About "finding yourself"

by phil on Monday Dec 19, 2005 4:28 AM

There are many ways to discover oneself. One thing I did was create a text file on my computer called "know thyself.txt"

Because I had heard this cliche before, a cliche that floats in the culture of twentysomething people, that they need to go out into the world and find themselves.

I have absolutely no idea what that means and why people need to do it, but for some reason it seemed to me like a good idea. If you stumble around pop psychology you'll see an emphasis on having a clear grasp of who you are. Or in literature there are lots of allusions to journeys of self-discovery.

But also, check it out, this concept goes back furthur, a couple millenia in history, to the ancient Greeks. At the top of the Oracle, chiseled in Greek it says "Gnothi Seauton," which means "know thyself." They also have written "everything in moderation." These are the only two statements written at the top of the oracle, so I figure that they must be very important kernels of wisdom. So I tried to dig my nails deeper into this concept of "knowing thyself."

And also people, like college students, would go on trips and come back and say "oh, I've found myself." Or you'll have someone who is dating for a while, but then breaks up and says, "Oh, I need to find myself."

See, I have no idea why I'm following this wind, just like you have no idea why bell bottoms were in. But I have that need. I'm someone who likes to introspect and improve my life, so hey, maybe there's something to knowing thyself.

So I created this list, and it's a running list of things about myself that I want to put to myself. It got to be a pretty long list. And I have things in there like: "my mind likes to crunch a lot of things in the background" or "I feel entitled to at least as much as everybody else gets" or "I hate being wrong" or "I'm lazy unless I enjoy what I'm doing or it's easy." or here's a good one: "my long-term perspective is very status-driven, my short-term perspective very pleasure-driven." Or "I don't like to listen to others."

So I made this list, and it's like 400 entries, and when I was done, it didn't do anything. And this was 2003.

Nowadays things are different. I'll encounter a situation, like let's say I had a big argument with someone close to me, and it really disturbs me, and I think a lot about it. I'll come up with some sort of statement that was already on this list, and yet, when I say it now, I really feel like I'm learning about myself or "finding myself," because there's a difference.

You can look at yourself like a scientist, and list all the objective details as a scientist does when observing an organism, like a snail: Oh this snail has a shell on its back with spirals on the side. But look at the etymology of realize. The first part of it says, "to comprehend completely or clearly." The second part says, "to bring into reality. To make real." When you really realize something about yourself, you have an internal understanding about that concept. What I'm trying to say is, you could ask your friend "tell me 100 things about myself" and it won't do you any good unless those concepts get wired into your head, and get attached to the emotional bubble groups that relate to your living situation and decisions. I like to think of decision-making and living as a networked-process. Every act you make is somehow influenced by your previous past memories which are all connected in some configuration that should give you some response about what is proper. And when you have a true realization about something, it's like something gets inserted into that network and affects everything about you and your worldview. Knowing something about yourself creates something in that knowing that makes a wake of impact throughout your life. And I think a lot of this process is in how the knowing is formatted in your head. For example...

(let's see, how much do I really want to reveal about myself here. Sure why not).

For example.. I could've told you 2 years ago, "I don't like going to bars," but I would still keep going to bars and keep being frustrated about why I don't like going to bars. Or I'd say, "I don't like going to parties that much" and that "I don't really get anything out of them." And I'd respond back to these statements, so what? big deal? I don't like a certain kind of music yet I'm still listening to it.

But nowadays, these statements get rephrased to myself in a different sense. In this case the new phrase is "I don't think I'm down for everything." Like you know how some people are always up for anything. They're like, "yeah yeah, let's go out. cool, I'm down, let's do this, alright yes." I'm not like that. My tolerance level for risk--certain kinds of risk--is different than other people. Some people leave their doors unlocked and have unprotected sex. And I know what the probabilites are, and I know the numbers, but I just want my odds to be one in a thousand. Maybe I'm petty. I mean I take risks in life, like quitting cushy jobs, and entering business, but they're calculated risks. I won't get so drunk that I could get into a fight, not remember what happened, end up in jail, and be in court the next day.

When I explain to myself "you're not down for anything" it really affects me. It's like "Oh." See, I could've told you I don't like parties or messing around or fooling around like everyone else. But what's really going on is that I had a self-image sense that I'm someone who's tolerant, flexible, a down-for-anything hippie, and that sort of drives a lot of decisions I make. But it's a false image. People will say, "Phil, let's do this," and I'll say yes, but then I'll be a party-pooper later.

So when you truly realize something about yourself, or when you fulfill that concept of "know thyself," you have to have beliefs about yourself that match reality. If otherwise you uphold ideal conceptions of what you are, and present those ideal conceptions of yourself to the world, then there's going to be a disconnect between the life you're living and what is your true destiny.


Kat said on December 27, 2005 4:37 PM:

Insightful, but is anyone really true to who they are? do you not change yourself daily like a cameleon because its easier? or is that just me... maybe its something that will come with age.

are lazy people the real terrorists?

Louis said on December 28, 2005 11:06 PM:

Wow, that sounded like my own internal monologue I just read...and I am not even stoned.

