Nov. 29, 2022

The Four Layers of Self-Knowledge

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EPISODE 62                 

In this final episode of the series on interior life and leadership, I discuss four distinct and deepening layers of knowing ourselves.

As interior pilgrims we need to understand why self-knowledge needs to go beyond knowing about ourselves to learning how to attune to our inner selves and knowing how to lead ourselves into unity and wholeness.

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(00:00:31) - Introduction
(00:01:03) - Leadership Series Recap
(00:04:43) - What I Mean by "Self-Knowledge"
(00:05:56) - The First Layer
(00:07:59) - The Second Layer
(00:09:22) - The Third Layer
(00:12:11) - The Fourth Layer
(00:18:14) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
(00:20:51) - Conclusion
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to the Four Layers of Self-Knowledge, what resonated with you?

- Consider which of these four layers of self-knowledge is most familiar to you.
- Which layer of self-knowledge is a surprise to you - maybe something you have not been aware of?

 Pay more attention to that one layer of self-knowledge that you have not been very aware of
- Spend some time thinking how you can help yourself grow a little bit more in self-knowledge in that particular layer.
- Start with finding out more - whichever layer it is that you've decided to look at a little bit more deeply.
- Resources: ask, seek, read - there are a lot of things that I've already shared in previous episodes. You can find something in there and maybe dive a little deeper in. 

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Knowing myself means I become attuned to my body, the sensations, the thoughts that I have – the emotions. I become an expert in a sense of knowing what makes me fearful or what triggers me. And I know how to make – to step back when things like that happen; to listen to my needs. And not just push that aside and bypass my needs in order to get things done.

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.
Hello again, dear listeners. Okay, so, today I'd like to round off the series that I've been doing on leadership with an episode talking about self-knowledge. Now, in all the previous episodes on interior life and leadership, right – I've talked about or touched on insecurities, on leadership scripts, on – you know, performing from our scripts and trying to perform a role versus being in touch with our core identity as we lead.

And you know, all along trying to get at what is it like to live authentically – to continue that interior journey of discovering who we truly are and leading from that place instead of being brought out only to that level of trying to fit a mould of what people think a leader should be or what we think being a leader should look like.

Now, when we have the interior journey in our sights, and when we know that that's actually the underlying thread that goes through our entire life and through the way we practice leadership, we cannot escape the, you know – how should I say – we cannot escape the importance of learning to know ourselves more deeply, right?

In fact, that's what Interior Journey is very much about. But I think up to now, I haven't really broken down how self-knowledge has different dimensions and layers. Okay, so this – in some way, this episode goes beyond just leadership, but really, it deals with something that permeates our entire interior journey.

Learning to know ourselves so that we can love ourselves, so that we can lead ourselves, right. But this is also very applicable to leadership because if we don't know how to get to know ourselves more deeply, to lead ourselves more effectively, then we won't be able to continue to grow in wholeness and authenticity as leaders as well.

And even less, will we be able to lead others into greater authenticity and wholeness. Okay, so, even if we are not – our leadership roles does not explicitly require us to help people grow in authenticity and wholeness, when we are very committed and present to our own growth – usually something about that presence is also reflected in the way we relate and lead – relate to others and how we lead others.

And, you know, that's what it's about, right? Like learning to be that kind of presence that will also maybe inspire others to seek their true selves and to become more authentic – to live more deeply and more humanly. So, without further ado, I'm going to leave you with this recording, that actually is the audio track of an Instagram video that I've done – that I did, I think, a few weeks back.

And it's about the four layers of self-knowledge. And if you look at the show notes, you will also find the link to the video that I've also put on YouTube, and a post that I made on Instagram and Facebook that has some of the notes of what these four layers of self-knowledge are.

I hope that you find what I share here to be useful and that you have enjoyed the series on leadership and the interior life.


Okay, so I've been trying to establish in recent videos and posts on social media, the importance of self-knowledge in our interior journey, right – our interior journey, greater authenticity, integration in our relationship with God as well.

So, there is always a dual dimension, right? There's three dimensions, but beginning with me and God, me and myself, then there can be me and my neighbour, right. So, in the interior life, self-knowledge is crucial, is essential. But what do I mean by self-knowledge? Okay, I think I want to unpack this a little bit also because maybe you hear self-knowledge, and you have certain assumptions about what I'm talking about.

Right, and I want to differentiate also between different layers of knowing ourselves. Okay, so there was a post – if you follow me on my Instagram or Facebook – there is a post I made about four layers of knowing God. I'm going to go through these four layers now in relation to our relationship with ourself, okay?

[00:05:56] THE FIRST LAYER
Because the principles are the same. So, the first layer of knowing myself is an intellectual kind of knowing. It's a detached kind of knowing. By detached, I don't mean bad – it's just it means that it is kind of like more at the level of, you know, conceptual –you know, I know something about myself. So, how would I come to know something at the level about myself?

