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Quotations about Self-Discovery


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People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds; it is something one creates. ~Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin, 1973


I am silent for a good while. I am trying to think who I am. There was a person whom I thought I knew... Where has he gone? ~Charles Dudley Warner, Backlog Studies, 1873


I have sharpened the shares, and harnessed an increased force, for I have determined to plow the furrows deeper, and turn up new layers of life. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), My Little Book of Life, 1912


I began by being perplexed about my body; and I ended by being anxious about my soul. In short, I wished to know what I was. ~Adolphe Monod, "Introduction. Letter I: Lucilla to the Abbe Favien," Lucilla; or, The Reading of the Bible, translated from the French by an unnamed translator, 1842


Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Buried deep beneath the surface of his character, was a hidden, yet a restless ambition: but this was perhaps, at present, a secret even to himself. We know not our own characters till time teaches us self-knowledge... ~Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton (1803–1873), Pelham; or, The Adventures of a Gentleman, 1828


[I]t does not always agree with every one, and I say therefore: try it first and see whether it answers. ~Sebastian Kneipp, Thus Shalt Thou Live: Hints and Advice for the Healthy and the Sick on a Simple and Rational Mode of Life and a Natural Method of Cure, 1889, translated from the 19th German edition


You are so young, all still lies ahead of you, and I should like to ask you, as best I can, dear Sir, to be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms, like books written in a foreign tongue. Do not now strive to uncover answers: they cannot be given you because you have not been able to live them. And what matters is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer, one distant day in the future. ~Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), 1903 July 16th letter to Franz Xaver Kappus, from Worpswede, translated from German by Charlie Louth


There is a limit to how much you can change to be liked for who you really are. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


I have set out to come upon a new me, to open to the things that have long beat with their insistence at my door. I do not wish to surpass anyone or anything. I pray only to outgrow myself in emancipation and consciousness. I stipulate nothing, save that I grow. I know the price and I will pay. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: L," A Soul's Faring, 1921  [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


There is a proper focus for every man's capacity, but few find it; their occupation is like bad fitting spectacles. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897


One day to collect the scattered fragments of myself, and give them symmetry, and wholeness, and use. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), My Little Book of Life, 1912


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854


Better to start up a thousand wrong roads than to spend your life going nowhere because you know the way. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead. ~Gelett Burgess, as quoted in The Reader's Digest, 1978


Endurance is frequently a form of indecision. ~Elizabeth Bibesco


I am... unassembled bits of life. I possess only a fraction of life because I possess only a fraction of myself. One day I shall come in entirety — maybe the entirety will redeem the parts. I shall come in the aggregate of me, and maybe that that has not had seeming relativity will show sequence. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: XXXI," A Soul's Faring, 1921


Basically we are all looking for someone who knows who we are and will break it to us gently. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. ~G.K. Chesterton


The single relationship truly central and crucial in a life is the relationship to the self... Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave nor lose. To the question of your life, you are the only answer. To the problem of your life, you are the only solution. ~Jo Coudert, "You Always Learn to Swim in the Winter," Advice from a Failure, 1965


My confusion is but a phase — and I am not afraid of phases. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "Songs of Longing: XXIX," At the Roots of Grasses, 1923


I've left Bethlehem
I feel free
I've left the girl I was supposed to be and
Someday I'll be born.
~Paula Cole, "Tiger," This Fire, 1996 ♫


Learning how to operate a soul takes time. ~Timothy Leary


No, when the fight begins within himself,
A man's worth something. God stoops o'er his head,
Satan looks up between his feet—both tug—
He's left, himself, i' the middle: the soul wakes
And grows. Prolong that battle through his life!
Never leave growing till the life to come!
~Robert Browning


How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight? ~Fight Club, 1999, screenplay by Jim Uhls, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk


Better you don't search for who you are until you know who it is you want to find. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Young men! I invite you to honest, prayerful heart-study. Every man has in himself a continent of undiscovered character. Happy is he who acts the Columbus to his own soul! ~Rev. T. L. Cuyler, "Heart Study," c.1856


[Y]ou must learn what life is now, not from me, but from life itself; but if you will hear an old man's opinion, I will give it you. If you think you can temper yourself into manliness by sitting here over your books, supposing you will grow into it as a matter of course by a rule of necessity, in the same way as your body grows old, it is the very silliest fancy that ever tempted a young man into his ruin. You cannot dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one. Go out into life, you will find your chance there, and only there. ~J. A. Froude, The Nemesis of Faith, 1849


