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Self-Knowledge

  • Men and women make sad mistakes about their own symptoms, taking their vague uneasy longings, sometimes for genius, sometimes for religion, and oftener still for a mighty love.

  • If you want to know all about the sea ... and ask the sea itself, what does it say? Grumble grumble swish swish. It is too busy being itself to know anything about itself.

  • When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others.

  • ... to be understood is not a human right. Even to understand oneself is not a human right.

  • I'd discovered you never know yourself until you're tested and that you don't even know you're being tested until afterwards, and that in fact there isn't anyone giving the test except yourself.

  • It is always hard to hear the buried truth from another person ...

  • It was completely fruitless to quarrel with the world, whereas the quarrel with oneself was occasionally fruitful, and always, she had to admit, interesting.

  • I sometimes imagine that as one grows older one comes to live a role which as a young person one merely 'played.'

    • May Sarton,
    • 1955, in Susan Sherman, ed., May Sarton: Among the Usual Days ()
  • It isn't until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are — not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within — that you can begin to take control.

    • Oprah Winfrey,
    • in Tuchy Palmieri, Oprah, In Her Words: Our American Princess ()
  • ... if we do not know our own history, we are doomed to live it as though it were our private fate.

    • Hannah Arendt,
    • in Carolyn Heilbrun, Writing a Woman's Life ()
  • I don't think I know a single woman who knows what she looks like.

  • We learn about others when we are with them; when we are alone and silent we discover things about ourselves.

  • You travel to discover yourself. At home there is known to you only the girl you remember. Who you really have become, you do not know. When you travel, that person emerges: she is mirrored in the faces of people you meet.

  • There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.

  • It is a fault to wish to be understood before we have made ourselves clear to ourselves.

  • You are what you are. It is my opinion that trouble in the world comes from people who do not know what they are, and pretend to be something they're not.

  • ... as one grows older, one realizes how little one knows about any relationship, or even about oneself.

  • Until we see what we are, we cannot take steps to become what we should be.

  • The shocking discovery that her way was not necessarily good because it was hers had been epoch-making in her life ...

  • To every man in the world there is one person of whom he knows little: whom he would never recognize if he met him walking down the street, whose motives are a mystery to him. That is himself.

  • Everyone realizes that one can believe little of what people say about each other. But it is not so widely realized that even less can one trust what people say about themselves.

  • Going to meet a stranger or semi-stranger, can you help asking yourself what they are coming to meet?

  • ... it may be in morals as it is in optics, the eye and the object may come too close to each other, to answer the end of vision. There are certain faults which press too near our self-love to be even perceptible to us.

    • Hannah More,
    • "Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great, to General Society," The Works of Hannah More, vol. 1 ()
  • It is hard living down the tempers we are born with. We all begin well, for in our youth there is nothing we are more intolerant of than our own sins writ large in others and we fight them fiercely in ourselves; but we grow old and we see that these our sins are of all sins the really harmless ones to own, nay that they give a charm to any character, and so our struggle with them dies away.

  • The minute you or anybody else knows what you are you are not it, you are what you or anybody else knows you are and as everything in living is made up of finding out what you are it is extraordinarily difficult really not to know what you are and yet to be that thing.

  • i had expected more than this. / i had not expected to be / an ordinary woman.

  • Maybe other people's ideas of us are truer than our own.

    • Zelda Fitzgerald,
    • "Scandalabra" (1932), in Matthew J. Bruccoli, ed., Zelda Fitzgerald: The Collected Writings ()
  • Figuring out who you are is the whole point of the human experience.

  • There is absolutely no pain quite so excruciating as the discovery of one's own shallowness, hypocrisy and selfishness of motive.

  • Often we hate in others the thing which we fear in ourselves; or we hate because the other person raises to our consciousness some fault or inadequacy which we would prefer to have remain unconscious, and therefore without power to disturb our self-complacency.

  • If you don't know what you want from life, you will accept anything.

  • The journey toward self-discovery is life's greatest adventure.

  • A personality cannot be changed; it can only be revealed. To find out what we really are, what it is that makes us rare and wonderful and different from everybody else in the world, we must peel off the layers of fear, withdrawal, self-doubt, confusion and habit that grow around and harden over our inner core until we are as hidden from our own knowledge as we are from everyone else's.

  • The bolder and more courageous you are, the more you will learn about yourself.

  • Occasionally there is a moment in a person's life when he takes a great stride forward in wisdom, humility, or disillusionment. For a split second he comes into a kind of cosmic understanding. For a trembling breath of time he knows all there is to know. He is loaned the gift the poet yearned for — seeing himself as others see him.

  • I put on several different outfits. The advantage of not knowing who you are is you can attempt to be all things to all men ... or women. My mother saw me always glancing in every mirror, every window; in the gleaming blades of knives. She said, 'Jill is vain.' She did not know I was looking to see who would be there this time.

