Tuesday, July 19, 2005

True Self

Through researching the science of personality, an interesting piece of information stuck with me and I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about it personally. Basically, when it comes to personality, there are four perspectives:
  1. The personality traits that we see and others also see.
  2. The personality traits that we alone see.
  3. The personality traits that only others see.
  4. And the personality traits that no one sees, including ourselves. This area is described on one personality profile as "hidden needs."

To use myself as an example, I see myself and most others would probably agree, that ideas come easily to me, information gathering is fun and I enjoy education and derive personal satisfaction through helping and teaching people. We would also probably agree that I am more a big picture person, get paralyzed making decisions at times and have weak follow-through when it comes to detail orientation. Starting is easy for me. Finishing--oy!

Then there are the traits that I alone see. For example, I know, even if most people are shocked, that I have a shy interior. I work very hard to meet people and be open. It is work for me. After being in group situations, I need time alone to recharge. For example, church wears me out. Speaking engagements wear me out. Social functions like weddings wear me out. Because I manage social situations fairly easily, this trait is often obscured. My behavior has been (mis) interpretted at times as being "stuck up" because after spending fun times with people I'll hibernate for a while. Oh well...

Now to the traits that only others see. How can you see it if only others can see it, you may wonder. Well, I have been personality tested out the wazoo and have done some serious soul searching so to become aware. This trait was very painful for me to recognize but a lot of things came together once it was presented to me: I am extremely blunt to people, so much so that even things that I'm not emotionally attached to (hey, you should go to this restaurant it's great!), can sound like strident directives. People who know me, know that inside I'm a mush, which is why I suspect many of my friends have stuck with me. What I put out is Marine Drill Sargeant. I am diligently working on this trait. It bugs me that my normal self can be so offensive and off-putting. So now I try to pause, "Is this kind? Does this matter? Does it need to be said? Can I say it softer?"

Finally, there are parts of me that I don't see and others don't see either. Again, a personality test helped me see that I really have a low energy level and need more time than the average bear to re-tool. This too, was difficult to swallow. I had made a life burning the candle at both ends. People who see my "slowed down life" now laugh. But I have slowed down comparitively and work constantly to simplify my life.

There is more about me, but my point in bring this all up is this: w are more than meets the eye to ourselves and to others. Often our vision of ourself is as distorted as the image we see in a mirror. It looks like us, but it is not us. It is an approximation of the superficial.

It makes me wonder: what else don't I know about me? Surely the tests aren't sophisticated enough yet to pick up everything. What other traits could be modulated or better managed so my life is happier and more fulfilling and my relationships prosper?

It takes more than a little courage to truly see ourselves. It takes commitment to follow through and change. In my experience, the benefits of doing so have been enormous: I parent better, my marriage has improved and my professional life is easier.

The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool.

--Richard Feynman

More blogs about the woodlands rita.