I can't say that I do not have... moments when my personal identity seems an open question. ~Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: 2000–1887, 1888


...O that you
could turn your eyes toward the napes of your necks,
and make but an interior survey of your good selves!
O that you could!
~William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, c.1607  [II, 1, Menenius Agrippa]


Know thyself, or at least keep renewing the acquaintance. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


That's not when it started, but it was one of those turning points where yet again the obvious became painfully clear to me. Roads diverge in the wood and I start climbing trees. ~Craig Childs, "About the Author," www.houseofrain.com


I am a soul in process. I am life in the making. I am a weaver with shuttle and thread, and back in my loom the design begins to show. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), My Little Book of Life, 1912


All your life you pretend to be someone else, and it turns out that you were someone else pretending to be you. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


...when you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before. A lesser book on rereading often reveals new subtleties. A great one is more like an instrument of self-discovery. ~Clifton Fadiman, "War and Peace, Fifteen Years After," Any Number Can Play, 1957


...you're not how much money you've got in the bank. You're not your job. You're not your family, and you're not who you tell yourself.... You're not your name.... You're not your problems.... You're not your age.... You are not your hopes. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996


You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your [f@%'ing] khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. ~Fight Club, 1999, screenplay by Jim Uhls, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk


Bypasses are devices which allow some people to dash from point A to point B very fast whilst other people dash from point B to point A very fast. People living at C, being a point directly in between, are often given to wonder what's so great about point A that so many people from point B are so keen to get there, and what's so great about point B that so many people from point A are so keen to get there. They often wish that people would just once and for all work out where the hell they wanted to be. ~Douglas Adams


Confusion now hath made his masterpiece! ~William Shakespeare, Macbeth, c.1605  [II, 3, Macduff]


In the end you don't so much find yourself as you find someone who knows who you are. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


"If you don't know what you want," the doorman said, "you end up with a lot you don't." ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996


I know by the hunger that eats at my heart that there is a fulfilling answer.... I am come with a craving as deep as worlds.
I am a wolf that sits back on its haunches in the night, at the edge of the wilderness, and wails, — a cry for its own that is unanswered. Maybe I am a wolf-dog. Maybe the wolf in me wails, and the dog in me answers with a moan, rent by contending forces.
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: IV," A Soul's Faring, 1921


In order to find yourself you need to get lost in the forest of life. ~Mike Dolan, @HawaiianLife, tweet, 2012


One day I shall come from far seeking with tales of the buried treasure.
I look away to the distance and wonder what herbs of healing are growing on the far hills.
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "Songs of Longing," At the Roots of Grasses, 1923


The road to self-belief is potholed. ~Nyasha Madavo


Yes, I worry that somebody will discover the truth about me — and not tell me what it is. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


I prayed with my lips, but what was the thing that I prayed with my heartbeats, with my silent eyes?
What was the secret thing of my longing? What was my fear?...
God trusts His nights of silent, silver pourings, and His dawns of blatant splendor.
He trusts His moons of molten gold, and His twilights of streaming beauty.
Why do I not trust this glory-creature that is clamoring in me to be loosed, to be set free from the grey and the ashen—
This paradise-bird-of-longing, this luxuriat of denial, this beauty-thing denied to beauty?
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "Prayers of a Worldling: III," A Soul's Faring, 1921


Driving down the wrong road and knowing it,
The fork years behind, how many have thought
To pull up on the shoulder and leave the car
Empty, strike out across the fields; and how many
Are still mazed among dock and thistle,
Seeking the road they should have taken?
~Damon Knight, The Man in the Tree, 1984


I go in conquest up and down the earth, when I must know that the thing must be wrested out of my own soul.... The answer is in me, or it is nowhere. I do not come asking you. I ask only myself. If it were in you, you could not impart it to me. I could not understand your words. I must bring the answer and the interpretation out of me. Until then I must go unanswered. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: XXXII," A Soul's Faring, 1921


What a gloomy thing not to know the address of one's soul! ~Victor Hugo


Knowing who you are is the best defense against who they think you are. ~Dodinsky


To be an explorer of life, and come with news from the far zone of the soul, with a new hope, a new peace, a new joy, a new meaning! ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: LXIV," A Soul's Faring, 1921


We catch frightful glimpses of ourselves in the hostile eyes of others. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960


If you aren't sure who you are, you might as well work on who you want to be. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer... Maybe self-destruction is the answer. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996


