“What is the meaning of life?” This is just an example of the questions we tend to ask ourselves. There’s no doubt that we like to find meaning in almost everything around us. Everything can have a universal and subjective meaning depending on how and when you see it, from different symbols to metaphors, gestures, and facial expressions.
Symbols to represent yourself, therefore, can be anything you closely identify with at any given time. The problem with this approach is that we tend to identify with various symbols representing the different stages of our lives or what we would like to assume as a representation of who we are or who we would like to be.
Do you have a personal symbol that holds great meaning to you? What does it represent, and how did you claim that symbol for yourself?
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common symbols in life and their meaning. We will then go over how to identify a suitable symbol for yourself.
Common Symbols and Their Meanings
Ancient cultures such as the great Aztec culture, the Asian culture, and almost every culture that thrived in the middle ages held symbols in great regard. To many of these communities, symbols were their way of either honoring their gods or proclaiming their identity.
As you would imagine, there are some symbols and meanings that overlap.
For example, one of the most common symbols signifying inner strength and resilience is the “Phoenix.” This was a legendary bird that could be found throughout Greek mythology. The Phoenix was known for bursting into flames and getting reborn from its own ashes.
This symbolizes a person’s capacity for resilience—their ability to reinvent themselves and return from disaster. Even though the legend of the Phoenix is largely attributed to Greek mythology today, it’s believed to have actually originated from Ancient Egyptian mythology. Both mythical birds had stories about being magically reborn from their own ashes.
Strangely enough, the Chinese as well as the Hindus all have tales of such mythical birds, all of which symbolized:
- Eternal life
With that in mind, here are some of the most common symbols and their meanings.
Symbols From Nature
People have always looked to their surroundings for meaning and guidance. As such, some of the most common symbols come from nature.
1. A Rose Flower – Symbol of Love
Symbolism has always stemmed from what is widely accepted within a community. Red roses have become widely associated with love and romance thanks to romance books, TV shows, movies, and even photography.
However, when dealing with such symbolism, one must consider the context. A bouquet of red roses on Valentine’s Day definitely symbolizes the love that the sender has for the recipient.
Roses, however, don’t only come in red, and they aren’t necessarily only sent on Valentine’s Day. What does it mean when someone sends you yellow roses when you are sick? Or blue roses when you graduate?
Depending on the context, a rose flower can symbolize care, friendship, and even well-being. For Catholics, roses represent the Virgin Mary and the rosary.
Red roses are a Tudor monarchy symbol in England, representing the “War of the Roses” that arose from the bitter rivalry between the Lancaster and York Houses during that time period.
If you want to be known as a caring, loving person, you could choose a rose as your symbol.
2. The Oak Tree – Symbol for Strength, Dependability and Sturdiness
As sturdy as an oak is an idiom that means something is extremely durable or displays extremely robust health. The oak tree, therefore, is a symbol of strength and sturdiness.
One of the main reasons the oak tree is so sturdy is that its roots grow just about as deep as the actual height of the tree itself, making it extremely difficult to uproot.
Thanks to these deep roots, the oak tree can withstand almost any kind of weather, from draughts to storms, hurricanes, and even tornadoes. As such, this tree has been known to symbolize:
- Inner strength
In ancient times, the oak tree was associated with Zeus, the Greek god of thunder. Furthermore, oak trees have been known to have long lifespans (up to 300 years), making them a symbol of life affirmation, stability, nobility, and wholesomeness.
Therefore, if you want to be known as a stable, dependable person, you could choose an oak tree as your personal symbol.
3. The Griffin – Symbol for Strength, Nobility and Truthfulness
We have already touched on one mythical creature, the Phoenix. The Griffin is yet another strange, mythical creature with several symbolic meanings, all revolving around inner strength and courage.
The Griffin is a strange creature that appears in a number of ancient mythologies. It was more prominent in the Native American community. The Griffin is an imaginary creature that has the body of a lion, the head and wings of an eagle, and the ears and hind legs of a horse.
As you can see, it’s a combination of a number of creatures that were all considered awesome individually.
The eagle has long been considered the King of all birds by almost every ancient society; the lion is undoubtedly considered the King of the Jungle, and the horse is a noble animal. In the Native American community, the Griffin was taken as a symbol of the rise of power.
To Native Americans, the eagle was simply the personification of divine power, and the lion symbolized strength, royalty, and virility.
Native Americans thought the Griffin represented both light and darkness, as well as the truth.
Therefore, the Griffin would be a good personal symbol if you want to be known as a strong, noble, and truthful person.
