Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.”
But what does that mean?
I googled “know thyself” and found many interpretations. So I’ll define it the best I can, and you can refine or edit my definition as you see fit.
To know yourself is to be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses, to celebrate your uniqueness, and to strive toward an ideal.
The Bible says we are made in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26); therefore, we have great potential for love (because God is love—see 1 John 4:16). And because God is the Creator, we are also creators, though not on as grand a scale. But unlike God, we are not perfect. Our human condition can always use a tune up.
The tune up starts with examining ourselves and taking stock.
The examination can take many forms. Meditation. Journaling. Asking ourselves questions.
Here are some questions to help you know yourself better:
- How am I loving? How do I interact with the people in my life—my family, my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors, my superiors, my acquaintances? Am I helpful? Critical? Kind? Judgmental? Generous? Competitive?
- Does my work contribute to society? (Sometimes it may be hard to tell. Easy jobs to evaluate: brain surgeon, yes; bank robber, no. The more mundane occupations get a little harder: supermarket checker, yes; waste management engineer, yes; professional gambler, no. Professional football player, that’s a hard call.) If your work helps only yourself, maybe you should check out the next question.
- What am I doing to make the world a better place? Am I volunteering? Am I donating money to good causes? When I see someone in distress, do I stop and help? Do I clean up my own messes?
- What do I do well? What are my skills and my gifts? How am I using them?
- What are one or two skills or qualities where I am lacking? Am I patient? Do I keep in touch with my friends and extended family? Am I physically fit? Is my spending out of control?
The reason for asking yourself questions like these are to understand yourself, so that you can use your resources wisely. You may want to “spend” yourself more effectively. You may find things about yourself that you want to change. Knowing yourself truly is a path to wisdom, a way to grow and to live wisely.
Why am I including an article about knowing yourself on ARHtistic License? Because your self-knowledge informs your art. Whether you are a quilter, a songwriter, a visual artist, or a writer, what you create comes from deep within yourself. Your art can be part of the healing process for yourself and for others who experience your creations. Knowing yourself will make you a better creator.
If your self-examination reveals way more negatives than positives, you may be suffering from depression, or guilt, or low self-esteem, and you may need some help getting out of your slump. Counseling may be in order. At very least, sit down with someone you trust and talk about your concerns. Sometimes someone who knows you very well will be able to point out strengths you didn’t know you had.