Metacognition: To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom

“The wise man is one who knows what he does not know”
-Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu

No one likes the know-it-all

Blindly defending your opinion is often detrimental to your social reputation where people think you are just too proud to realize you are on the wrong side. I have had a few experiences with someone who thinks their position is right and willing to go to great lengths to defend it, but it is not. Growing up in Africa, I have often seen that correcting an older person is sometimes seen as rude, no matter how careful or polite you are (I have firsthand experience with this in my secondary school).
We might love to hate people who possess these characteristics, but quite often, we are usually in a position where we aren’t aware of being wrong or not welcoming corrections.

“He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions” -Confucius

We aren’t aware of it

No one wants to be deliberately wrong and fight to defend it unless you a psychopath. However, there are logical reasons why we do not realize our mistakes or do not take corrections easily.

Cognitive biases

While more biases might be at play, here are some of the most common reasons I suppose blind us from the truth. The first step to understanding our thinking is by knowing our cognitive biases.

The Impostor Syndrome

As explained in the Dunning-Kruger effect, the more you know, the less confident you’re likely to be. Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.
Occasionally, we are not sure of exactly how much we know, so we prefer not to speak. This is the other side of metacognition, where we aren’t sure what we know.

Curse of Knowledge

Once you understand something, you assume it is obvious to everyone. Usually fueled by ego, we tend to believe everyone knows something or is aware of it. Knowing our own thinking is essential, but it is also essential to know how far others know and respect them for it.

Actionable Steps

Although I don’t know enough to write about this topic, my curiosity and awareness of my ignorance motivated me to delve into more in-depth research on metacognition, which leads to my first point…

  • Be curious! Always seek to learn more. Keep learning! The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t know enough. Always seek to learn from others.

“Even though you know a thousand things, ask the man who knows one”

  • Question your knowledge. If you’re asked a question about a topic you think you know about, don’t simply jump into an answer and defend it. Question everything you know. Question everything you have learned. Only then will you realize how much you truly know.
  • Be humble! When corrected or questioned, don’t react negatively and see every challenge as an opportunity to learn more and become a better person. “It is impossible to learn that which one thinks he already knows.” Always remember you can be wrong and reassess your position every time
  • Keep learning! The more you learn, the more you grow. Every day, spend an hour or two learning something new or improving your knowledge.

“Learning never exhausts the mind” -Leonardo da Vinci

To learn more, see:
Image about common cognitive biases
Another Image about common cognitive biases
Laws of Human Nature
Thinking, fast and slow.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ahmed Arigbabu

Ahmed Arigbabu

Developer and user experience designer with a keen interest in cognitive and behavioral sciences, philosophy, and how things work.