“No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself. No man is free who cannot command himself.”
The hardest person to get to know if yourself, to be able to truly understand the good and bad parts that make you who you are and accept them. Without knowing and understanding yourself you cannot begin to know the relationships you can have with others. Like a math problem of a+b=c we need to know at least one of the factors to solve the problem at hand. When interacting with the unknown world we need to know who we are in order to formulate what types of results that we’ll get. There are different aspects to knowing anyone especially yourself. You can’t just focus on one single personality characteristic or quirk, but need to find that right combination that works for you.
Everyone has a certain self image of themselves whether positive, negative or both. In most cases we think highly of ourselves in certain aspects and also know that there are parts that aren’t quite the best. For the negative parts we have a few options. First, we can choose to “fix” them or at the very least improve them. If Bob feels that he is too negative about things and a pessimistic outlook on life. He can decide to take the time and energy to make himself a more positive person. The main thing about being able to make a negative situation into a positive one is to look at it from a different perspective. The second option is to accept the bad. When accepting a negative trait we again have a few options. Option one is to simple keep it as is and let it weigh us down or we can can actually try to make it into a positive trait. Again it simply has to do with viewpoints. Sue tends to be like Bob and has a pessimistic worldview, for her the glass is always half empty. She is quite satisfied with that view though and takes uses her views to help make positive changes. She knows that she can’t simply ignore the problems that she sees so spends her time trying to make things a bit better.
In both cases Bob and Sue are both generally pessimistic people, however Bob is not happy with being pessimistic so wants to spend his time and energy trying to look for the good in things to be generally a more optimistic person. Sue on the other hand is perfectly happy being the pessimist so uses that natural inclination to help make things better. In both cases they accept who they are, but approach it differently because of how they feel about who they are.
The final way to approach a negative trait is what tends to be the easiest and most common one of ignoring it. Many people choose to simply put blinders on and ignore that they have anything negative or something that could use some tinkering about their personalities. Unfortunately in most cases ignoring these traits tends to make them worse as time goes on as they become more and more exaggerated over time. It was something that I used to always find bothersome with watching sitcoms. In the first few seasons characters do have some negatives about them, but as progressive seasons are added these traits become more and more exaggerated until they become a caricature of themselves. If you ever watched “Friends” you’ll see the characters become more and more symbols of their problems than well rounded people. However as I’ve gotten older I’ve also realized that this happens in real life as well as we hold onto certain traits (negative or positive) and reinforce them more and more until they define us.
Acceptance can Mean more than Fixing
I am generally a trusting person and I like being that way. I did realize early on that being a trusting person is not an easy thing to do. The main reason why is that people will take advantage of you. Whether I like it or not the world is full of dishonest people. I had a choice to make on how to handle this part of my personality. I could either change and start trusting people less and less or I could accept that trusting people is going to cause me some pain and grief.
“There’s a sucker born every minute,” and I accept that I am one of those suckers.
I chose the latter mainly because I didn’t want to change how I felt about the world in general, that people in general are “good” and even though they may have changed to be dishonest I did not have to help that deevolution occur. It is a decision that I made (and one that I sometimes regret), but it has made me a more honest person overall. When you start to distrust people I’ve noticed the first thing that many people do is set up a defense system of deception in order to protect themselves.
You Can’t Know the Limit Until You Push It
We know what skills we possess and also what traits we have but it is difficult for us to really know the limits of what we can accomplish. Athletes constantly push their physical and mental boundaries to find out exactly how far they can go in order to see how much farther and faster is possible. For the rest of us, we simply don’t know because we never feel the need to push our physical, mental or spiritual limits. We simply guess how far we can go and in many cases take a much too conservative viewpoint.
I’ve always thought highly of some of my abilities, but never pushed them to see what I was really capable of mainly out of the fear of failure. Going to the brink and realizing that it’s nowhere near as far as one thought is a scary experience so I’ve always played it safe within a very narrow scope of view, always saying “If I need to I can.” but never actually going near the deep end of the pool. Instead, I always stood in the shallow end, knowing I can swim but never knowing how far I could go.
Swimming Towards the Horizon
That fear is an artificial limiter on our capabilities. If you can swim out to sea for a hundred yards, then by pushing, you can go a hundred more. The act of never trying is the same as trying and failing without any chance of success. In my case the fear of failure always tended to outweigh the benefits of success.
I’m not saying that everyone should suddenly jump in the ocean and try swimming to the next continent but at least take a few strokes and you might experience something new or different. At first it can be baby steps to start breaking down the prison you built for yourself. Try going somewhere new, starting a conversation with a stranger or even eating something different. There will be failures but there will also be successes. You might find yourself discovering something that had been missing from your life and in the worst case scenario at least know that this is a place that doesn’t interest you, that person is boring or this food is disgusting. It is always better to know for sure than to guess.
“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
― Lao Tzu
The more you take steps to interact with the outside world the more you’ll begin to understand yourself better. These are the activities I really enjoy, the ones that calm me, the ones that make me think to the ones that I hate. These are the people I like to talk to, to spend time with and these are people better to avoid. In any case, you won’t know until you try these things out at least once. These are the foods I like to eat and the places that I like to go. The more you know what you really like and dislike the more you can delve into who you are as a person.
You Need to Plant the Seed to know What will Grow
For too many of us the idea of personal growth died off long ago. We are too caught up in the mundane duties of our daily lives to make time for something new. Fortunately the act of doing or learning something new is easier than we may think. In many cases we simply need to take the opportunity to resurrect our inner child. The child that always wanted to see something new and meet new people. The child that saw excitement in basic everyday curiosity and had a wonder for life. That child no longer comes naturally for most of us, but still exists and we simply need to rekindle that flame every once in awhile.
The main reason to try to expand one’s horizons is to collect data for examination to figure out who you really are as a person. There is no single trait or attribute that encapsulates everything that a person is. Instead, it is made of an almost infinite number of characteristics that for you the individual.
A Jesuit priest once remarked of the Japanese people that they have three hearts. I think that this applies to most of us in the world today. One heart is for the general public to see. How we behave and act in society. The second heart is reserved for family and close friends. How we act privately with those that know us best. The third and final heart is the one that we only reveal to ourselves, the thoughts and desires we dare not share with anyone.
To understand ourselves better we need to know all three hearts. How are we in public when interacting with strangers and coworkers. What image of ourselves do we try to portray? How does that vary from how we are to the people close to us?
My girlfriends would always complain about my personality. When I was out in public I would be very outgoing. Always joking around and having conversations with friends and strangers alike. I was always in a good mood and full of energy. In private with my girlfriends though I would be a different person. Very quiet and introverted only wanting to spend time with them watching a movie or making something to eat together. When I’m alone, I’m even more introverted, content just to sit at a desk in front of a computer.
“You need to know things the others don’t know. It’s what no one knows about you that allows you to know yourself.”
― Don DeLillo,
These are three different aspects to my heart. In public I create a false persona for the world to see, whereas in private I can be myself. The outward heart is one we usually create to protect ourselves from the outside world, it is a suit of armor that we wear. Whether it be someone who seems happy go-lucky without a care in the world to someone who always has an air of confidence and energy. The armor can be something that is meek or strong, quiet or loud as each one is simply an illusion.
Originally posted 2016-12-20 23:42:46.