This can be super empowering when you recognize it for what it is.
Socrates said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
Lao Tzu said, “Know that you don’t know. That is superior.”
Epictetus said, “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.”
Confucius said, “To know is to know that you know nothing. That is the meaning of true knowledge.”
And Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
What do all of these quotes have in common? All of them say that what you know is limited, but there is room for plenty more.
How did I come by that conclusion? If you know nothing, and there is wisdom in knowing this, then that means if you know nothing there is always something to be learned.
I have written before about the nature of truth. It comes in three brands — mine, yours, and the absolute. Knowledge and knowing is frequently the search for truth. But unless you can get to the absolute, what you find is subject to interpretation.
So what am I going on about here? The only thing that you can really, truly know is YOU.
You are your truth
The only person inside your head is you. Nobody else can think for you, feel for you, or even act for you. There is nobody else capable of getting inside of there and interpreting how you see the world for you. This is all about you, and all you know is yourself.
The one greatest truth you are capable of knowing is you. Yet many people deny this knowledge, avoid themselves, and hide from who they really are.
Why? Fear. It really all comes down to fear. You may be afraid that what you will find in knowing your true self will not be worth knowing. Or, perhaps, what you find will drive others away from you.
In his song The Stranger, Billy Joel explores this idea: “Well, we all have a face that we hide away forever and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.” Many people tend to wear various masks, to the point where they become a stranger to themselves.
Why the masks? This tends to be situational. There are aspects of yourself you would rather not share with your coworkers; the teachers at your kid’s school do not need to know the real you; the thoughts and ideas you share online grant a certain amount of anonymity that disconnects the true you. All of these can be reasons to alter who you show the world.
But no matter the mask you wear, there is only one you. Deep down, at your core, inside your own head, there is only one you who is truly you. The only thing you can really, truly know is you.
This is where you get to make a choice.
Embrace your you or avoid your you
Sure, there are other options, but all of them come down to these two ideas. You can embrace the you that you can get to know inside your head, or you can avoid that you with masks, diversions, and distractions.
Are you afraid of knowing yourself? If so, why?
I used to be afraid of knowing myself. It really scared me to think that I might be this lazy, unworthy, unlikeable, bad person that everyone would reject. So I created numerous masks for myself, and for a long time avoided getting to know the real me.
Then things happened that made this difficult, if not impossible. I could only get to know me. As I came to know myself, I realized that avoiding myself disempowered me. I gave away my one true ability to know — since all I can really know is me — rather than empower myself with that knowledge.
You have the same ability. You getting to know you empowers you to influence and control the direction of your life. Unless you choose to be a victim of circumstance, a pawn of destiny, or someone else’s toy, you getting to know you gives you control over your life.
Do you fear that people will not like the real you? Well, that may be so. Straight to the point, yes, when you know you, it is entirely possible you’ll lose people along the way. But that’s ok, because chances are they were not true either, since the brand of truth that was you that they knew was not truly you.
Convoluted? Yes…and no.
It’s only as difficult as you make it
Getting to know yourself and realizing that all you truly know is you can seem pretty daunting. But the truth is, it’s actually stupid simple.
How so? Working with mindfulness, you can get inside your own head, and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. What ideas, notions, and truths do you hold? Which emotions tend to surface and which tend to be buried beneath the surface? How do you perceive reality?
All you really, truly know is you, and mindfulness is the key to that knowledge.
There are any number of messages out there telling you that if you are not ‘x’ or being ‘y’ or coming from ‘q’, you’re nothing. If you are not mindful of your thoughts and feelings, these messages can burrow their way into your psyche and disempower you with false truths. Getting to know you opens you up to see that you truly know nothing…but that, in turn, gives you the wisdom to get to know YOU.
Who you are, how you think and what and how you feel are the only things you can really, truly, absolutely, ultimately know. When it comes to any given absolute truth, this is the only one you can truly learn and know. But that is not something to fear, because it can empower you to do and be as incredible as you can do and be.
The one absolute truth you can know is you. That doesn’t make you less, it empowers you. Don’t be afraid to get inside your head and learn this knowledge. You are far more likely to find the you that you have always desired to be than someone you would rather avoid.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.” — Carl Jung.