Have you ever had this nagging feeling that there’s a gaping hole in your life? That there’s something big missing, something that stops you from being complete and happy?
There’s a point in our lives where our values and belief systems are strongly challenged. We feel lost, shaken, and out of control.
This is part of the uncomfortable process of finding your authentic self—something legendary psychoanalyst Carl Jung calls “individuation,” the journey of “becoming who one is.”
Call it midlife or identity crisis—it’s brutal but necessary to a meaningful life. In this article, we’ll go through Jung’s most powerful words on authenticity and finding yourself.
Table of Contents
Here are 72 brutally honest quotes by Carl Jung that will help you through your own personal journey to life’s meaning:
On discovering yourself
To Jung, the authentic life must start from “growing within.”
Unlike his former friend and mentor Sigmund Freud, Jung believed that our unconscious is not something your suppress. To him, the unconscious is a positive and life-giving part of our psyche.
In order to discover our true selves, we must allow the unconscious to have a voice. Here are Jung’s thoughts as to why:
“Looking outwards has got to be turned into looking into oneself. Discovering yourself provides you with all you are, were meant to be, and all you are living from and for.”
“Somewhere, right at the bottom of one’s own being, one generally does know where one should go and what one should do. But there are times when the clown we call “I” behaves in such a distracting fashion that the inner voice cannot make its presence felt.”
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
“A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.”
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
“In each of us there is another whom we do not know.”
“The urge to become what one is is invincibly strong, and you can always count on it, but that does not mean that things will necessarily turn out positively. If you are not interested in your own fate, the unconscious is.”
“As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. The change must indeed begin with an individual; it might be any one of us. Nobody can afford to look round and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself.”
“Man is not a machine that can be remodelled for quite other purposes as occasion demands, in the hope that it will go on functioning as regularly as before but in a quite different way. He carries his whole history with him; in his very structure is written the history of mankind.”
“Man’s task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious.”
“Follow that will and that way which experience confirms to be your own.”
“The rational attitude which permits us to declare objective values as valid at all is not the work of the individual subject, but the product of human history.”
“To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality is.”
“The highest, most decisive experience is to be alone with one’s own self. You must be alone to find out what supports you, when you find that you can not support yourself. Only this experience can give you an indestructible foundation.”
“The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life. Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interests upon futilities, and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance. Thus we demand that the world grant us recognition for qualities which we regard as personal possessions: our talent or our beauty. The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying is his life. He feels limited because he has limited aims, and the result is envy and jealousy. If we understand and feel that here in this life we already have a link with the infinite, desires and attitudes change.”
On challenging your perspective
At one point in his life, Jung went through what we now call a mid-life crisis. Suddenly, he felt this desperate compulsion to re-examine his life and explore his deepest self.
He prevailed by learning to understand and evaluate his pain. He discovered that sometimes, all you need is to look at things from a different angle.
Here’s what he learned:
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
“I don’t aspire to be a good man. I aspire to be a whole man.”
“The greatest and most important problems of life are all fundamentally insoluble. They can never be solved but only outgrown.”
“The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.”
“Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.”
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves.”
On taking responsibility and owning who you are
Jung also believed that taking responsibility for yourself is a crucial part of individuality.
Many of us use the psychological phenomenon known as “projection”—displacing our unwanted feelings to someone else—in order to avoid facing up to our shadows. This results in a “victim” attitude where you think you are owed happiness without working for it.
Here’s why that’s not a good idea, according to Jung:
“It is often tragic to see how blatantly a man bungles his own life and the lives of others yet remains totally incapable of seeing how much the whole tragedy originates in himself, and how he continually feeds it and keeps it going.”
“Every human life contains a potential, if that potential is not fulfilled, then that life was wasted…”
“I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.”
“We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect; we apprehend it just as much by feeling. Therefore, the judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must, if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy.”
“I regret many follies which sprang from my obstinacy; but without that trait I would not have reached my goal.”
“Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.”
“That which compels us to create a substitute for ourselves is not the external lack of objects, but our incapacity to lovingly include a thing outside of ourselves.”
On accepting who you are, good and bad
Why is it so hard for us to practice self-love and self-compassion? It’s because we all want to be perfect.
But as humans, we will never be perfect. And as we continue to put unnecessary and impossible expectations in ourselves, we will never find complete peace in who we are.
Stop conforming to everybody else’s ideals. As Jung says, “shame is a soul eating emotion, and we first must get rid of this inner shame for not being exactly society’s perfect specimen.
Here are some of Carl Jung’s empowering words for accepting your entirety:
“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”
“How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also If I am to be whole.”
