22068562203_ccf6cffb64_kIn my last post I wrote about the importance of checking in with yourself emotionally; however, emotions are only one piece of self-awareness. “Know thyself,” asks a bigger question. This bit of wisdom from ancient Greece is often attributed to Socrates, but is likely even older, and was reportedly carved into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

Does self-knowledge still matter?

Knowing oneself has always mattered. But a lot has changed over the past 2500 years, so this desire shows up today in ways that Socrates never could have imagined.

Consider the smart phone. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 77% of adults in the United States own a smart phone. Only fifty years ago, we all talked into identical black telephones with cords, without Caller ID or voice mail. In contrast, the smart phone’s ability to make mere phone calls isn’t the secret to its success. These palm-sized devices often become a miniature hub-of-self, comprising a person’s entire identity.

No part of the smart phone better represents our interest in self-knowledge than the camera, with which one can snap, save, edit, and then inevitably share, a selfie.

We have the ability to curate an endless number of carefully crafted images that shape the identity we choose share with the rest of the world. Selfies represent how we want to be seen by others. They do not show that we truly understand ourselves. We need look no further than the popularity of Snap Chat filters (even the puppy one) that smooth skin and widen eyes to prove this point.

I’ve got nothing against selfies. They’re fun. But they direct the desire to be known outward when it can go inward as well.

Self-reflection: a selfie for the soul.

The wish to know oneself becomes less daunting if you admit you don’t need to have all of the answers. Sometimes acknowledging mixed feelings about a life choice is a necessary first step to make if you want to make a change such as drinking less coffee or getting more sleep.

Whether you tackle self-reflection alone or work with a therapist, begin the process with a few simple questions:

What am I thinking right now?
What emotions do I feel?
What physical sensations am I experiencing?
How do these three answers affect my behavior?

These questions riff on Dr. Aaron T. Beck’s cognitive behavioral model. Asking these four questions in a variety of settings, from the everyday to the singular, generates important information about how you respond to life’s ups and downs. Slowing down long enough to answer them creates an opportunity to learn, grow, and hopefully make the kind of decisions worthy of authentic celebration.

A celebration which will, of course, be captured with a selfie.

Photo credit: Roderigo Olivera