“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates
Socrates was one of the very first ‘philosophers’. A philosopher is someone who questions things and tries to give answers to difficult problems like ‘what is the best way to live?’ and ‘how should we treat each other?’. The word ‘philosopher’ means ‘lover of wisdom.’
What Socrates meant by this was that you can only have a truly good, fulfilling, and joyful life if you make a habit of looking at yourself carefully and questioning things. Knowing the ways you behave, understanding your reasons for saying and doing things, and being clear about your feelings is the key to feeling peaceful and happy. If we don’t do this, we may miss out on a lot of what makes life special, or overlook the solutions to our problems. After all, how can you be satisfied if you don’t even know what you want?
One way of knowing yourself is to think about your behavior. Asking questions like ‘Why did I do this?’, and ‘What do I like about this?’ can help us better understand ourselves.
Mindfulness is another tool for knowing yourself. It can show us the answers to questions that just thinking cannot. When we observe ourselves quietly without judging, we can look even deeper into our minds and discover things about ourselves that may surprise us.
Discuss: Can you think of some ways that knowing yourself better could improve your life?
Understanding ourselves better also leads to greater empathy. When we see someone do something that hurts us, we can see ourselves easier in them and forgive them. Instead of just thinking people are ‘mean’ or ‘selfish’, having watched ourselves do perhaps similar things and understood our intentions behind them, we will understand that they are human just like us.
Discuss: Can you think of some ways that knowing yourself can make you more compassionate toward others?