“We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
“What you resist, persists.”
“Whatever is rejected from the self, appears in the world as an event.”
“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life.”
“Find out what a person fears most and that is where he will develop next.”
“What if I should discover that the poorest of the beggars and the most impudent of offenders are all within me; and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I, myself, am the enemy who must be loved — what then?”
“How important it is to affirm one’s own destiny. In this way we forge an ego that does not break down when incomprehensible things happen; an ego that endures, that endures the truth, and that is capable of coping with the world and with fate. Then, to experience defeat is also to experience victory. Nothing is disturbed–neither inwardly nor outwardly, for one’s own continuity has withstood the current of life and of time.”
“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”
“Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.”
Acceptance is a crucial part of finding who you are and loving what you’ve found. But it’s also important because you need to realize that you won’t always feel completely sane. You won’t always be in complete control.
So I’ll end this subject with this one last beautiful quote from Carl Jung about embracing your inner “madness”:
“Be silent and listen: have you recognized your madness and do you admit it? Have you noticed that all your foundations are completely mired in madness? Do you not want to recognize your madness and welcome it in a friendly manner? You wanted to accept everything. So accept madness too. Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life…If you want to find paths, you should also not spurn madness, since it makes up such a great part of your nature…Be glad that you can recognize it, for you will thus avoid becoming its victim. Madness is a special form of the spirit and clings to all teachings and philosophies, but even more to daily life, since life itself is full of craziness and at bottom utterly illogical. Man strives toward reason only so that he can make rules for himself. Life itself has no rules. That is its mystery and its unknown law. What you call knowledge is an attempt to impose something comprehensible on life.”
On life and its necessary pains
Pain and difficulties are a necessary part of life. More importantly, it’s an inevitability. You cannot escape it. Trying to go around pain and suffering will only lead to worse things.
You must face each and every difficulty if you want to create a strong sense of individuality:
“It is a most painful procedure to tear off those veils, but each step forward in psychological development means just that, the tearing off of a new veil. We are like onions with many skins, and we have to peel ourselves again and again in order to get at the real core.”
Here are some of his quotes about using pain to empower you:
“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”
“Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health.”
“Where wisdom reigns, there is no conflict between thinking and feeling.”
“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year’s course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.”
“Nobody, as long as he moves among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.”
“Nobody can fall so low unless he has a great depth.
“If such a thing can happen to a man, it challenges his best and highest on the other side; that is to say, this depth corresponds to a potential height, and the blackest darkness to a hidden light.”
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.”
“To ask the right question is already half the solution of a problem.”
“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.”
“Nobody, as long as he moves about among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.”
“Mistakes are, after all, the foundations of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”
“Out of evil, much good has come to me. By keeping quiet, repressing nothing, remaining attentive, and by accepting reality – taking things as they are, and not as I wanted them to be – by doing all this, unusual knowledge has come to me, and unusual powers as well, such as I could never have imagined before.”
On finding meaning
Carl Jung sums up the human psyche’s neverending search of meaning so beautifully:
“A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning.”
For him, the purpose of our lives is a complete parallel of the decline of our body: As our physical selves deteriorate, we learn to create a progressive refinement of what is truly essential.
Here’s more of what Carl Jung has to say about finding meaning:
“Faith, hope, love, and insight are the highest achievements of human effort. They are found-given-by experience.”
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
An authentic life doesn’t necessarily equate a happy life.
In fact, Carl Jung is one of the famous skeptics when it comes to the pursuit of happiness. Jung believed that happiness should not be sought. Much like how fellow psychoanalyst Viktor Frankl, Jung believed that happiness should simply ensue.
Here are some of Jung’s beliefs about happiness:
“I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success of money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears.”
“Nobody can achieve happiness through preconceived ideas, one should rather call it a gift of the gods. It comes and goes, and what has made you happy once does not necessarily do so at another time.”
“Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.”
– Carl Jung
Perhaps the very reason Jung is so influential is that unlike other similar historical figures, his teachings don’t decay into old, dusty, untouched books. Rather his wisdom only becomes more relevant and useful to us in the modern era.
It’s as if he exists to remind us to look back to our true roots.
Let’s take this for example. He says:
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.”
We need to constantly be reminded that we need only to look inside of ourselves to find meaning. Everything we need to have a fulfilling and meaningful life is inside of us if we only are brave enough to dig deep.
So read closely, I’m going to end this article with one last powerful quote:
“We no longer live on what we have, but on promises, no longer in the present day, but in the darkness of the future, which, we expect, will, at last, bring the proper sunrise. We refuse to recognize that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is canceled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us. The less we understand of what our [forebears] sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity.”