In the first article in this series of 4 on ‘Self-Care’, I looked at a definition of ‘self’ as defined by Atkinson and Field (1995) as ‘I am’. I also mentioned that internal and external factors including life circumstances and relationships as being influential in determining our ‘self-concept’. In the second article to this series on self-care, we will explore the need for self-understanding.

For most of us, how others perceive us is important. But, do others see the real me? Do others see the real person on the inside? Can I be genuinely be myself with others?

Do I know ‘me’?

Some of us put on a mask and look how others want us to look, to do, and to be, hiding the real ‘I’ or ‘self’. There are many reasons why we do this, and each person will have his/her own story or journey that has influenced them. However, regardless of why we hide, putting on the mask of ‘People Perception Perfection’ (PPP, my term) works as a protective barrier to look after and care for our insecurity, our pain, and hurt on the inside. On the upside PPP keeps us safe. On the downside PPP can become extremely tiring and may prevent us from being genuinely our ‘true-self’ and from being in genuine growth-oriented relationships. At its worst it can impair our ability to function effectively.

How I perceive myself is important to functioning effectively and to being in healthy relationships.

Developing a healthy self-concept begins with ‘Self-Understanding’.

What is self-understanding?

  1. knowledge or understanding of one’s own capabilities, character, feelings, or motivations : self-knowledge.
  2. one’s conception of oneself especially as part of a group (Merriam Webster, 2020)

This is a huge statement. Does gaining self-understanding sound like hard work? It can be, and it can be a painful journey as we delve into the “I am’. However, the rewards lead to good self-awareness and improves our ability to do self-care.

How do we develop self-understanding?

Andrews (2018) writes that self-understanding happens through reflection:

In general, a person devotes all his/her life to self-knowledge and sometimes it even happens unconsciously.… The awareness and development of the personality take place gradually in accordance with the reflection of a person`s outer and inner life.

Carroll and Gilbert (2006, p. 83) has this to say:

Not being able to reflect is being condemned to repeating actions over and over again, to living out the scripts of others, and to living out received wisdom and learning that is handed to us but which never has been owned by us. For that is what reflection is: the ability to examine, to observe, to look at, to review, to evaluate, to interrogate, to assess, to question and to own.

Reflection then is lifelong and leads to learning new ways of being and doing that is not restricted or inhibited by others’ opinions or experiences, or to circumstance. Rather, through looking internally and externally of the self, ‘to examine, to observe, to look at, to review, to evaluate, to interrogate, to assess, to question and to own’ (Carroll and Gilbert, 2006, p. 83) ultimately for oneself. The process toward self-understanding may at times seem painful, the rewards however to know one’s ‘self’ are profound: encouraging, refreshing, and energising.


The next time you are with a group of friends look at what is happening inside of you. What do you notice? What is it about this group, or individuals in the group that encourages you?

When you are next feeling tired and in need of a rest, what do you notice about your body, emotions, thoughts? Can you allow yourself to stop for a while and recharge your internal battery?

What do you know about your ‘self’ that helps/prevents you doing self-care? What do you need to change?


Andrew, G. (2018) Retrieved from
Atkinson, D. J. & Field, D. H., Eds. (1995) New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology. Downers Grove: IVP
Carroll, M.& Gilbert, M. (2006). On Being a Supervisee: Creating learning partnerships. Kew, Victoria:PsychOzPublications. 83.
Merriam-Webster (2020) Retrieved from