The irony of self-knowledge is that to gain it, you need to look outside of yourself. Recently I noticed that tucked inside the word acknowledgement are three smaller words – a + knowledge + me.
Yet science shows that we are wired not to see the broader context of our lives. While confirmed by modern research the sentiment goes back at least to the days of Shakespeare – who wrote in Julius Caesar:
Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend.
(For those who question whether Shakespeare even authored these words, here is a fascinating new theory suggesting that a women actually wrote his plays).
While there are many benefits to remembering where you came from (e.g. gratitude, compassion, happiness), a more basic reason came from the mind of Marc Maron.
In this podcast interview with Stephen Colbert, Maron says:
“Getting personal context for who the f— you are and really owning that so if the sh– really goes down at least you’ll have that. At least you’ll know who you are.”
Whether you are moved by the eloquent prose of Shakespeare or struck by the blunt WTF of Maron, I hope you’re inspired to spend a few minutes today reflecting on the ladder you’re climbing or the context of where you currently stand. From these moments, self-knowledge only grows.