We all have a certain idea about the way we are. Our good traits and bad traits.
Maybe you consider yourself honest and intelligent.
Maybe you know that you can be a bit lazy.
Maybe you think your will power is strong.
Whatever those traits are, it’s always important to have a critical and honest observation about them.
This includes monitoring your own thoughts, emotions and behaviors on a daily basis and only then get to these conclusions.
Our thoughts and behaviors often reveal a different side of ourselves.
Maybe a friend achieved something you wanted for yourself and you got jealous.
Or you think of yourself as an honest person, yet you frequently steal paper clips from your work.
Then you create some sort of internal justification of why that is ok to do. This allows you to keep telling yourself that you are honest, despite a behavior that proves otherwise.
Having those kind of behaviors puts you in what psychologists now call: Cognitive dissonance.
Your identity has a conflict with what you feel or the way you are acting so, you create a rational justification that allows you to keep that identity and still have the same behavior.
In other words, you have a desire to do something, this desire goes against what you think about yourself (your identity), so you create a logical and rational reason that still allows you to fulfill that desire, keeping your identity.
For example, in the situation of you considering being honest and stealing paper clips from work, you may say how insignificant paper clips are for the company, or how they pay you badly either way, or how your boss is not fair with you, so this is a way to get some payback.
Yet, the stealing behavior is there. You just created some artificial reason for it.
This is what’s necessary to be 100% honest with yourself. Having a filter that cut through those justifications of negative behaviors. To be aware of your desires, be aware of what you want to become, and notice if this is a behavior or action that leads you towards that goal or away from it.
This is having an examined life, as Socrates well put it.
And that’s not easy.
It requires you to cut through your own crap and get to the bottom of it.
Again, on the paper clip example, if your boss is not fair with you, you don’t get back to him by stealing paper clips. Either you quit, or you talk with him or with HR. If your company pays you badly, the solution is similar. This is what leads you to become a strong willed person.
And so on.
It also requires to control your own desires. If you have a desire to steal paper clips, instead of finding a reason to do it, you examine that desire and notice if this is something that is leading to what you want to become.
This is, of course, a ridiculous example with the paper clips, but we face those kind of behaviors and have this kind of similar justifications on a daily basis in many different ways.
Both with ourselves and others.
Cutting through our own crap is a work of inner power and Will.
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