One – actually, especially when we're very young, we may come to know that about myself ourselves, or believe about ourselves because we hear people saying that about us. Right, so, if we keep hearing people say, "Oh yeah, this one can study really well" or you know "he's smart". Then I may think I know that about myself – I am smart, at an intellectual level – right.

If let's say you're somebody that likes to take different kinds of personality assessments and tests – for example the Myers Briggs – you may say, "Oh, okay. Well, according to this instrument, you know, I am an ENFP" – for example. Okay, if it doesn't mean anything to you, that's all right.

Doesn't matter. But, you know, I read what this description is about, and supposedly by taking this assessment, this is what I'm like. And maybe I see some similarities, you know, to what I observe about myself. But notice this knowing – this knowledge is still about me, right? It's an intellectual knowing about myself – similar to when I was referring to knowing God at this layer of knowing.

You know, I can study scriptures, I can read what, you know, scholars say about God through – let's say, the study of scripture or through theology. I can study what is handed down in my tradition about God – but it's about God. It's coming from still, you know – a little bit further out from myself, right.

It's not a personal kind of knowing – not the whole person, at least, I mean, intellect is part of my person. But it's just one dimension of knowing – intellectual knowing.

The second layer of knowing is experiential knowing, right. So, I know from experience that I like fried chicken, for example, right? Maybe a particular brand of fried chicken, you know?

I know I can experience things about myself, and I know what I like. So, that's another level of knowing. And it's not just knowing about – because there is an aspect of "Oh, I like fried chicken", but I know that not because something else told me, I took some tests, or I heard somebody else say that about me.

I know it from my experience – so I know that to be true, right? So, it is a little deeper now. I know that to be true about myself – that I like fried chicken. But at both these layers of knowing, notice there's – I can't say that there's really a relationship, right – a deeper relationship with myself. It may be easier if you think about it in relation to someone else.

Okay, I can know a lot about, let's say, a celebrity that I might like. I may follow the person's Instagram. I may read whatever article that comes up, or news about this person. I might know a lot about it. I may experience that person's acting or singing, you know, whatever. But I can't say that I'm in relationship with that person, right? There's no relationship yet.

[00:09:22] THE THIRD LAYER
To be in relationship, we need to talk about the third layer of knowing – what I call the effective knowing. Right, effective knowing is now, being aware of, you know – attuning to someone. Okay, so, when I talk about effective knowledge of God or effective knowing of God, it's – I'm attuning to how God is attuned to me.

There's a dynamic there – how this person is present to me, right. So, there has to be a bit of relationship now, a deeper relationship. So, when I'm talking about effective knowledge of myself, I'm talking about attuning to myself. Am I present to my moods? Okay, not just as an external observer, but with a stance of caring and concern like I would for a friend, right.

If I notice someone I care about – if I'm attuned to that person, I will be sensitive to what's going on; what seems to be going on in him or her's emotional life or life. I will have that concern. I want to be present to notice and to, you know, to be with that person in whatever he or she's going through.

And if I care about the person, I know he or she's in distress, I want to be able to also be – in a sense, a calming presence to help him or her come back to being grounded and anchored, right – if possible. I mean, not that can solve any problem, but just to be with that person so that they can come to be present and know that they're not alone.

And that is how God's attuned to me. And if I know God effectively at this third layer of knowing, it means that I'm present to him, being present to me. Okay, that's very, very different than just knowing about him or experiencing, you know, God reaching out to me now and then, right. It's a deep presence.

Attuning to myself – effectively knowing myself means I become attuned to my body; the sensations, the thoughts that I have, the emotions. I become an expert, in a sense of knowing what makes me fearful or what triggers me. And I know how to step back when things like that happen – to listen to my needs and not just push it aside and bypass my needs in order to get things done.

Okay, this deeper level of knowing – effective knowing of myself – gives context and life to the levels of intellectual and experiential knowing of myself, okay? I won't go too much into that tier, but it flashes the other kinds of knowing of myself, right? So, that's effective knowing, being attuned to myself.

And then the fourth layer of knowing, I called it unitive knowing, right? And when I was referring to our relationship with God, I said, unitive knowing of God is, you know, being so loved by God that I become love myself, right?  So steeped in being held and loved and known by God, that I become really the incarnate bodily presence of God in the world through my life – I become one.

You know, it's going towards union with God. It's a great intimacy. When I'm applying this to self-knowledge, unitive knowing – I will be referring to internal harmony. Okay, what does that mean? When I am not attuned to myself, if I can't even attune to myself, I will not realize when all parts of me are very fragmented.

