GRE Issue Essay 29
“The most elusive knowledge is self-knowledge, and it is usually acquired through solitude, rather than through interaction with others.”
It is true that self-knowledge is the most baffling form of knowledge. However, in order to discuss how it can be acquired, the first step is to understand the meaning of self-knowledge. The form of knowledge that is referred to as self-knowledge is the knowledge that someone acquires about himself and these beliefs originate from his own thoughts. Man’s thought process is mostly governed by the environment in which he lives including the people with whom he interacts. Therefore, whenever someone acquires self-knowledge in any form, it is always through his interactions with other people. It cannot be acquired through solitude as he would be unable to discuss his viewpoints and nor would he be able to see how the others are reacting to a particular situation. Therefore, interaction amongst humans is extremely important for gaining self-knowledge.
It happens very often that you get views from others on something that is directly related to you and these views will largely determine what you think about yourself. This is a very important aspect of acquiring self-knowledge as it is based on gathering information about yourself from others. For instance, if you regularly interact with people who keep praising you about your work, then it will lead you into believing that you are good in your work. On the other hand, if you are regularly reprimanded for the poor quality of your work, you will develop a low self-esteem as you will start believing that you actually do not have the skills or the expertise to do your job well.
Every individual has the tendency to evaluate his own abilities when he looks at others who are more accomplished. How many times have teenagers tried to emulate fashion models and ended up becoming anorexic? This is because they compare themselves to others, thereby acquiring self-knowledge about their physical appearance and personality. There are a lot of people who assume that the appearance of their slim friends is the ideal body form and they strive to attain that form by starving themselves. Would this have been possible if these people had never interacted with others who were slimmer than they were? If they had been living in solitude, then perhaps they would have never gained the self-knowledge that they needed to change their body appearance to a form that is more fit and healthy.
There are so many times that we have thanked God for our well-being when we see others who are living in a state of penury. This instills a positive feeling that makes people feel happy rather than feeling unhappy during a bad phase of life. For instance, if there has been a robbery in the neighborhood in 2-3 houses at the same time, the one who has lost the least amount of cash and valuable assets feels that he is better off than the ones who have lost assets that are worth much more. This lessens his grief to quite an extent, but at the same time, this would not have been possible if the robbery had taken place in one house only as the victim would not have been able to compare himself to the misfortunes of others. This analysis of whether your inner-self is happy or unhappy after an event takes place is largely dependent on the state of others who were a part of the same event. Therefore, this form of self-knowledge can only be acquired by living with others, interacting with them and learning from their gains and losses.