Know Yourself (1)

“Know yourself” is a maxim that dates back to Ancient Greek times. And in today’s crazy world it’s more important than ever. The world is moving too quickly now to just tread water and pretend we are OK. If we don’t know ourselves, we leave ourselves open to others telling us who we should be. We risk being swept away.

Some people may not yet feel the need to know themselves. They may say, “Of course I know myself! I’m here!” Or maybe, “Why do I need to do this navel-gazing when I can just be doing things?” Or maybe, “Why is it important? I have others to tell me what I need to do!” Or maybe, “As long as I make money I’m good!” There are lots of easy ways to avoid self-knowledge.

And the meaning of “know yourself” has also changed, at least for me. I used to think it meant choosing a profession, the “what will I do when I grow up?” question. By this measure, I felt inadequate. Other people “knew themselves” from an early age: they knew they wanted to be lawyers or doctors or actors or musicians. But I like most people wasn’t so sure what I wanted to do, and told myself that what I really wanted to do was impractical, not easily monetized. So, by the “what do you want to do when you grow up?” yardstick, I felt I was a failure in the “know yourself” lottery.

Finally, I have figured out that “doing something” is no guarantee of knowing yourself. In fact, if we keep too busy on things that don’t matter to us, it’s really hard to get to know ourselves. It’s avoidance. To know ourselves is to know our values, our strengths, our limits, our passions. To know ourselves is to filter out what’s not important, and zero in on what is important. To know ourselves is to know our dreams so we can go after them. It’s constant but rewarding work. As we grow, there are more and more ways to know ourselves in all our complexity – and go after our dreams unapologetically.