How well do you know yourself?
We all have this idea of who were are, but like all things which pass through our filter, it’s highly subjective to our inner dialogue, history, and prejudices. In other words, the idea we have of ourselves may not be who we really are. Or at least how the world sees us.
I used to see myself as this creative, nice, selfless, awesome dad who dotes on his three year old son. I was patient with him and not going to make any of the mistakes I see other parents making by being short-tempered, impatient, or talking down to my child.
Then, one day the veil was lifted and I saw myself for who I really am.
I was going over old videos I’d shot on my camera and came across one where I’d left the camera on, or maybe my wife was filming, but in any event, I saw my son following me around trying to talk to me while I was more or less ignoring him. I saw myself from the perspective of the wide eyed two year old following his daddy, and it was like a punch to the gut.
It actually brought tears to my eyes.
I didn’t remember the situation like that. Hell, I didn’t even remember the situation. But he might. Even if he doesn’t, my actions still shaped him in some way – either in how to treat other people or perhaps how he thinks I view him. And it’s not good.
I couldn’t believe what I’d seen on the video. I considered myself a good father. I spent time with my son and talked to him a lot. But, as it turns out, I didn’t spend ENOUGH time with him. And while sometimes kids can drone on and on and become easy to tune out, you can’t do it when they’re trying to interact with you.
You mean the world to them and your responses will shape how they respond to others.
When I asked my wife and a few close friends about the matter, they weren’t as surprised in me being in my own world. They all know how I get wrapped up in my internal
dialogue – I always have my mind on the next thing I need to do, whether it be work or creative stuff I’m working on. And while I’ve always thought that I tuned people out politely, or in at least a subtle way, that wasn’t quite how they saw it.
And it was the wake up call I needed to be more in the moment and actually listen to my son when he’s talking, and treat him like he’s the important person in my life that he is.
It’s important to have someone who can help you see yourself as you really are. We all need a mirror. And while no mirror is without its own filters, as everyone brings their own experiences into how they view you, they can show you a truer, more well-rounded vision of yourself than you can ever achieve on your own.
So, how do you learn what you’re like? How the rest of the world sees you? Here’s some suggestions.
Ask your friends and family. Be honest, tell them you’re looking for input, good or bad, and you won’t hold it against them. Just remember – you can’t get mad at what they tell you. Even if you think they’re completely wrong.
Ask for anonymous input. Tell people to email you from a new email address which you’re unfamiliar with, and reveal what they really think of you.
Pay attention. People often offer subtle clues that they’re not happy with us, but we need to pay attention to receive them. For instance, a friend of mine has a mother who always interjects her opinions about everything to everyone. While she believes she is helping people, and might have the best of intentions, many of the people she is “helping” do not appreciate it.