Quotations about   self

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You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.

Plato (c.428-347 BC) Greek philosopher
(Spurious)

Frequently attributed to Plato, starting in the 1950s, but not found in his works. Earliest citation is as a Portuguese proverb, in A Polyglot of Foreign Proverbs, tr. Henry G. Bohn (1857): "Mais descobre huma hora de jogo, que hum anno de conversação." For more see here.
Added on 28-Feb-19 | Last updated 28-Feb-19
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For the whole thing about matrimony is this: We fall in love with a personality, but we must live with a character. Behind the pretty wallpaper and the brightly painted plaster lurk the yards of tangled wire and twisted pipes, ready to run a short or spring a leak on us without a word of warning.

Peter De Vries (1910-1993) American editor, novelist, satirist
Mrs. Wallop (1970)
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Often misquoted as "The difficulty with marriage is that ..."
Added on 1-Aug-18 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

John Wooden (1910-2010) American basketball player and coach
They Call Me Coach, ch. 9, epigram (1972)
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Added on 31-Jul-18 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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Man has no greater enemy than himself. I have acted contrary to my sentiments and inclination; throughout our whole lives we do what we never intended, and what we proposed to do, we leave undone.

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) Italian scholar and poet [a.k.a. Petrarch]
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Quoted in Johann Georg Ritter von Zimmermann, An Examination of the Advantages of Solitude and of Its Operations, ch. 5 (1783) [tr. F.S. (1808)].
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But in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant.

In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held — so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place — who knows?

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) American writer, folklorist, anthropologist
“How It Feels to Be Colored Me”, The World Tomorrow (May 1928)
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Added on 16-Aug-17 | Last updated 16-Aug-17
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This simply means that there is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. When we look beneath the surface, beneath the impulsive evil deed, we see within our enemy-neighbor a measure of goodness and know that the viciousness and evilness of his acts are not quite representative of all that he is. We see him in a new light. We recognize that his hate grows out of fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding, but in spite of this, we know God’s image is ineffably etched in being. Then we love our enemies by realizing that they are not totally bad and that they are not beyond the reach of God’s redemptive love.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery (25 Dec 1957)
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Added on 11-Aug-17 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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Man is so built that he cannot imagine his own death. This leads to endless invention of religions. While this conviction by no means proves immortality to be a fact, questions generated by it are overwhelmingly important. The nature of life, how ego hooks into the body, the problem of ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe — these are paramount questions, Ben; they can never be trivial. Science hasn’t solved them — and who am I to sneer at religions for trying, no matter how unconvincingly to me? Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can’t rule him out because he owns no fancy cathedrals. Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah. The only religious opinion I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!

Robert A. Heinlein (1909-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, Part 4, ch. 33 [Jubal] (1961)
    (Source)

In the "uncut" original version (1960): "Self-aware man is so built that he cannot believe in his own extinction ... and this automatically leads to endless invention of religions. While this involuntary conviction of immortality by no means proves immortality to be a fact, the questions generated by this conviction are overwhelmingly important ... whether we can answer them or not, or prove what answers we suspect. The nature of life, how the ego hooks into the physical body, the problem of the ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe -- these are paramount questions Ben; they can never be trivial. Science can't, or hasn't, coped with any of them -- and who am I to sneer at religions for trying to answer them, no matter how unconvincingly to me? Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can't rule Him out because He owns no fancy cathedrals. Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah. The only religious opinion that I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!"
Added on 11-Aug-17 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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Character is much easier kept than recovered.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
The American Crisis, #13 (19 Apr 1783)
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Added on 8-Aug-17 | Last updated 8-Aug-17
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To ensure moral salvation, it is primarily necessary to depend on oneself, because in the moment of peril we are alone. And strength is not to be acquired instantaneously. He who knows that he will have to fight, prepares himself for boxing and dueling by strength and skill; he does not sit still with folded hands.

Maria Montessori (1870-1952) Italian educator, philosopher, educator, physician
The Advanced Montessori Method: Spontaneous Activity in Education, Vol. I (1917)
Added on 13-Jun-17 | Last updated 13-Jun-17
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What do I believe after all? What manner of man am I after all? What sort of show would I make after all, if the people around me knew my heart and all my secret thoughts? What sort of show then do I already make in the sight of Almighty God, who sees every man exactly as he is?

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) English clergyman, historian, essayist, novelist (pseud. "Parson Lot")
The Good News of God, Sermon 6 “Worship [Isaiah 1:12-13]” (1881)
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Added on 6-Jun-17 | Last updated 6-Jun-17
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A man is what he is, not what men say he is. His character no man can touch. His character is what he is before his God and his Judge; and only himself can damage that. His reputation is what men say he is. That can be damaged; but reputation is for time, character is for eternity.

John Bartholomew Gough (1817-1886) Anglo-American social reformer and temperance orator
(Attributed)

Quoted in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
Added on 28-Mar-17 | Last updated 28-Mar-17
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A man’s character is his fate.

