It’s an Ancient Greek aphorism to know thyself, but what exactly does that mean?
The person who can be attributed to saying this is debated and the list of possible creators of the phrase is greater than ten. One of which includes Socrates who may be the most commonly thought speaker of the phrase know thyself.
Some of the other possible creators include Pythagoras, Bias of Priene, Myson of Chenae and many other Greek Sages.
So regardless of who said it, what does it mean?
Knowing Thyself’s Power
The truth is, the phrase can mean whatever you want it to mean or whatever you feel it means to you.
It’s an applied saying and can simply be translated as know your limits, know your motivation or simply know yourself.
- The original saying may have been to know not to speak ill of those who decide your fate (according to Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus which may be its first use in literature).
But by knowing thyself we can use it as a word of caution and a word of motivation.
In the modern world we want to know ourselves and with the tools we have available, we all believe in truth we know ourselves better than anyone else does.
This may be true and quite literally is. However, the fog in what we don’t know about ourselves is never taken into caution for what we apply ourselves in and how we should go about doing it in a way that most benefits us.
Knowing thyself is how much applied introspection to our personalities has been taken and if we can witness our strengths and weaknesses.
The world is constantly changing around us and in a phrase that can still apply in a completely different world, this is proof that introspection will remain as important now as it was then.
Consider a time when you wanted to do something outside of your limits and were ignorant to learn the methods of whatever it might be.
There is no penalty in doing what you have no experience in. But to give meaning in the effort of doing so is to know thyself well enough to see an advantage in gaining the experience.
Our courage is constantly tested and our motivation ever struggling.
Knowing how we operate and how obstacles pass us by is to know thyself and allow ourselves to grow in areas we cannot and will not immediately succeed.
This brings me to my next point which is if we are able to be as introspective as we see fit.
Do You Know Yourself?
It’s an annoying question that we feel the answer is obvious to.
Of course I know myself and you know yourself. We’ve been with these personalities for our whole lives and have had that time to learn about ourselves and how we operate.
But do we truly know what keeps us going, what we are ignorant of and why.
There’s a reason self-improvement, psychology and philosophy are still relevant topics.
It’s because humans all have that same barrier for our subconscious interpretation of ourselves and how others actually see us.
It’s something we can never truly understand unless we are able to step out of our own shoes. Although we can imagine what that might be like, we can never do it to the fullest extent that allows us to learn an outside perspective of our self.
So what’s the limit on actually knowing ourselves?
We might never know. Yet that’s one of the elements in introspection to consider. What we may believe about ourselves may not be true in the slightest. But reaching that realization is enough to give insight on self operation.
It’s something that can never be achieved to it’s entirety that we want it to be. However, that won’t stop us from wanting to know and wanting to learn about ourselves and how it can apply for us today.
Know Thy Own’s Triumphs And Shortcommings
To make true use of the phrase Know Thyself in modern times, we need to allow ourselves to see the questions Philosopher’s and Greek Literates had in mind when conjuring up this phrase.
How well do we do what we do? Do we know the limits of our strengths? Do we have to act successful to be successful?
Although they may seem like unanswerable questions, it’s the pursuit of the answer that leads to answers.
Insight is the main goal and whether that insight be far away or close to a conclusion, introspection is something that has gone ignored in modern times leaving self revelation seemingly unimportant to the normal life.
Know thyself and learn to understand your motivation, your work ethic and your morals for how to act.
Experience everything you want to experience and on the way evaluate the situations you are in and how the application of your personality plays into a certain role you unknowingly chose to place it in.
Introspection is an inviting and intoxicating experience because the answers can never be confirmed but only applied as answers if we see benefit in them.
Philosophy is something that will never be lost in the world as it is the background for everything going on now and forever. The questions of life fall into how far we are willing to seek and ask questions.
The modern use I see in it is taking the time to use self introspection to benefit those who are willing to go the extra length in seeking answers.