Self-discovery: An Ethical Alignment of Self-knowledge for Self-mastery

It’s in understanding who you are that shapes your being.

Swati Suman


Image Credit: Lizeth Lopez/Pixabay

One must still have chaos in oneself, said the eminent philosopher Neitzche, to be able to give birth to a dancing star.

Oftentimes, a term like chaos remains taken by us in a negative light. But, on diving deep, we realize that chaos and conflicts come with potentialities that can take us on a journey within.

Journeying within is mindful travel. It is a road that helps us in exploring our inner selves, inspires changes, opens our eyes to new worldviews, and shifts our perspectives mindfully.

In the complex and confusing times of today, to know ourselves is the need of the hour. The reason being, it helps us to identify the causes behind our inner turmoil, and present solutions in how we can successfully overcome them.

As put by Aristotle, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

To know yourself, one needs to answer a preliminary question, “Who am I?” This question sets the beginning stage of inquiry to self-discovery.

The preface behind this identity-based question is not to derive the biological, historical, or any diverse social order narratives. Instead, it’s an ethic-based question directing a person to explore who they are when individual selves.

Understanding who you are

The personal question “Who am I?” is based on the concerns of discovering the meaning, purpose, and essence of human existence. In the realization of ourselves, we move towards realizing the true essence of our existence.

Having said that, to unfold the essence our existence carries isn’t easy, neither difficult. The ethical principle required to unfold a person’s true existence is in adapting life strategies that guide that person to attain the essence.To realize that essence is a long-run journey, and not a short-term process.

The past few days felt psychologically challenging to me. I consistently faced trouble in understanding my purpose, in realizing what I truly desired from life, or who I am, really?

Again, the question is not who I am in regards to my origin, place of birth, or my established social status, but who I truly am. In addition to it, what are my potential skillsets or interests that can assist me to add value to my existence and that can help me to contribute to humankind as a whole.

Further, the principal choices that will help me find happiness, contentment, and a sense of security even in the state of nothingness.

In the impermanence of certainty, who I am, remains a constant challenge. It’s because, at different existential stages, the experiences shift our perspective, both in a good and occasionally in an unpleasant way.

Think about a few confusing moments in your life. At one moment, you were happy, at another moment, sadness moved across you. Likewise, at one moment, you discerned that the world was your oyster, at another, you tasted vulnerability. At one moment, you felt everything fell in place; at another moment, it fell out of place.

Notice that you experienced emotional extremities — sorrow and joyfulness, hopelessness and hopefulness, anxiety and contentment at a similar moment during the same interval.

It’s this uneasy and disturbing state of affairs that gives rise to the human predicament of who I am.

To experience the perpetual anxious state as such is not uncommon, but it is pretty there in each of our lives; only its existing form and its amount vary.

In such a worrying period, many of us lose our ability to actualize our innate potentialities. We remain entrapped between knowing ourselves and how should we direct our actions ethically and morally so that we can drive our purpose.

To reason why we feel the way we feel acts as the foundation of growth; it’s a space where we try to understand who we are and play with the possibilities.

Alignment of self-knowledge

Finding oneself or self-discovery is not a one-time event, but it’s a continuous ongoing evolution.

We need to peel multiple layers before we truly realize our true potential.

As you walk through the deeper levels of knowing who you are, you may end up uncovering the surprising elements of your personality.

In the path of self-discovery, to unravel the conscious, unconscious element of self, an alignment of self-knowledge is a preliminary requisite.

Self-knowledge in psychological studies is a component of the self or, accurately put, a self-concept.

Although self-knowledge comes with its limitation, as it remains a complex process towards self-examination, still this journey of “knowing yourself” is beautifully transforming. Knowledge of self prepares an ontological ground that helps us evaluate ourselves and understand our nature.

To make your enlightened self happen, you must go inward. Inward searching, as per the humanistic psychotherapist, Jim Bugental, Ph.D., is giving an ear or listening to what is taking place inside ourselves while still carrying forward our ultimate goal of inward discovery.

