Run out and get a psychology degree! ASAP! Ok, you can't...too expensive, not enough time, or you don't want to...so I'll save you the time and headache and explain what I learned that I didn't necessarily bargain for (we'll get to that in a moment). Let's just say, I am really careful about what I feed my brain now.
My mom is an avid Fox News watcher. I'm not- I have seen it once or twice. That may be disappointing to whichever side you pledge your allegiance to (besides the point: to be fair ALL news stations need to change their delivery of information to get my time. I prefer info in thoughtfully, written form so I can research and digest it).
I'm used to my mom talking to me in "Fox-news speak", but just this last week after her stint in the hospital, she blurted out an original nugget of insight; "I think people are more concerned about who the world thinks they are than who they really are." BINGO. I agree (if you listen long enough to somebody, you can find something you agree on).
People want to portray themselves to the world as a "good" person (that's not rocket science, but it is psychology). Psychology studies should've come with a warning label: "You can't handle the truth".
There's a thing in psychology called the actor-observer bias (you're bad, I'm good) and it basically says that we're all a**holes.
It's nothing like going to war, but you will never be the same after learning who all of us really are (something war veterans get a heaping dose of).
Time-tested studies undeniably pinpoint who we are as a people (it's not puppies and rainbows). But of course, YOU are a good person, while everyone else is subject for debate.
(Approximately 85% of people are, and react, very similarly on any given study or test. You couldn't guess that with the current divided country...and world.)
Don't ever be too certain of yourself.
Can we all agree the brain is tricky terrain and an unreliable source of who you are? Do not take yourself too seriously, right?!
You might believe yourself to be compassionate, but science states it is practically impossible to be truly compassionate for all of humankind, and even so, internalizing the suffering and experiences of others would lead to extreme emotional burnout...look what happened to Jesus!
The thought that we are not as compassionate as we think threatens the perception of ourselves or that we could be good people, but unknowingly racist for example- that can be very uncomfortable. I've experienced tests where people are flabbergasted at their results- it wasn't cohesive with who they thought they were.
The less "desirable" facets of ourselves serve as a reminder that we should not get too attached to who we think we are or who we portray ourselves to be. Unfortunately, our common threads aren't pretty- they're human. Instead of embracing that truth toward connectedness, realizing we're not all that and a bowl of grits, we try to prove how we are the good guy. We can't see who we are as natural functioning humans (the traits that bind us). Try to point it out, and people refuse to see or get very upset (yes, I try to do this).
When we choose not to see (we don't have to show) all our less desirable parts then we fool ourselves into thinking it's everyone else who has problems in their behavior or thinking. Most of those facets are things we all struggle with.
We rarely take a walk into that kind of unknown. If we did, it would resemble Alice in Wonderland.
The following exchange between Alice and the caterpillar, makes a great argument for our inability to grasp the idea of who we are:
'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'
'What do you mean by that?' said the Caterpillar sternly. 'Explain yourself!'
'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'
'I don't see,' said the Caterpillar.
'I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly,' Alice replied very politely, 'for I can't understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different ways in a day is very confusing.'
'It isn't,' said the Caterpillar.
'Well, perhaps you haven't found it so yet,' said Alice; 'but when you have to turn into a chrysalis — you will some day understand, and then after that into a butterfly, I should think you'll feel it a little queer, won't you?'
'Not a bit,' said the Caterpillar.
'Well, perhaps your feelings may be different,' said Alice; 'all I know is, it would feel very queer to me.'
'You!' said the Caterpillar contemptuously. 'Who are you?'
And now I ask you, are you closer to who you are or further? How would you answer the caterpillar's question?
Like Alice came to find, what you see is not as it seems- don't distress like she did. In this scene, Alice stomped off quite perturbed at the caterpillar for pointing out she is not who she thinks she is.
Knowing ourselves is less about who we think we are (and proving that "identity" to the world), and more about accepting what a caterpillar must- there are as many facets to ourselves as there are stages before becoming a butterfly.
I'm passionate about no-nonsense self-improvement. Too many of us are plagued by faulty thought patterns- I aim to change that!