At the time, my life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, 1996


Keep a diary even if you rip it up every night. ~Terri Guillemets, "Meridian ink," 1995  [so that your heart may write to you —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]


Somewhere that radiant thing, Life, lies latent in the brier stem of me, and one day it will burst forth in crimson roses. One day the new spring soil of me will emit its blossoming violet soul. One night the lark will sing in my trees. ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: XC," A Soul's Faring, 1921


And if you find everything as soon as you look for it, you find it in vain, you look for it in vain. ~Antonio Porchia, Voces, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin


But you'll never find peace of mind
'Til you listen to your heart
~George Michael, "Kissing a Fool," 1987 ♫


Littlefoot:  Let your heart guide you. It whispers, so listen closely. ~The Land Before Time, 1988, written by Stu Krieger  [Littlefoot's mother]


For this is the journey that men make: to find themselves. If they fail in this, it doesn't matter much what else they find... But if a man happens to find himself — if he knows what he can be depended upon to do, the limits of his courage, the positions from which he will no longer retreat, the degree to which he can surrender his inner life to some woman, the secret reservoirs of his determination, the extent of his dedication, the depth of his feeling for beauty, his honest and unpostured goals — then he has found a mansion which he can inhabit with dignity all the days of his life. ~James A. Michener, The Fires of Spring, 1960


It's a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. Makes you wonder what else you can do that you've forgotten about. ~Alan Ball, American Beauty, 1999


Vague desires stir within me which blend together, and give birth to others which afterwards devour them. My desires are a cloud of birds whirling and hovering aimlessly; your desire is an eagle who has his eyes on the sun, and who is prevented by the lack of air from rising on his outstretched wings. Ah! if I could know what I want; if the idea which pursues me would extricate itself clear and precise from the fog that envelops it; if the fortunate or fatal star would appear in the depths of my sky; if the light which I am to follow, whether perfidious will-o'-the-wisp or hospitable beacon, would come and be radiant in the night; if my pillar of fire would go before me, even though it were across a desert without manna and without springs; if I knew whither I am going, though I were only to come to a precipice!—I would rather have the mad riding of accursed huntsmen through quagmires and thickets than this absurd and monotonous movement of the feet. To live in this way is to follow a calling like that of those horses which turn the wheel of some well with bandaged eyes, and travels thousands of leaves without seeing anything for a long time, and the bucket should have quite come up. ~Théophile Gautier, Mademoiselle de Maupin, 1835


Somewhere in me there has been confusion of identity. I do not know my own name. I do not know if I am marshglow or wormwort, daffodil or purslane.
Once I thought maybe it was lily, or rose, or starmist.
I have lost the words of the grasses and the friendliness of the trees. The leaves do not speak to me. The birds do not call my name.
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "A Soul's Faring: II," A Soul's Faring, 1921


There's more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek my source for some definitive
Closer I am to fine...
~Emily Saliers, "Closer to Fine," 1989  [Indigo Girls] ♫


I will find my way!
The birds have not chart of the skies, nor the fishes the paths of the sea.
Time rolls to no man's determining, and none pilot the moon across the heavens.
I will find my way!
The winds are not leashed to a blowing,
The seasons arrive in undirection, and the moles bore on in their unseeing — and I am not less —
I will find my way!
~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), "At the Roots of Grasses: XXVI," At the Roots of Grasses, 1923


One may become wiser and better by several Methods of employing one's Self in Secrecy and Silence... I would... recommend to every one of my Readers, the keeping of a Journal of their Lives for one Week, and setting down punctually their whole Series of Employments during that Space of Time. The Kind of Self-Examination would give them a true State of themselves, and incline them to consider seriously what they are about. One Day would rectify the Omissions of another, and make a Man weigh all those indifferent Actions, which, though they are easily forgotten, must certainly be accounted for. ~Joseph Addison, 1712


Few people know so clearly what they want. Most people can't even think what to hope for when they throw a penny in a fountain. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams


You will never come up against a greater adversary than your own potential, my young friend. ~Michael Piller and Michael Wagner, Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Evolution," Dr. Paul Stubbs to Wesley Crusher, original airdate 43,125.8


Pain reaches the heart with electrical speed, but truth moves to the heart as slowly as a glacier. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams


There are people who live their whole lives on the default settings, never realizing you can customize. ~Robert Brault, rbrault.blogspot.com


The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about these once in a while, and watch your answers change. ~Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, 1977



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