“gnothi seauton” Greek for “know thyself”
The hardest person to get to know if yourself. To be able to truly understand the good and bad parts, but without knowing yourself, you cannot begin to know the relationships you have with others. Like a math problem of a+b=c we need to know at least one of the factors to solve the problem at hand. When interacting with the unknown world we need to know who we are in order to formulate what types of results that we’ll get.
Everyone has a certain self image of themselves whether positive, negative or both. We know what skills we possess and also what traits we have but it is difficult for us to really know the limits of what we can accomplish. Athletes constantly push their physical and mental boundaries to find out exactly how far they can go in order to see how much farther and faster is possible. For the rest of us, we simply don’t know because we never feel the need to push our physical, mental or spiritual limits. We simply guess how far we can go and in many cases take a much too conservative viewpoint.
I’ve always thought highly of some of my abilities, but never pushed them to see what I was really capable of mainly out of the fear of failure. Going to the brink and realizing that it’s nowhere near as far as one thought is a scary experience so I’ve always played it safe within a very narrow scope of view, always saying “If I need to I can.” but never actually going near the deep end of the pool. Instead, I always stood in the shallow end, knowing I can swim but never knowing how far I could go.
That fear is an artificial limiter on our capabilities. If you can swim out to sea for a hundred yards, then by pushing, you can go a hundred more. The act of never trying is the same as trying and failing without any chance of success. In my case the fear of failure always tended to outweigh the benefits of success.
I’m not saying that everyone should suddenly jump in the ocean and try swimming to the next continent but at least take a few strokes and you might experience something new or different. At first it can be baby steps to start breaking down the prison you built for yourself. Try going somewhere new, starting a conversation with a stranger or even eating something different. There will be failures but there will also be successes. You might find yourself discovering something that had been missing from your life and in the worst case scenario at least know that this is a place that doesn’t interest you, that person is boring or this food is disgusting. It is always better to know for sure than to guess.
The more you take steps to interact with the outside world the more you’ll begin to understand yourself better. These are the activities I really enjoy, the ones that calm me, the ones that make me think to the ones that I hate. These are the people I like to talk to, to spend time with and these are people better to avoid. In any case, you won’t know until you try these things out at least once. These are the foods I like to eat and the places that I like to go. The more you know what you really like and dislike the more you can delve into who you are as a person.
For too many of us the idea of personal growth died off long ago. We are too caught up in the mundane duties of our daily lives to make time for something new. Fortunately the act of doing or learning something new is easier than we may think. In many cases we simply need to take the opportunity to resurrect our inner child. The child that always wanted to see something new and meet new people. The child that saw excitement in basic everyday curiosity and had a wonder for life. That child no longer comes naturally for most of us, but still exists and we simply need to rekindle that flame every once in awhile.
The main reason to try to expand one’s horizons is to collect data for examination to figure out who you really are as a person. There is no single trait or attribute that encapsulates everything that a person is. Instead, it is made of an almost infinite number of characteristics that for you the individual.
A Jesuit priest once remarked of the Japanese people that they have three hearts. I think that this applies to most of us in the world today. One heart is for the general public to see. How we behave and act in society. The second heart is reserved for family and close friends. How we act privately with those that know us best. The third and final heart is the one that we only reveal to ourselves, the thoughts and desires we dare not share with anyone.
To understand ourselves better we need to know all three hearts. How are we in public when interacting with strangers and coworkers. What image of ourselves do we try to portray? How does that vary from how we are to the people close to us?
My girlfriends would always complain about my personality. When I was out in public I would be very outgoing. Always joking around and having conversations with friends and strangers alike. I was always in a good mood and full of energy. In private with my girlfriends though I would be a different person. Very quiet and introverted only wanting to spend time with them watching a movie or making something to eat together. When I’m alone, I’m even more introverted, content just to sit at a desk in front of a computer.
These are three different aspects to my heart. In public I create a false persona for the world to see, whereas in private I can be myself. The outward heart is one we usually create to protect ourselves from the outside world, it is a suit of armor that we wear. Whether it be someone who seems happy go-lucky without a care in the world to someone who always has an air of confidence and energy. The armor can be something that is meek or strong, quiet or loud as each one is simply an illusion.