“Know thyself” is a motto representing the foundation of personal responsibility. Apart from discovering your likes or preferences, knowing yourself is about turning your attention inward in a quiet reflection on your impact on others and the effect they have on you. And there is no end to this process as you continuously expand your personality through new experiences and learnings.
But is knowing yourself all there is? What do you do with all that knowledge?
Self-authorship takes us to next level of our adult journey and allows us to work with what we know about ourselves. Self-authoring individuals strive for autonomy and freedom from the automatic and unconscious ways of thinking and behaving. They go above and beyond “I am who I am” and take responsibility for their identity, behaviour and decisions. The knowledge they gain through self-reflection serves them as a tool in creating who they are, in contrast to those who assume that the way they are is all there is.
The process of self-authorship is about developing self-trust and self-efficacy regarding own life choices and decisions. A key component of this process is an honest comparison between who you are right now and who you wish to be. A clear distinction between the real and the ideal self creates room for acceptance and lesser defensiveness – because most people who tend to be insecure, sensitive to criticism or getting easily offended feel that way due to blurry boundaries between who they truly are and who they wish to be. For instance, if I believe I'm kind to people, which is my ideal, and someone points that I have been unkind – that will trigger my insecurity as I fall short of my ideal and fail to recognise and accept the real self, which is sometimes kind and sometimes not.
Robert Kegan's theory on adult development recognises self-authorship as a stage marked by moving away from being dependent on social values and expectations towards autonomy and independence. In contrast to people with the dominant “socialised mind” who place grave importance on how they are perceived by others, self-authoring individuals begin to negotiate social expectations with who they are and their independently chosen values and beliefs. For those people, relationships simply stop dictating who they are, which manifests as greater self-authority and internal locus of control.
Adult development doesn't end on the self-authorship stage and progresses towards the self-transforming mind which is marked by even greater self-awareness and understanding of interconnected social systems. However, for the purpose of this article, I will focus just on the process of self-authorship and how to work with this developmental stage.
Here are three dimensions of self-authorship along with tips on how to work with these spheres of life in order to develop your own self-authoring process. For more detailed description, this article dives even deeper into self-authorship stage and breaks down this process into greater detail.
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