I wanted my own words. But the ones I use have dragged through I don’t know how many consciences.

What did Jean-Paul Sartre mean by:

I wanted my own words. But the ones I use have dragged through I don’t know how many consciences.


This quote is a reflection on the nature of language and the struggle for individuality. It suggests the desire for unique self-expression, but acknowledges the limitation that the words we use are not originally ours. They have been used by countless others before us, each time colored by the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Therefore, every word carries with it a history, a trace of past users, and their ‘consciences’.

In terms of personal development, this quote could be seen as a reminder that while we strive to express our unique thoughts and feelings, we are doing so through a medium that is inherently communal. It’s a call to be mindful of the weight of words, their history, and their power. It also highlights the importance of listening and understanding, as the same words can mean different things to different people based on their personal histories.

In today’s world, this idea is particularly relevant in the context of social media and digital communication. We often see people using the same phrases, hashtags, or slogans to express their views. While these common phrases can help us identify with a larger group, they can also dilute our individual perspectives. It’s a reminder that while we use common language, we should strive to maintain our unique voice and perspective.

Moreover, it can be applied to the concept of ‘cultural appropriation’ – when one culture adopts elements from another culture. This quote reminds us that when we borrow words (or other cultural elements), we should do so with an understanding and respect for their history and the ‘consciences’ they have passed through.

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