everyone is unique. And it is important to know this uniqueness. Because your development and personal leadership will be damaged if you think you have the qualities of a ‘lion’, while you are a ‘cat’.
Look in mirrors
The point is to paint a correct picture of yourself. An image with which you can identify and judge what is morally right for you. This image should be real and authentic, respectful and without judgment. To sharpen your self-image, use mirrors. With these, you gather information from the world around you that you use to get a better look at yourself. It takes manual labor to discover who you are, which is the downside of being unique. And this is not about the question “What am I?”, which will be addressed in a future article. Escher’s drawing titled Print Gallery is a great representation of what it is all about. Look at the world, look outward and discover what makes you unique. What do you see when you look at yourself?
Exercises and activities
Here are some activities and exercises that will help you answer this question.
- Ask people for feedback. Ask for it, identify what you want to receive feedback on. Analyze the results so you can paint a better picture of who you are.
- Explore your feelings and emotions by being still. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises help to turn inward, become still
and listen to your own feelings, emotions, and thoughts. But going for a brisk walk, running or fishing also work. Paying attention to your breathing helps. Breathing and the gut are connected. Conscious and deep breathing allows you to feel better and think less.
- Many people process the day in the evening by keeping a journal. You can do this by asking yourself three questions each day:
- What did I feel, do, think, or experience today?
- What feelings or emotions did I have as a result?
- What caused this feeling or emotion?
In writing things down, it is necessary to choose words that reflect your feelings and emotions. Then, possibly with someone else, you can explore these feelings and emotions.
- Imagine yourself in different situations and think about what you would think or do in that situation. And also ask yourself why you would think or do this. You can do this by reading books, watching movies, visiting museums, or traveling. And leave out your opinion of what someone else thought or did. What matters is what you would think or do in that situation!
- Creating a good profile also gives you a better idea of yourself. This provides you with a lot of self-knowledge and makes you more aware of who you are at a certain point. A verbal conversation and further exchange about the content of the profile helps with this.
- On my website is a listening exercise (in Dutch only) to reflect on the question, “Who am I? It asks several questions to help you examine yourself. Have pen and paper handy to jot down your thoughts after listening. Stop the exercise to reflect longer on a question and to make brief notes of your thoughts, if necessary. After the exercise, take the time to write down your thoughts and notes made more extensively.
Ingredients for your recipe
Perhaps you have your own exercises or activities that have proven in the past to help you increase your self-knowledge and self-awareness. I invite you to write these down. All the exercises and activities that help you grow and lead your life are the ingredients for the recipe for personal development.
Don’t condemn your self-image
The important thing is not to condemn or disapprove of yourself. For you are who you are now, shaped by circumstances. You may be critical, but be gentle with yourself. The reward for a good examination of the question Who am I?
- Better and realistic assessment of your own qualities, strengths and pitfalls;
- Experience of peace, contentment, balance, harmony within yourself;
- Satisfaction or pleasure from being you;
- Belief and confidence in yourself;
- The belief that you have something to add to the world;
- Resilience, even when the going gets tough;
- Standing up for yourself even when you’re down.
Love yourself, even the less positive or dark sides. Which, by the way, is not to say that you are going to work on yourself to become better. After you have formulated a good answer to the question Who am I? it is time for the next question: Who are the others?
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