Heraclitus (c.540-c.480 BC) Greek philosopher [also Heracleitus]
“On the Universe,” fragment 121
Added on 14-Mar-17 | Last updated 14-Mar-17
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People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
The Conduct of Life, “Worship” (1860)
Added on 30-Jan-17 | Last updated 30-Jan-17
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Sin is a queer thing. It isn’t the breaking of divine commandments. It is the breaking of one’s own integrity.

lawrence-sin-is-a-queer-thing-wist_info-quote

David Herbert "D. H." Lawrence (1885-1930) English novelist
Studies in Classic American Literature, ch. 8 (1923)
Added on 3-Jan-17 | Last updated 3-Jan-17
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Characters never change. Opinions alter — characters are only developed.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) English politician and author
(Attributed)

Quoted in Joseph Waldo Denny, Wearing The Blue in The Twenty-Fifth Mass. Volunteer Infantry (1879).
Added on 20-Dec-16 | Last updated 20-Dec-16
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The scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our souls.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) American author, poet, editor, literary critic
(Spurious)

Not found prior to a Tweet (9 Nov 2011). For more information, see here.
Added on 14-Dec-16 | Last updated 14-Dec-16
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I think Hell is something you carry around with you, not somewhere you go.

gaiman-hell-is-something-you-carry-around-wist_info-quote

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Dec-16 | Last updated 1-Dec-16
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We are what we worry about, maybe that’s the lesson of the whole thing.

brust-we-are-what-we-worry-about-wist_info-quote

Steven Brust (b. 1955) American writer, systems programmer
Iorich (2010)
Added on 9-Oct-16 | Last updated 9-Oct-16
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Serve self you serve society.
Serve society serve yourself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Notebook F No. 1 (1836-1840)
Added on 19-Sep-16 | Last updated 19-Sep-16
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No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.

Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) American clergyman and orator
Life Thoughts: Gathered from the Extemporaneous Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher (1858)
Added on 16-Aug-16 | Last updated 16-Aug-16
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Our deeds still travel with us from afar.
And what we have been makes us what we are.

Eliot - deeds still travel with us - wist_info quote

George Eliot (1819-1880) English novelist [pseud. of Mary Ann Evans]
Middlemarch (1871-72)
Added on 22-Jun-16 | Last updated 22-Jun-16
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THE DOCTOR: We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.

Steven Moffat (b. 1961) Scottish television writer, producer
Doctor Who, “The Time of the Doctor” (25 Dec 2013)
Added on 6-May-16 | Last updated 6-May-16
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The world is full of fools, and he who would not wish to see one must not only shut himself up alone, but also break his looking glass.

Boileau - break his looking glass - wist_info quote

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux (1636-1711) French poet and critic
(Attributed)

A variant is also attributed to Charles le Petit (1640-1625), Discours satiriques (1686).
Added on 17-Mar-16 | Last updated 17-Mar-16
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But when all is summed up, a man never speaks of himself without loss; his accusations of himself are always believed; his praises never.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592) French essayist
“The Art of Conversation,” Essays, Vol. 3, ch. 8 (1588) [tr. Cotton (1877)]
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Added on 20-Jan-16 | Last updated 20-Jan-16
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The doors of Hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of Hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man “wishes” to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved: just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Problem of Pain (1940)
Added on 30-Dec-15 | Last updated 30-Dec-15
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We come to know best what men are, in their worse jeopardies.

Samuel Daniel (1562-1619) English poet, dramatist, historian
To Henry Wriothesley Earl of Southampton (1605)
Added on 18-Dec-15 | Last updated 18-Dec-15
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Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits.
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) Indian philosopher and nationalist [Mahatma Gandhi]
(Attributed)

Never specifically cited, and attributed with variations in the language. Also attributed as a Chinese or Buddhist proverb.
Added on 26-Oct-15 | Last updated 26-Oct-15
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Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
(Spurious)

This aphorism is frequently attributed to Shaw, but not found in his works and not attributed to him or in this form before around 1990. It may be a misattributed paraphrase from Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (1973): "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."
Added on 31-Jul-15 | Last updated 31-Jul-15
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Men are more ready to sacrifice their lives than their livelihood: and to sacrifice their own importance often comes hardest of all.

B. H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970) English soldier, military historian (Basil Henry Liddell Hart)
Thoughts on War, ch. 10 (1944)
Added on 9-Mar-15 | Last updated 9-Mar-15
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But the truth is, that no man is much regarded by the rest of the world, except where the interest of others is involved in his fortune. The common employments or pleasures of life, love or opposition, loss or gain, keep almost every mind in perpetual agitation. If any man would consider how little he dwells upon the condition of others, he would learn how little the attention of others is attracted by himself.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Rambler #159 (24 Sep 1751)
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Added on 10-Feb-15 | Last updated 10-Feb-15
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Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
“Song of Myself,” Sec. 51 (1855)
Added on 12-Jan-15 | Last updated 12-Jan-15
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The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
(Attributed)
Added on 12-Dec-14 | Last updated 12-Dec-14
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Voyage upon life’s sea,
To yourself be true,
And, whatever your lot may be,
Paddle your own Canoe.

Sarah T. Bolton (1814-1893) American poet, women's activist (née Sarah Tittle Barrett)
“Paddle Your Own Canoe,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine (May 1854)
Added on 5-Sep-14 | Last updated 5-Sep-14
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Self-made men are most alwus apt tew be a leetle too proud ov the job.

[Self-made men are almost always apt to be a little too proud of the job.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Billings’ Farmer’s Allminax for the Year of Our Lord 1873, “May 1873” (1872)
    (Source)

Also in Josh Billing's Encyclopedia, "Koarse Shot" (1874).
Added on 21-May-14 | Last updated 10-Jun-14
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“I quite agree with you,” said the Duchess; “and the moral of that is — ‘Be what you would seem to be’ — or, if you’d like it put more simply — ‘Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'”

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) English writer and mathematician [pseud. of Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson]
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, “The Mock Turtle’s Story” (1865)
Added on 28-Mar-14 | Last updated 28-Mar-14
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We are interested in others when they are interested in us.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 16 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 18-Dec-09 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

Camus - invincible summer - wist_info quote

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Return to Tipasa,” Summer (1954)
Added on 13-Oct-09 | Last updated 15-Dec-15
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