Mastering one’s self

Mastering one’s self

I have assigned my students an individual reflection activity. The goal is for them to make sense of their journey so far in college by applying first-person tools in the spirit of authenticity and the general empirical method. In other words, the assignment is an opportunity for them to demonstrate what I call “sober self-awareness” or an insight about themselves.

I imagine writing this takes a lot of vulnerability. At the same time, I too feel vulnerable as I give them candid feedback and share my own thoughts too. I’d feel a lot like a hypocrite if I ask them to be authentic but I cannot reciprocate their authenticity!

Understanding or even attempting to master our “self” is not always a pleasant journey. Unlike the jolt we feel after answering a personality quiz, acquiring insights about our self can feel like the moment we sober up after a night of drinking. It feels like gazing at ourselves in the mirror, and at that moment, it is true that we are our own worst critic.

This is the second run I’ve given this assignment. It’s turning out that this is my favorite individual assignment, because I’ve been learning a lot from the insights of my students. There are times I feel guilty, because some of the pressures my students are feeling are byproducts of how me and my colleagues manage the curriculum.

In a way, acquiring a sober understanding of our “self” means identifying the crosses we have to bear. And in sharing a piece of our “self” with others, we share our vulnerability – our crosses – and we keep the faith that we can help each other carry our crosses.

Mark 8:34-9:1. Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.


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