  • Who sees the other half of Self, sees Truth.

  • Once you've started down that road to self-discovery, no matter how treacherous the path before you, you can't turn back. The universe doesn't allow it.

  • Somewhere inside we do know everything about ourselves. There is no real forgetting. Perhaps we know somewhere, too, about all there is to come.

  • There is something all life has in common, and when I know what it is I shall know myself.

  • Watching the moon / at midnight, / solitary, mid-sky, / I knew myself completely, / no part left out.

    • Izumi Shikibu,
    • c. 1000, in Jane Hirshfield with Mariko Aratani, trans., The Ink Dark Moon ()
  • I used to think there would be a blinding flash of light someday, and then I would be wise and calm and would know how to cope with everything and my kids would rise up and call me blessed. Now I see that whatever I'm like, I'm pretty well stuck with it for life. Hell of a revelation that turned out to be.

  • A child should be allowed to take as long as she needs for knowing everything about herself, which is the same as learning to be herself. Even twenty-five years if necessary, or even forever. And it wouldn't matter if doing things got delayed, because nothing is really important but being oneself.

  • Personal power, which is derived from our ability to act in the interest of ourselves and others, is developed from our ability to first clearly see and understand ourselves.

  • Knowing what you want is the first step in getting it.

  • Listening to your heart is not simple. Finding out who you are is not simple. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to get to know who you are and what you want.

  • The truth was, she was becoming more and more uncomfortably conscious not only that the things she said, and a good many of the things she thought, had been taken down off a rack and put on, but that what she really felt was something else again.

  • ... I've always thought I was looking for myself whenever I traveled. Like a journey anywhere was really a journey through myself.

  • You can live a lifetime and, at the end of it, know more about other people than you know about yourself.

  • You never find yourself until you face the truth.

  • There's a period of life when we swallow a knowledge of ourselves, and it becomes either good or sour inside.

  • In a lifestyle where there are no boundaries, it becomes a challenge to find one's true self. If everything comes easily, there is no way to establish worth. And if nothing has real value, then there is no way to gauge satisfaction or accomplishment or contentment.

  • I am not reinventing myself. I am going through the layers and revealing myself. I am on a journey, an adventure that's constantly changing shape.

  • The first half of life is spent mainly in finding out who we are, through seeing ourselves in our interaction with others.

  • I have met a thousand scamps; but I never met one who considered himself so. Self-knowledge isn't so common.

  • He who cries, 'What do I care about universality? I only know what is in me,' does not know even that.

  • Adventure can be an end in itself. Self-discovery is the secret ingredient that fuels daring.

  • I don't want to die without knowing who I am.

  • If you don't know what you want, you'll probably get what somebody else wants.

  • Our opinion of people depends less upon what we see in them, than upon what they make us see in ourselves.

  • Self-reflection is a desire felt by the body, as well as the soul. As dancers, healers, and saints all know, when you turn your attention toward even the simplest physical process — breath, the small movements of the eyes, the turning of a foot in midair — what might have seemed dull matter suddenly awakens.

  • There's nothing more unforgivable than someone who thinks he knows more about yourself than you do.

  • I think self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.

  • To uncover your true potential you must first find your own limits and then you have to have the courage to blow past them.

  • If she had ever really known what she wanted, perhaps she would have got it. If you didn't know, you caught at this and that, thinking, as it flashed at you, that it must be what you were looking for, and then, soberly face to face with it, knowing it for something so remote from your seeking.

  • The knowledge of ourselves is a difficult study, and we must be willing to borrow the eyes of our enemies to assist the investigation.

  • ... we can search for and attain to only one being, that one which was given us, which is within us and which awaits its birth from ourselves. Each day I feel that I leave myself a little more, the better to go toward my encounter with myself.

    • Georgette Leblanc,
    • 1898, in Janet Flanner, trans., Souvenirs: My Life With Maeterlinck ()
  • She spent her life experimenting with people to see how she could make them react, as if, in their response, she could discover herself.

  • Awareness of the self is more acutely at the heart of things than it has ever been before. On the foundation of self-awareness alone rest all our hopes for a new politics, a new society, a revitalized life. If we do not genuinely know ourselves, the void will now, at last, surely rise up to meet us.

    • Vivian Gornick,
    • "Why Do These Men Hate Women?" Essays in Feminism ()
  • I think knowing what you can not do is more important than knowing what you can do. In fact, that's good taste.

    • Lucille Ball,
    • in Eleanor Harris, The Real Story of Lucille Ball ()
  • I wish there were shortcuts to wisdom and self-knowledge: cuter abysses or three-day spa wilderness experiences. Sadly, it doesn't work that way. I so resent this.

  • There is no American border as perilous as the one separating self-knowledge from self-absorption ... how does one search for personal truth without collapsing into narcissism?

  • Tell me what you want, and I'll tell you who you think you are. Tell me what you fear, and I'll tell you who you really are.