“To Know Thyself is the Beginning of Wisdom.” - Michael Scott (Socrates)
I’m a Ravenclaw (Slytherin on a cheeky day), Enneagram 4 (with a wing3 but feeling more wing5 these days) and an INFP (or J? debatable). I imagine, though, there’s a lot more complexity to “Know Thyself” than ironing out the specifics of your Hogwarts colors. Some days I think it can be simple, prescriptive advice. Other days, I think “Know Thyself” is too profound to be put into words. Trying to describe this adage, to me, would be like trying to tackle the meaning of life. ‘Tis a lot. But where to begin on the Holy Grail Quest for self knowledge?
Knowing Yourself Through Journaling
Knowing yourself helps you identify the patterns of your life and leads you to mindful progress. Emotions and thoughts are the great entanglers. I’ll feel the strongest emotion in the world, and I’ll analyze it for approximately 10 years. Then, of course, those draining thoughts evoke another emotional reaction, and the cycle never ends. It’s rare that I even notice the frequency of this exchange. In this scenario, I have found journaling to be my jam. When I write my thoughts down, they often register to me as fiction. I consider the character sharing these problems, and I transcend the scenario, asking, “What should she do?” It’s sort of freaky, and it cracks me up how clear the way forward seems to me, when I can just put it all on paper. Sometimes these journal entries really do shift my perspective, and I hop back on the train of life with vigor. Other times, I find myself forgetting my recent epiphany, falling back into frustration and journaling again. But I’m always able to come back and compare my current experiences with my past. There’s a physical record, baby! When looking back, I often realize that many of my issues are the same pattern disguised as a new problem. When identifying the pattern, sometimes taking weeks rather than one evening’s journal entry, I say, “Ah, yes. The old lizard brain at it again. I see you. I know you.” When you keep digging, writing, thinking, reflecting, comparing, you begin to know yourself. Real changes can occur.
Knowing Yourself Through Exploration of Childhood
It’s time to visit our formative years, kids! Shout out to therapy for inspiring this section. If you have the privilege to seek a therapist, I will recommend it until my dying breath. A therapist’s guidance of field tripping through childhood memories can be mind-blowing. Should you be unable to talk with one, you can still go down memory lane with yourself or supportive loved ones. When I have gone down the rabbit hole, my connection with my past is blatant. Almost everything I do today is derivative of my younger self. At just 10 years old, I was already depressed. I would desperately try to get my hands on anything that could give me a boost of serotonin. Food, friends, television, etc. I was addicted to trying to make myself better. And when I see that little girl in me today, it fills me with such sympathy and understanding. I feel for her purity, her innocence. I take away all the judgement I’ve ever directed toward myself and say, “No place for you here, hunny!” We are still those kids, deep down. Exploring my past, and having a deep understanding of how it influences my behavior today, makes me love myself the way I would love my child. I’m doing my best. We are doing our best. And just like a child, I deserve forgiveness, tenderness and above all deep, deep love.
And just like a child, I deserve forgiveness, tenderness and above all deep, deep love.
Knowing Yourself Too Well?
In my bleakest moments, I don’t explore “Know Thyself,” I let it define me. While experiencing depression, for instance. When that thing circles around every few months or years and shows its ugly head, it can own me. It becomes my name. And it terrifies me. I’ve been through this cycle. I know myself and I am Depression. My hope evaporates and everything feels pointless, because I’ll always come back to this state of drowning anyway. I’ll be remembered by friends and family as Camille, who struggled with Major Depressive Disorder.
My therapist recently said to me, “You are not defined by your depression. You are Camille.” Funny how the most powerful sentiments are often the most simple.
My therapist recently said to me, “You are not defined by your depression. You are Camille.” Funny how the most powerful sentiments are often the most simple. And it woke me up. I limit myself in these moments, and it’s dangerous. But I can see why I do it. We live in a world that tells us to recognize our differences and either celebrate or be deeply ashamed of them. So we begin to identify with our strongest attributes, thanks to all of this “getting to know myself” work. We wear our attributes like badges of honor, crowns, sashes. It’s safe. It becomes comfortable. But it’s putting ourselves in the cage once more. If we keep pushing ourselves to look at every little crevice of our inner selves, every little inner working and experience, we can glimpse the vast ocean of self that surpasses our contrived labels. The more we become experts on ourselves, the more there is to learn. The ocean grows wider and deeper. And that’s why I find this all so profound. I see how freaking much there is to unpack and how insanely rich our lives are, and how it might just be impossible to mine it all. I used to think there was a straightforward path to understanding. I thought the point was to figure out the pillars of who I am and then live my life in accordance with what I understood about Camille™. I’m glad it’s not that simple. I’m delighted when I wake up and think “WHAT? You again!? And look at what you’re doing now! Maybe it’s because of this, or because of that. But my God, how interesting! There becomes so much opportunity for intrigue and discovery. I am not just a Ravenclaw or an Enneagram 4 or Depression. I am an ocean. A forest. A mountain. I am an adventure, and all those things are part of the experience.
I want to be curious and open and love. I want to be aware. I want to understand. I want to explore myself. I want to fall in love with the constant, lifelong task of investigating who I am. Discovery will come, and the journey will continue. I hope yours does, too.