Until there is a willingness by the self to know itself, it can never improve or transform.

‘Self-knowledge is the beginning of self-improvement’ — Baltasar Gracian.

As can be seen from the seminar example, the importance of self-knowing (or self-learning) as a critical factor in self-transformation cannot be over-emphasized. ‘But what does it mean to learn or know one’s self?’ Several people in the course of writing this book asked me.

What does self-knowing mean?

In its simplest form, self-knowing (or self-realization) is knowing you well enough to understand you good enough to achieve your set goals and desires. Since the ultimate goal of the process is to make it possible for you to understand your life purpose, so you are not full of regrets when it is too late for you to do anything about it, self-knowing is the first step self-empowerment.

Whether consciously (or even subconsciously), we all wish to be the best version of ourselves. Our engagement in different forms of self-building activities attest to this inherent longing to be better: whether we want to rule the world, engage in social pursuits that make us look our best, raise healthy and happy children, or work for the good of others. The challenge occurs when we try to ‘better’ ourselves without really knowing who that self is. You see, the self that does not correctly understand ITSELF invariably ends up wasting time in pursuit of things it was never meant to have in the first place. The question is, no matter how much you want ‘it’ if you don’t know yourself, how would you know if ‘it’ will bring you happiness once you get it? Taking time and courage (yes, it does require courage) to learn and know you are the only way to achieve goals and dreams that will not lead to regrets and acute unhappiness (not to mention depression) a few years down the road.

I view self-knowing as a four-step process. These include,

Allowing: taking off the proverbial tinted glasses and allowing yourself to see you as you are, rather than the YOU you would like to believe you are. This step is similar to quality control in a production-based business. It begins with acknowledging what is flawed about the product (you). After all, you can’t improve without admitting that it is flawed in the first place, can you?

Acknowledging: this is where you own the realization that you are not perfect. Who is?

Learning: now that you know you and have acknowledged that you are not perfect, don’t stay there; move on to the critical part. For starters, ask the question, what are my strengths? The whole point of self-knowing is to transform into a better you so, what great qualities do you possess that can help you achieve that? As for your weaknesses, what can you change? The point here is not to beat up on yourself but rather to strive and convert what you consider your weaknesses into strengths. For example, if you tend towards shyness, you could realize that not putting yourself out there the way an outspoken person does could mean that you are a better listener. Listening, as we all know, is an excellent skill to possess. In any gathering, listening allows you to pick up on what most talkative people would easily miss.

The final step in the self-knowing four-step process is Accepting: this is the part where you own the vulnerability that comes with knowing that you are not perfect. As we shall see in my story (and the stories of others who have shared snippets of their journeys in this book), vulnerability becomes a tool of empowerment when it is owned, acknowledged and positively channelled. Yes, used well, vulnerability can set you free to soar higher than you can ever imagine possible. Until you become like the eagle, whose power (not to mention grace) becomes more prominent the higher up the sky it flies.

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Sarah Udoh-Grossfurthner

FROM FEARFUL TO FIERCE: the true-life story of a woman who was abused, bullied and told she would never amount to anything of worth.