Know Thyself

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle

We always seem to be under the impression that our perception of self is better than the perception others have about ourselves or our current situation. I’ve found that for people who’ve known us for a few years, this is rarely the case.

Not only do we have a distorted perception of self, we refuse to acknowledge it. We believe we have “extra” information about us that they do not. Not realizing that they have extra information about us that we do not.

I have a friend who is incredibly smart. She has multiple bachelors degrees now and is almost done a Law degree. She has great interpersonal skill and during her Law degree is now self teaching herself the basics of web development. (She says basics but from looking at some of the things she’s done, it’s clear it’s a bit more than the basics that she’s working on)

I told her about a great position that she could potentially apply for in a few months when she’s done her degree and has brushed up on her skills some more. I am more than certain that she would be great at the job. Her perception of self is incredibly distorted that she can’t perceive how she could possibly get accepted.

“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” – Sun Tzu

Personally I’ve come to the realization that I can’t trust myself. Especially not my current self. I can usually trust the amalgamation of my selves over a certain period of time. But I can’t trust what I think in the moment.

In the general “counter-culture”, much is put on individualism, and making your own decisions. But The opinion of others, those who’s values are similar to yours and have your best interest at heart should be taken into consideration far more than they currently are.

I have a small circle of 3 friends who’s advice I count on. The strange paradox is that they rarely give it directly or try to change any of my decisions. I often know what’s on their mind by the questions they ask. And often it’s things I don’t want to admit or truths I try to hide from myself.

Whenever all 3 are in agreement on something and I’m of an opposing viewpoint. I’m always wrong. Or to be more precise, I’m always “long term” wrong. I am often afraid of doing something that will require changing the status quo. That will require short term pain for long term gain.

It’s always easier to have that perspective from the outside. A system from the inside looking in at itself has trouble seeing a global view of itself. Seeing how the disruption of the current system could lead to a better overall system in the long run is difficult since it encompasses accepting the potential destruction of parts of itself.

I remained vague with my language in the previous paragraph for a reason. I don’t think this only applies to individuals. I think it can apply to organizations, business, countries etc.

Back to the individual level, how if the ability for a system to know itself is limited can we truly “Know Thyself”. Are we perhaps like quantum physics? And that part of knowing ourselves means accepting that we cannot fully know ourselves?