“The longest journey is the journey inward” -Dag Hammarskjold
How do we develop our self and our self-esteem? To answer this question, we need to first understand what makes up self. A person’s self consist of his physical body (The house in which he resides), his mind (The engines that moves the house) and his spirit (The essence or fuel that moves the engine). These three components are intertwined and are like circles within circles or cake pans within cake pans. The state of one affects the state of others. Let us take for example an individual with a discerning spirit or positive spirit that gives him knowledge, wisdom and correct intuition. Such an individual will necessarily have a sound mind and in essence a sound body. The way a man think some people say is the way he is. An individual’s life is distilled from three factors. These factors consist of thought, speech and action. One leads to the other. Whatever the other will invariably lead to what he does. A man’s thought is the basis for utterance, which leads to action on the physical realm.
Man as a being therefore needs to understand these three components and how to master them. If you cannot control your thoughts, you will not be able to control your utterances and your utterances will lead to what you do. In other words, the individual’s ability to explore and understand his spirit will dictate what goes into his mind, what he says and what he does. The communication of what he does will give him habits and from his habits destiny will be formed. We, as individuals are the sources of what we believe. An understanding of the above is the first key to self-knowledge. In order to develop and enhance self-knowledge the individual will have to first work on his spirit. A motor vehicle with the best engine, the most aesthetic and functional body will not move an inch without ‘spirit’ inside it. The wrong spirit however will lead to problems of the engine knocking or the car misbehaving when air is put inside a vehicle in place of fuel or spirit and driver does not know but drives the car as if there is spirit inside it, the car splutter, tops or develops faults. The same with us as human beings. Our ability to know ourselves, develop self and self actualize depends greatly on our ability to understand and be aware of the components of ‘self’ .
Developing self-knowledge is like studying and collecting instruments and knowledge from books concerning a topic. There are things, which the individual must do. The individual in order to have knowledge of his spirit must be able to listen. He must first be able to listen to his creator. Even if he does not believe the existence of one, he shall be also to reason to the level of understanding that his coming into the world is not perchance. He is expected to listen to the voice of the one who created him. The creator is like the coach to an athlete or a sports person. The athlete cannot pretend to know more than his coach does. There is then the need for the athlete to listen to the instruction of the coach in order to know himself. He will also be able to develop and improve himself and his sport. Listening to the creator is like trying to get guidelines to what one is expected to do in order to maximize oneself.
The second step in having self knowledge of one’s spirit is listen to one’s self. The din of life and the needs of survival had largely shut out our ability to listen to ourselves. We are immersed in the rigours of living that we do not create time for ourselves to listen to ourselves. We do not even consort with our spirits. We rarely observe our spirit when we want to do anything or take action. Many of us have lost our conscience to the tinsels of the drudgery of trying to make a living. We have become almost deaf to what our inner self tells us about our actions, our thoughts and our utterances. He seems to become a horse without bridle and our actions like that a rudder-less ship in the midst of an extremely violent storm on the ocean.
There are various anchors that we can use to stabilize our ships, that is, selves in the storm of life. They include meditation, religion and the rituals of life. The time spent to reflect on what has been done, what is being done and what is intended to be done cannot be taken to be a lost time. Reflection or meditation is the hallmark of those who had been able to self-actualize, change the world and also become the heroes of history. Jesus Christ sent to the mountain and the seaside to meditate and reflect. Moses went into the wilderness, Elijah to the mountaintop; Mahatma Gandhi had his moments of secludes when he cuts himself from the theory and Ground in order to dwell on the problems of India. In the field of science we make made to understand that Newton sat under a tree when he stumbled on the law of Motion. There are many others in antiquity and now whose ability to meditate, reflect, isolate themselves help them to find their selves and then contribute to humanity. Religion when practised in the correct manner also helps in self-revelation and self-knowledge. Religion that does not presume for God or one which is not hypocritical tends to take the individual to the core of who he is.
One other instrument that helps man to find himself and build up facts on his self is the development of his mind. The search for knowledge is, important and that is why Prophet Mohammed (PABH) enjoined his followers to search for knowledge as far as China. China during his time was the farthest end of the world as known then. The individual needs to educate himself, he needs to garner knowledge expand his brain and mind. The expansion of the brain and mind helps him to become more knowledgeable. The individual is expected to read wide, study widely, observe phenomena and all things around him. As the Bible says “Go ye into the ants, ye sluggards and learn”. All knowledge about self nature, other and the universe that we are in are all around us ready for the picking but our inability to pick them depends greatly on our ignorance, scholars had pointed out that human beings use lees than ¼ of the their brain’s potential. The individual therefore needs to search for knowledge. His search for knowledge will help his to build up enough materials for his self-knowledge and the knowledge of others.
The last thing that the individual needs to do is to study and observe his body. Knowledge of one’s body helps us to know the conditions that are adequate and necessary to one’s existence. They also help one to be aware of what can be done and what cannot be done. They help to guide the individual into what to eat, what not to eat, what to drink and what not to drink. Knowledge about one’s body will also dictate what is fitting to the individual and what is not fitting. The ability to master the needs and the structure of one’s body will affect one’s dressing, food habits, body care and the placement of one’s body within the crowd, the community and the larger society. The ability to do all the above will go a great length in developing the individual’s self knowledge , actualizing the individual and making him an efficient individual. There is however, other ways by which one can develop self-knowledge. As psychologists and religious leaders have pointed out to us, there is a great power in the tongue and the words that come out of it. There is a great power in the power of positive utterances. This means that one’s self knowledge can be improved and helped through the way one uses language. Let us take an example; if an individual speaks well and is known for positive utterances, people tend to have the feeling that such individual is confident. This will in turn determine how they deal with him. The positive dealing with him gives him confidence and this reinforces this positive image. It is not however the spoken or the written language alone that makes this possible. One language, which helps in expanding one’s understanding of self and others, is Nonverbal communication. However, are YOU making something of YOURSELF?