Self-Awareness Isn’t About You

jelly something-er-other“Hey, what are you doing on this side of the bar?”

“I just finished my shift.”  The bartender closed his composition notebook and reached for his glass.  “How are you?”

She sits on the next stool, “I’m well.  I’ve got about an hour before picking up the kids.”  She smiled across the bar to the next shift’s bartender, “I’ll have a coke, please.”  After finding her wallet she said, “So, Hank, what are you writing?”

Hank hesitated, “I’m working on a paper about self-awareness.” He slid the notebook to the side.  “There’s a fine line between self-awareness and self-absorption.  I want to illustrate that self-awareness – contrary to what most folks think – isn’t really about you.  Maybe I should say that it shouldn’t be about you.”

“I’m not sure I get where you’re going.”

 

Hank laughed, “Well, there’s all this stuff about self-awareness and how powerful it is to learn about yourself.  You know, folks take personality tests, or they study up on introversion versus extroversion, but then they stop there.”

“I’ve taken those tests.  They can be so accurate.”

Hank tapped his pen on the edge of the bar.  “Yes, they can be accurate.  They can open our eyes to our strengths and weaknesses.  They provide insight into why we behave the way we do, or make the choices that we make.”

“And that’s a good thing.  Right?”

“Yes, of course.  But here’s what I see.  I see someone who discovers they are an INFJ, for example.  They walk around as if they’ve discovered the Holy Grail.  They can’t wait to tell people – in their own, subtle, introverted way – that they are the smallest percentile of the Myers-Briggs types.  They search out other INFJs online and talk about their issues and find like-minded folks who understand them.”

“I’ve done that.  Only I’m not an INFJ.  But it’s interesting to see those patterns in people.”

“I’m not arguing with that.  There is benefit in seeing the patterns and exploring the commonalities.  But that knowledge ought to be carried further – to how we relate to others.  If not, that self-awareness just becomes self-absorption, and our culture is dealing with more than enough self-absorption.”

 

She reaches for her glass, “You mean as in narcissism?”

“Yes, that comes to mind.  A finite amount of navel-gazing is productive.  Maybe it helps us see why we keep making the same choices.  But after awhile, all the focus on self becomes a full-time hobby.  That knowledge about self becomes another way to isolate yourself from others.  You start out thinking it connects you, but it creates another layer of insulation.”

“Give me an example.”

“Okay, the INFJ might say, ‘I can’t possibly relate to her, she’s an ISTJ.  Gawd!  What would we have in common?  She doesn’t feel.  How could I get around that?’  But what if the INFJ said, ‘Wow, she seems like an ISTJ.  That means I better rein in the feelings.  I’ll avoid chatting up anything symbolic or philosophical.  I can do this.  I can do small talk if I have to.  It won’t kill me.  This’ll be interesting – or at least different.’  The INFJ pushes herself to relate to someone outside her comfort zone, and learns even more about herself and how she might function better in relationships as an INFJ.”

“Yeah, but then we aren’t being true to who we are.  I mean isn’t that like presenting who someone wants us to be, instead of being genuine?”

“I don’t think so.  I’m not suggesting that the INFJ should be someone else.  I’m saying, take what you know about being an INFJ or an ESTP or an extrovert or whatever and push yourself and learn to apply that knowledge to how you relate to others.  What is the point of learning what makes us tick, if it doesn’t give us a set of tools for relating better?  Should that INFJ sit in her cozy, quiet, low-lit flat and never relate to anyone else, or could she venture out with a complete understanding of her comfort zones, push herself a little and then come home and really appreciate her safe haven – with more knowledge of how she can better relate to others?”

 

Hank opened his composition book to make a note.  “There’s no point in self-awareness or learning about ourselves, if it doesn’t make the rest of our relationships better.”

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4 comments

  1. Sounds like there has been some reflection and self-awareness going on over there. ;)

  2. Z,

    Oh, just a skosh. ;)

  3. This is great, I needed this :P As I’m shy, I tend to use this as my “excuse” not to talk to others. “Oh we don’t have much in common…” I like this, I’m going to push myself to relate to people whom I don’t have much in common with :)

  4. Hi Belinda!

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I see that in my youngest. She’s an introvert, too, and she comes off very shy, but get her in her comfort zone and she really opens up. Even with all that, though, she loves to travel and go to new places, which is kinda like opening up conversations with new people. She’s learned so much by putting herself outside her comfort zone.

    You never know what might spark if you don’t try.

    What have you got to lose?

    All the best! :)

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