Philip Dhingra said on January 8, 2006 8:12 PM:

Yes, I think people change every day. We are constantly reinventing ourselves to adapt to the world.

I'm not sure I understand your comment about lazy people being terrorists.

Philip Dhingra said on January 8, 2006 9:43 PM:

Actually, I think I get what you mean. That the people who are lazy and just change from day to day without anchoring themselves to a consistent and true self are the real terrorists.

I think what I'm suggesting is not to discover you true self, but rather to avoid holding onto fictionalized accounts of yourself.

Hayley J said on April 27, 2006 2:57 PM:

Wow, that was great to read. I really related to it and it's comforting to know that others are feeling the same way. Growing up, it was always my dream to work in the music industry and manage bands. I worked hard and got my dream job but after 4 - 5 years I've realised that the life I've been leading isn't really making me happy and more importantly, the person I've always aspired to be isn't truely who I am. I've since chucked in my once beloved Music Bizz and I'm now searching for my true passion and hopefully going to allow myself to become the person that I actually am.

kellie said on May 22, 2006 9:13 PM:

i agree with what someone else said: very insightful. thank you.

Jayn said on July 3, 2006 8:26 PM:

i feel like this is a bunch of garbage. i have been trying for four years and i havn't been able to. i dont think there's something you can do, i think it's something that happens with time, because believe me i've done everything anyone could think of.

philipkd said on July 3, 2006 10:39 PM:

I wonder if self-acceptance is the true way to self-appraisal.

mary said on July 21, 2006 12:31 PM:

I agree with jayn its garbage

Morgan said on April 7, 2007 4:28 PM:

"The man who views the world at fifty the same as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life." ~Muhammad Ali
I agree with a lot of your views. Thanks for the insight.

Val said on May 1, 2007 9:17 AM:

I felt like I was talking to myself...great insight.

"If you can't be honest with yourself, then you're living a lie."

nancy Thomas said on September 9, 2007 12:05 AM:

I believe we are always going to be searching our souls for meaning. Find something you love to do and do it.Through pleasurable meaningful work it is easier to get to know the person you really are. Rich or famous is irrelevant. To me helping others, learning and loving are the true joys in life.
Good luck with your lovely quests as they will be lifelong and both joyous and sad. Remember if you love your work life is a lot more interesting....

Faith said on September 26, 2007 5:33 PM:

Try reading...Soul Cravings by Erwin Raphael McManus. Insightful book.

wawa said on April 7, 2008 9:21 PM:

uhm, im doing a speech on the subject of knowing myself, i found out alot going to a foreign country last year, but i learn something new each day. Does anyone have any stories for my speech with there way of finding out who they are?

rick said on April 24, 2008 5:39 PM:

yes.very interesting

Rami Tarraf said on May 16, 2008 5:31 AM:

i think this is a total waste of reading energy! i was captured by the search inquiry of google but when i actually read this article i fel t as if its addressed to someone with real issues that need to be seen by a doctor!! this isn't kno wing yourself this is knowing your flaws and pleasures. the real self knowlege is beyong comprehension so what can u say about a "written" self assessment??? sorry but im disappointed ..

Meg said on August 14, 2008 11:09 PM:

Rami, do you know the general definition of mental illness? Any kind of thinking that deviates from the norm can be considered "a real issue that need[s] to be seen by a doctor". Considering the complexity of the human brain, do you really believe that your thought patterns are the same in every way as the average? Combine a strict standard of sanity with modern-day psychologists' and psychiatrists' tendency to overdiagnose, and the only thing that is preventing EVERYONE from being considered "mentally ill" to some extent is their dishonesty about what their own thoughts and emotions. Obviously there are some people who will have great difficulty functioning without help, but I highly doubt the author is any worse off than you are in that department.

I think being conscious of yourself helps a lot, but you need to be willing to change your self-image when your self changes (or when your deeper, newer realizations conflict with older [false] assumptions). You also can't be shy about seeking out new situations, as they're essential in helping you understand why you behave in certain ways. Just my $0.02.

Meg said on August 14, 2008 11:10 PM:

*"...dishonesty about what their own thoughts and emotions ARE", sorry.

justin said on March 6, 2009 11:41 PM:

how does a person know who they really are and what there purpose is in life? there are many obsticle in life to overcome. many speed bumps that can make a person feels so down sometimes that they forgot what life is all about. How does a person pick themselves up after such a great fall like separating from your true love? ive forgot the meaning of life and forgot who i really am. how do i find myself?

Mel said on March 15, 2009 7:21 PM:

I think it is an interesting approach to learning about your personal habits. Many of the traits were listed as somewhat negative (not to judge) and your list could prove useful in confronting some of your fears. I truly believe that finding yourself involves letting go of your the entire structure that has been built upon throughout your life. Your personal concept of yourself is the very source of the confusion in your soul. I prefer meditation, to explore the self outside of ego prison walls. Good luck on your journey.

Dude! said on April 5, 2009 11:56 PM:

The more you search for who you are, the further you are from finding who you are! You have everything you ever wanted, realize that. And you have always had what you ever wanted. There is no getting to a destination. Be, do, have! You can be whoever you want, there is nothing keeping it from you but yourself.

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