4. The Eagle – Symbol for Strength, Immortality and Vision
From time immemorial, the eagle has been seen as one of the most majestic creatures to ever grace the sky. To many ancient cultures, including the Aztecs (link to “6 Aztec Symbols for Strength Used in Their Language & Drawings”), the eagle symbolized:
- Higher perspective
The eagle is such a revered animal that it’s part of many national symbols, like the Mexican flag. In other cultures, the golden and bald eagles are considered sacred.
These animals are not only honored but also treated with great respect. To many of these cultures, eagles represent power, freedom, wisdom, and courage. The bald eagle symbolizes courage, strength, freedom, and immortality in the United States.
The eagle might be an excellent personal symbol if you want to be known as a courageous person with great foresight.
5. The Peacock – Symbol of Beauty and Confidence
There’s a term known as “peacocking.” This is when a person dresses in brilliantly colored clothes to make them stand out. There’s no doubt that the peacock is a gorgeous bird. It has been highly regarded for its beauty and treated as noble throughout history.
Besides being extremely beautiful, the peacock is a highly confident bird. As such, the peacock has long been used as a symbol of beauty, self-confidence, and uniqueness.
If you want to boost your confidence and stand out from the crowd, a peacock might be an excellent symbol to represent yourself.
6. Fire – Symbol for Danger, Destruction, or Cleansing
Depending on the context, fire can represent a variety of different things. For many, fire represents destruction, rage, danger, and anger. Yet, fire represents rebirth, cleansing, and a new beginning for many others.
As such, if you use fire as your symbol, you might want to give it some context. In many ancient cultures, fire was used as a way to not only see into the future but also converse with the gods. Offerings were often burned, as it was believed that the fire transformed the offerings into something the gods could accept.
In some cultures, such as Hinduism, the dead are cremated to help the departed soul overcome any lingering attachments it might have to the deceased body. Fire, in essence, sets the soul free, cleansing it of any burden.
If you want something that symbolizes a new beginning, a cleansed you, or maybe danger, fire might be a great personal symbol. It will, however, require context. Like most great symbols, you might have to explain yourself to people.
7. The Owl – Symbol of Wisdom, Magic, and Mystery
The owl has been long regarded as a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. There are several reasons for this, but the most prolific often stems from the fact that, in Greek mythology, the goddess of learning, Athena, always had an owl with her.
The other reason has to do with the children’s book “Winnie the Pooh,” where the owl symbolizes knowledge.
As one might expect, the owl has a variety of symbolic meanings depending on the culture with which it is associated. Native Americans believed that the owl symbolized death and supernatural phenomena because of its nocturnal nature. Early European cultures believed that the owl symbolized sorcerers in disguise.
The owl might be a good choice if you want something that symbolizes intelligence, mystery, and wisdom.
8. The Raven – Symbol for Death or Disaster
In many cultures, the raven has always been perceived as ominous, and for a good reason: it’s a jet-black bird that habitually feeds on corpses. As a result, the raven has widely been accepted as a symbol of doom, disaster, and impending death.
Using a raven or crow as your symbol might be a good idea if you are looking to come off as superstitious or ominous.
9. The Wolf – Symbol for Freedom, Loyalty, or Guardianship
There’s a reason why some single people refer to themselves as “lone wolves.” A lone wolf signifies freedom from the pack. Even though they tend to roam in packs, wolves often symbolize freedom because they freely go wherever they want to go in the wild.
While they might be wild and free, wolves often symbolize independence and loyalty. When part of a pack, a wolf will give his life to protect that family unit. As a result, wolves are widely regarded as some of the most devoted creatures on the planet.
If you want to be known as a strong, loyal person, then choosing a wolf as your personal symbol will do.
How to Choose a Personal Symbol
The process of choosing a symbol for yourself is all about the following:
- What you want to be perceived as
- What you hold dear to your heart
- What you want to embody as a person
As such, your personal symbol can be represented in almost anything, including tattoos and even what you wear. Here are some of the things that you can use as symbols to represent yourself:
- Clothes: How you dress and what you wear can be used as a reflection of your personality. For example, people who wear cargo pants often want to be seen as tough, independent, and utilitarian.
- Jewelry: This is one of the most common ways to show the world who you are and what you represent.
- Piercings and tattoos: Your body art is a universal symbol expressing your uniqueness.
- Hobbies and interests: What you choose to do with your free time says more about who you are than almost anything else. Bikers want to be perceived as tough and free; poets want to be perceived as deep and creative; and party animals want to be perceived as vibrant and fun-loving.
The truth is that a symbol can mean anything to the individual. Indeed, most popular symbols often have a much deeper meaning when you talk to the person who uses them to represent themselves. What you choose can mean a number of things to you and the people who perceive it, depending on the day and the context.