When we establish such a deeper level of self intimacy, an authentic engagement with self gets born.

When I feel jammed by life issues or is threatened by the uncertainty of events, I try to sit with those unsettled feelings. Plus, I try to understand what actually is going on within me — and I listen to my thoughts, converse with my feelings, sense the vibrations, and begin an exploration to self-discovery.

Here, awareness at the moment plays a key role to fuel effective life changes and frame our limitations positively.

Through critical self-examination and right self-knowledge, we achieve the levels of consciousness that guide us through experiences or situations in which we will thrive.

Aiming towards self-mastery

The alignment of self-knowledge and self-discovery is the foundation of self-mastery. The right self-knowledge leads to developing an ethical code of conduct and value-oriented principles that keep a person morally informed.

Like self-discovery, self-mastery is also a never-ending process. Self-mastery is not to attain perfection. Instead, it’s a process closer to perfection — aiming to make us aware of our actions.

Existent are various ethical systems that philosophize self-examinations as the means to self-mastery, with the end being the actualization of the purpose of an individual’s existence.

Self-mastery is an art born from our true desire. It’s the self through which the branches of our desires extend.

A burning desire sets out life’s purpose in full swing, and it’s in this process we attain deeper satisfaction.

Ultimately, it is the desire, said Neitzche, not the desired, that we love.

Once self-analysis or self-examination remains successfully carried out, the person’s mind that earlier wandered in aimless motion finds its direction.

Through this critical self analyzation, individuals initiate to use their power to examine who they truly are and what they are meant to be.

Self-mastery is basically a life process, a journey where we compete with our previous selves rather than comparing and competing with others.

Self-mastery is the constant life theme that keeps evolving with the transitory and transitioning times. At this stage, we become aware of our preferences, choices, and also we set certain moral standards and ethical yardsticks that will govern the rightness or wrongness of our actions.

Hence, aiming towards self-mastery is like cultivating the values with sound moral character, the capacity through which an individual can conduct oneself in an exemplary manner when tempted to do otherwise. Therefore, to master ourselves is also to practice the virtues of self-control which in itself is a moral virtue, one that’s free from the fires of excessive desires in relation to bodily pain and pleasures.

Self-mastery prepares an individual to characteristically resist the temptation of worldly desires that otherwise may lead to akrasia or moral weakness.

In Buddhist philosophy, self-mastery is one of the core principles for studying the nuances of the human condition. In fact, to the legendary prince, and an ancient wanderer, Buddha, the human situations of sorrow and attachments were exclusively concerning. During his search for knowledge, he identified ways by which one can free themselves from the bondage of wordly sufferings and attachments.

Buddha’s desire to resolve the painful human conditions formed his basis for self-mastery. In this search, his desires at the end met his purpose through the subjects of Buddha’s Four Noble Truth and Eight-Fold Paths.

Gautama Buddha’s profound curiosity to philosophize human situations still holds the key to self-mastery in today’s tough times.

Final Thoughts

The philosophy of self-understanding, self-discovery, and self-actualization is interlinked, interconnected altogether. They are the principal virtues through which our existence gets its shape.

Existentialism, otherwise called the philosophy of existence, remains based on a principle of constant self-analysis, self-discovery, and our commitment to values that determine our character.

Remember, the path to self-discovery can feel isolating at many times. It can introduce within us a thought where life feels meaningless and absurd. Yet, despite this undesired state of affairs, the journey to self-discovery is worth living as it reveals to us our hidden set of potentialities that adds meaning to our existence and make us unite with our purpose.

Sometimes the warrior thinks, there is a bridge that links what I do with what I would like to do. Slowly as time passes by, his dreams take over his everyday life then he realizes that he is ready for the things he always wanted. Then all that is needed is a little daring, and his two lives become one.” — Paulo Coelho



Swati Suman

In the rhythm of words, I try to unfold life. Thoughtful expressions in Philosophy, Science, Humanities. Compassion above All. Email: