How Well Do We Know Ourselves?

Here’s how the conversation went:

@JustKissie When people tell you you’ve changed, it’s only because you stopped acting the way they want you to act. #BidTheeFarewell

@Mitch_M Or the way they got used to you acting; just sayin’… 🙂

@JustKissie Either way. They could be who they really are … but we never know the entirety of anyone … so how can we say they changed?

@Mitch_M I think if we know people well enough we know when it’s either them or us; have to really know people though.

@JustKissie Do I smell a blog post coming? Do we even know ourselves?

@Mitch_M Possibly; you writing it? 🙂

@JustKissie WE will write it. You know I write quarterly … if that.

Since I knew the “we” was me, I guess I’m writing it, and it’s this post. To start with, how many of you remember a post I wrote last year titled What Makes People Change? If you didn’t read it, you might want to check it out before going further with this one for some back story.

Anyway, Friday I went to visit my mother for Easter. Yeah, I know Easter was on Sunday, but we knew the crowds would be murder on Sunday so we always do our get together on the Friday before whenever possible.

While there, she’d called and asked the lady who lives across the street from her to come over because Mom had bought a gift for her little girl. So they came over, Mom gave her the gift, and the little girl loved the gift.

We sat and started talking about property values in the area and how they’d dropped since representatives had started trying to sell the house of the man who’d killed his wife, which was right next door to this woman. As we kept talking, we weaved through a history that each of us had with this man and it seems that my mother and I, for the most part, had a very different history and knowledge of this man than Mom’s neighbor did. The only thing I knew that was confirmed by this neighbor is that this man was doing cocaine; that was the easy part.

It seems this man actually had a very violent history, all while living across the street from Mom. He’d actually physically hurt all 4 of his wives (I only knew of 2, Mom knew of 3) and that one of his wives actually had to do one of those midnight special moves when he was out of town to get her and her daughter away from him and go into hiding; shocking stuff.

While it was shocking to see just how little my mother and I knew about some of the demons of this man, the conversation above with Miss Kissie made me start to think about just how little most of us know about ourselves, or are willing to accept about ourselves. Would we become different people if we were suddenly rich or poor? Would our behavior change drastically if suddenly we were famous or powerful? What about our behavior would change if one of our friends suddenly had some of these things and we weren’t as much a part of their lives anymore? Would we be jealous; would we be happy?

I guess overall I’m kind of lucky because I’ve spent a lot of time being introspective. I have no jealousy or envy of others, no matter what they do. I might want to emulate success, but I don’t begrudge anyone their good fortune, whether I believe they deserve it or not.

I almost never think anyone owes me anything unless I’m accused of not doing enough when I feel I’ve done all I’ve needed to do. If people never acknowledge that I’ve done something good for them, I’m okay with it, although it would be nice.

Could I kill? Well now, that’s the interesting question to respond to isn’t it? I have to answer it this way; I probably could depending on the circumstances. If I had to kill to save my life or the lives of those I love, yes. For any other reason I believe I can say no, but that’s after I learned to control some aspects of my younger behavior that I wasn’t overly proud of. Hopefully there are negative aspects of our childhood that we change as we get older. If those are the attributes that people look at and say we’ve changed, I think most of us would be happy with it.

One final thing, addressing my friend Kissie’s question as to whether we can say people have changed if we don’t know their entirety. My response would be of course we can. I knew a musician friend of mine had changed many years ago when he started doing cocaine, even though I only saw him every few weeks. I didn’t need to know his entirety to notice that.

I’ve known people I’ve worked with who were timid and quiet that, over time, became a lot more vocal and stood up for themselves. I don’t need to know their entirety, to know if that’s how they were in their real life to know they’ve changed at work.

It takes perception to notice changes in others. It takes bravery to notice changes in yourself. My longest friends will probably tell you that I’m the same as I was in my late teens. In some ways yes, but in some ways I’m not even close. I sometimes think we’re harder on ourselves than others are on us. Sometimes that’s not such a bad thing if it propels us to try for great things.

24 thoughts on “How Well Do We Know Ourselves?”

  1. You have changed. As you say, life’s experiences in the past, present and in the future will continue to mold ourselves. Changes can be good or bad. It all depends on how we deal with them.

    1. Thanks for your perspective Scott. You’re one of the few people who could really gauge how much or little I’ve changed; same goes for you of course. I like to think that most of my changes have been for the good but there are times when I question it.

  2. Good meaty post Mitch. Lots to think about. Could I kill, years ago I thought long and hard about that one, and realised I might be able to if the circumstances were right, but it’d have to be extreme threat to myself or loved ones. For a job? No, I wouldn’t apply for a job that forced that upon me.

    I’ve watched people change through drug use, horrific events, flood, fire, abuse. I’ve felt myself change with some things that have happened – become stronger, more vocal about social equity, justice, things like that.

    I’ve often wondered if we truly know ourselves, but that’s a different theme.

    1. Sue, that’s actually the theme for this post, how well we truly know ourselves. You’re right though, people change for many different reasons because it’s a long life, we hope.

  3. People change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. And there are things that happen to us that changes the course of our lives for good. But it is also true that sometimes we say someone has changed because we refused to see that side of his/her person before or it wasn’t what you expected of him or her.

    1. Interesting point Reese. I think sometimes we refuse to see certain sides of someone, and other times we never have the opportunity to see what people are really made of. Because of that, we need to know what we’re made of when we might have to make quick decisions based on what might occur in those interactions.

  4. I think I have wrote a comment on your previous post, but probably I will write something completely controversial to the previous one. I am sure that I wrote that people change before, but I think only behavior change to some extends, but character of person is still the same, just some parts appear to be hidden, or some situation let something inside to get on the surface. However I think there are many angles and I am sure that there are many books on this topic.

    1. Carl, I think sometimes the impetus of what goes on in our lives makes us decide whether we really change or not. I know that I gave up my quick tempered self a long time ago, and I’m really glad it happened as it was a major change in my personality. I’m not sure I’d still be walking around free without that particular change in behavior.

      1. Sure, I also explode quite often, but this doesn’t change my character in general. I have been in situation when I’ve had personal personal issues and I was told by many people that I have change, well actually I didn’t change, but some people there expected from me to say “yes”, but as a matter of fact is something temporary.

  5. Like what most people would say.. “The only constant thing in this world is change.”. I do believe that people change and it is up to you whether you consider it as a good or bad change. And as for yourself, you can always have a choice whether you want to change for the better or the other way around. Thanks.

  6. The old greeks said: ‘Panta rei’ it means that everything changes. So do human. It is a natural process, but we can choose the direction of the change. A change into positive direction means evolution. And that’s the way we need to choose. Always be better.

  7. Changes are good but make sure for the better.Sometimes there are things that we need to change. Glad the changes you made are for the better.nice post.

  8. Thought provoking post, Mitch, thanks.

    I change all the time, some changes are small, some large. I’ve always had the sort of personality which would seem to ‘suddenly’ change whereas what’d happen was that a slow change would show itself to me seemingly out of the blue, then I’d have to stand back and try to work out why it happened. Some the ‘big’ changes have been from the deaths of my parents, from coming off a 19 year addiction to a prescribed tranquilliser (and it was that which was originally behind my starting Absurd Old Bird blog – I was hoping to chart my own progress for myself personally but then of course, the blog itself changed me and so the blog changed too!) and from moving from an urban to a rural environment.

    Would I be able to kill? Probably. I’m human and I maintain that human beings aren’t so far removed from animals – the instincts are there to protect and to survive, but I would hope I’m never put to the test.

    Slightly (ever so slightly) off topic: I’m glad to see Kissie is back. 🙂

    1. It is nice having Kissie back, isn’t it? Actually I could say the same for you, since you’ve altered your blog again. Sometimes I think I know myself too well because I’ll excuse myself for bad behavior by saying “you know how you are”, and that’s just not always good enough. I can’t say I’ve made great changes, but I know there definitely have been some.

      1. The main thing is knowing yourself well enough to know you’ve made some changes, even if you can’t always keep track of what they are.

        Thanks Mitch – you’ll also be pleased to know that I’m currently looking at self-hosting. Yep, me.… arrrghhh!!

      2. Wow Val, that’s a major step, but you’ll feel way more in control of things. And yes, it’s nice knowing that I am in many ways a different person than I was, yet still retain a lot of what I liked about myself.

  9. The big shift for me was when I discovered coaching. I learned more about myself and others because of my coach training and coaching hundreds of clients.

    I’m in the people change business. I’ve seen some incredible shifts.

    1. Steve, did you notice in every comment you make you push coaching? lol

      I tend to think that most people don’t need coaching to understand themselves. What they need is courage because it can be scary to look back and see what’s going on with their lives. And I also believe none of us can really know anyone else until we know ourselves. By the way, in your own self evaluation, did you figure out whether you could kill or not?

  10. I love talking about my profession. Secondly, I don’t push anything. In fact, I’ve never sold anyone on coaching or any of my services. Ever. My clients enthusiastically enroll.

    You wrote an article about “change.” I’m in the people change business. So, why wouldn’t I want to marry the two in a blog post?

    Everyone should have a coach. Listen to Eric Schmidt, one of the most successful CEO’s ever.

    I disagree with you about “knowing” ourselves. What “true” coaches do, is get others to understand who they really are. These people are usually already successful.

    1. Steve, you kind of didn’t answer any of my questions, and what you disagreed on with me didn’t quite address what I was talking about either. I’ll try again. lol

      First, you are pushing coaching, though you may not see it that way. I understand because it’s what you do and what you’ve gone through, but every once in awhile it’s like a former smoker who’s disgust for current smokers is stronger than that of someone who’s never smoked before.

      Second, are you saying that there’s not a single person in the world who can know themselves well without a coach?

      Third, do you believe that one doesn’t ever really need to know anything about themselves to truly understand others?

      Fourth, if people are already successful when they get coaching, are you then saying that people who aren’t successful don’t need coaching (I know this answer), or won’t get the same thing out of it?

      Fifth, the question you avoided, did you come to the conclusion when you learned what you felt you needed to know about yourself as to whether or not you could kill someone?

      Obviously I believe that people can get to know themselves if they’re brave enough to want to go through the process. Having a coach is fine, and is actually a good thing and I’ve talked about that as well. However, this article wasn’t really about coaching so I didn’t go that route. This man, who was one of my mother’s neighbors, wouldn’t have benefited from coaching; he needed serious counseling. And it was scary because over the years I knew there was something; I actually wrote about it in a previous post on this blog.

      Still, it’s all about change and knowing when one has changed and determining which things change in each of us. And once we figure it out & acknowledge it, then it’s about determining how we might react differently to things that are either new to us or things we knew about that our minds have changed on.

      1. We’ll speak about this at our next lunch.

        When I read a post, I comment if there’s something that resonates with me. Change was the operative word that caught my attention.

        My comment re: successful people didn’t come out right. What I meant to say was, my typical client is already successful or has tasted success.

        After all this typing, I expect you to buy me the next lunch. 🙂

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