It did thousands of years ago, when the Ancient Greeks famously inscribed “Know Thyself” at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
And centuries later, a slew of prominent thinkers, including writers, psychologists, philosophers, entertainers, and heads of state have backed up the Greeks, as you’ll see in these 45 self awareness quotes below.
But first, what does self-awareness mean?
Why does it matter?
And how does it help you in your daily life?
Self awareness can mean a lot of things. From finding what makes us happy to noticing our negative self-talk.
Self awareness is integral to emotional intelligence, according to Daniel Goleman, who literally wrote the book.
To sum up, self awareness means you know and understand yourself — your strengths and your weaknesses. You know who you are, what you want, and what you need to work on in yourself.
You’re aware that you’re human, not perfect. You recognize that you have blind spots and they get you into trouble. So you’re awake to possibility, change, and growth.
Because only when you’re self-aware do you even realize that something in you needs to change. (Flashback to Michael Jackson in Man in the Mirror: “Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”)
But just to be clear. Becoming self-aware is not a quick fix. It’s life-long learning. And a self-discovery adventure.
To remind us why self-awareness matters, I’ve rounded up 45 quotes on the subject from across time and space.
1. There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self. — Aldous Huxley
2. There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow men. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self. — Ernest Hemingway
3. Self-awareness is not self-centeredness, and spirituality is not narcissism. Know thyself is not a narcissistic pursuit. — Marianne Williamson
4. As you become more clear about who you really are, you’ll be better able to decide what is best for you, the first time around. — Oprah Winfrey
5. If you’re searching for that one person that will change your life, take a look in the mirror. — Anon
6. Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate. — Carl Jung
7. If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. — Daniel Goleman
8. Self-awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don’t mean self-consciousness where you’re limiting and evaluating yourself. I mean being aware of your own patterns. — Tony Robbins
9. I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly. — Oscar Wilde
10. Without self-awareness we are as babies in the cradles. — Virginia Woolf
11. The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yourself. — Ursula K. Le Guin
12. A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.― Meister Eckhart
13. To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare
14. For it is in your power to retire into yourself whenever you choose.― Marcus Aurelius
15. Go find yourself first so you can also find me.― Rumi
16. How to get rid of ego as dictator and turn it into messenger and servant and scout, to be in your service, is the trick.― Joseph Campbell
17. Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.—Golda Meir
18. Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.― C.G. Jung
19. I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.― Hermann Hesse
20. Of all deceivers fear most yourself! – Søren Kierkegaard
21. Be bold, be brave enough to be your true self. — Queen Latifah
22. The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.― Michel de Montaigne
23. At the center of your being
you have the answer;
you know who you are
and you know what you want.― Lao Tzu
24. Find out who you are and do it on purpose.—Dolly Parton
25. I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self. — Aristotle
26. Explore thyself. Herein are demanded the eye and the nerve. — Henry David Thoreau
27. Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.― André Malraux
28. The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.― Carl R. Rogers
29. 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
30. A strong man cannot help a weaker unless the weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak man must become strong of himself; he must, by his own efforts, develop the strength which he admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition.― James Allen
31. The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.― Pema Chödrön
32. It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.― Abraham Harold Maslow
33. Care what other people think and you will always be their prisoner. —Lao Tzu
34. I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier. — Oprah Winfrey
35. A traveler I am, and a navigator, and every day I discover a new region within my soul.— Kahlil Gibran
36. I’m slowly learning how to straddle the tension that comes with understanding that I am tough and tender, brave and afraid, strong and struggling – all of these things, all of the time. I’m working on letting go of having to be one or the other and embracing the wholeness of wholeheartedness.—Brené Brown
37. There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self. — Benjamin Franklin
38. My friend…care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves—Socrates
39. At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.― Albert Camus
40. Self-awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it, and the more you peel them back, the more likely you’re going to start crying at an inappropriate time.― Mark Manson
41. What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself — Abraham Maslow
42. Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize? — Marcus Aurelius
43. Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. — Carl Gustav Jung
44. The unexamined life is not worth living. — Socrates
45. The things that make me different are the things that make me me. — Winnie the Pooh