Okay, I'm broken and fragmented. I may be in distress and I'm not aware of it. You know, I may be just too busy to notice that I'm in distress. And I may try and pray it away or intellectualize it away. I'm not being with myself. Right, so, then the parts of myself would still be at war with one another.

That's often the norm for us because we are wounded people. And having been wounded, our interior reality would be fragmented. There are many parts of us that are not in harmony, and that's why we are not at peace within ourselves. So, we find it very difficult to be at peace with others or at peace with God.

How can we have harmony with others when we are in such disharmony within ourselves. Now, but this is a reality that a lot of people don't pay attention to, right. Even when we recognize that we want to improve our relationships with others, a lot of us try to do that without trying to address the disharmony within ourselves.

So, unitive knowing of myself really is actually moving towards integration and harmony within myself. Okay, so, it's a kind of knowing that attuning to myself, right – the third layer, the effective layer, effective knowing myself; attuning to myself more and more – that the different parts of me are becoming one. They become more united, they're more in harmony, right?

So, the knowing now is almost like a state of being. Just like unitive knowing of God is actually a state of being. It's not just – it's definitely not just intellectual knowing. Okay, so, we have to – you have to remember that when I say knowing, it's not just intellectual knowing – that it's just one layer.

Okay, one layer of knowing. So, unitive knowing of myself then, is being more one, more integrated. Right, and that means there's greater integrity within myself, greater harmony. When we are talking about self-knowledge and in the context of spirituality, in the context of being a more authentic person – all these layers of knowing self is important.

And we struggle with this because the way the world values knowledge, often it's just at the level of intellectual and experiential, right?  The world is a very fragmented world because there's so little presence and atunement of people knowing how to be with one another. And so, most of us growing up in the schools, in the systems, in our families, we would not have very much experience of being attuned to – of being really, really very well attuned to.

And even when we begin to take our faith seriously, for most of us, our exposure to religion and faith will also meet us first at the level of intellect – maybe experience, right; practices, religious practices. We learn a lot of a list of do's and don'ts.

Prayer – for a lot of us, we learn set prayers. Not that these are bad prayers or inferior prayers, but I'm saying they are not intimate. And on their own, they can't help us build an intimate relationship with God, right? Whether it's with God or with ourselves. So, if we are at that point in our journey, if you are at that point in your journey where you find that you've plateaued – okay, your spiritual growth has plateaued, and you've gone for a lot of formation courses, you've done lot studies.

You try to be regular in your prayer, and yet you find you do not really know yourself. You don't really love yourself and you still wonder whether God really, really loves you – even though your mind tells you yes, I believe. But you find that actually you're still fearful and insecure.

Maybe it's these deeper levels or layers of knowing that you need to enter. The effective knowing of God and of yourself and the unitive knowing of God and yourself. Right, so, that's what this account is about. And you know, I try to help you to see that these deeper ways of coming into union, right, with yourself and with God.

And when that happens – when we enter these deeper layers of knowing, we also learn to be that way when we know others, right? Especially those that we're in deeper relationships with, right? Not just strangers, acquaintances – but sometimes even when we are face to face with somebody that's not necessarily a close friend or family, we'll find that we, over time would've cultivated the ability to be present to them, to really hear and see what's going on – the needs that they may not even communicate verbally.

Right, because we have learned to be deeply present to God being present with them and within us.

Here are the praxis prompts for today's episode. One: Listen –so, as you listened to the Four Layers of Self-Knowledge, what resonated with you?
 Two: Ponder –I invite you to consider which of these four layers of self-knowledge is most familiar to you. Maybe something that you have already been embarking on – to grow in self-knowledge. And which layer of self-knowledge is a surprise to you – maybe something you have not been aware of.
 Three: Act –okay, I invite you to pay a bit more attention to maybe, that one layer of self-knowledge that you have not been very aware of, that you haven't really thought about. And I invite you to spend some time thinking how you can help yourself grow a little bit more in self-knowledge in that particular layer, right.
 Whether it is the layer of knowing about yourself, the layer of getting to experience yourself a little bit more deeply, to know yourself through experience – or to be more attuned to yourself, to be more present and able to accompany yourself. Or finally, perhaps the layer of growing in integration. What would that be like?
 What can you help – what can you do to help yourself into that greater wholeness? Now, if your answer is, "I don't know" – I don't know what I can do to grow in this particular layer of self-knowledge – maybe you can start with finding out more. If you care enough about growing in deeper self-knowledge, right – whichever layer it is that you've decided to maybe look at a little bit more deeply.
 There are resources out there. Ask, seek, read. Right, and there are a lot of things that I've already shared in previous episodes, so, you can find something in there and maybe dive a little deeper in. So, I hope that you have enjoyed the series on leadership and the interior life, and I wish you pleasant journey.
 [00:20:51] CONCLUSION
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. 
The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!