Getting To Know Others Is Relatively Easy . . . But What About Getting To Know Yourself?

Humans are social creatures.

As soon as we’re old enough to talk, we begin socializing with other humans by shouting and throwing things at them.  And, if they’re blessed enough to be our parents, maybe we even crap on them a little.  (If you’ve currently got a child that’s in this stage in life, just remember that it doesn’t last forever . . . and keep the little tantrum ball away from me.)  This continues for about a year or two and then we move into the next stage of social development: forming real live sentences.  With words and stuff.  Words that actually communicate what we want instead of gestures coupled with grunting and pooping and cooing.  We grow until the point where throwing things is no longer socially acceptable.  Talking becomes the expected norm.

After we’ve mastered our tongues—which is a step that some people skip all together—we go to school where we smash crayons and glue and glitter onto oversized, neon-colored paper with other kids our age.  This is how we get to know people.  As soon as we’re (mostly) able control ourselves, we’re thrown into a room with other beings who are (mostly) able to control themselves.  Together, we start doing things that are (mostly) sensible.  This continues until sometime after college . . . mostly.

During our lives, we get to know others pretty well.  We form friendships and relationships and date.  Who knows?  We might even make out! (I don’t mean “we” as in you and I, but . . . oh, you get the point.)  As long as you aren’t a hermit, as long as you put yourself out there and meet new people, it’s relatively easy to have a large group of friends.  Getting to know others is relatively easy . . . but what about getting to know yourself?

Oh yes, this about to get as sappy as it sounds!

When was the last time you sat back and seriously considered what you want out of life?  I’m not talking about thoughts like I wonder what type of pizza I’ll stuff my face with later? or Gee, I’d really like to buy a new pair of pants!, I’m talking about a serious self-analysis.  Seriously.  When was the last time you did that?  For most of us, the answer to that question will fall into these three categories: A) “Uhhh . . . what do you mean?” B) “Oh, I think about what I want all the time!” or  C) “What kind of pansy question is that? . . . Are you Mr. Rogers or something?”

To answer the smart alecks like me who picked C, no, I’m not Mr. Rogers.  But I do envy his sweaters.  For those of you who picked A . . . well you’re lost anyway so I won’t try to explain the question.  And those of you who picked B I know you’re lying.  How?  Because from the time that we’re children we’re trained to analyze others and not ourselves.  We’re trained to socialize, to absorb, report—but we’re not trained to reflect.  For Example: When you learn the alphabet in preschool, your teacher says, “A, B, C, now write it.”  They don’t say, “A, B, C . . . now how does that make you feel?”

What I’m getting at is: try not to go through life just reporting, absorbing, and analyzing.  All these things are important, especially if you’re a writer, but by themselves they don’t help you figure out who you are.  To do that, you have to enter each day with a personal goal in mind and follow through with that goal.  You have to find out what your values are—not the values of your parents or cousins or crazy cat neighbor, I’m talking about what you believe in—and stick to them.  You have to take some time out of your day to reflect.  That’s the biggest part of it.  Reflection and thinking will help you get to know your true self.

After all, if you don’t even know what you think, how could you possibly know who you are?

—The Common Writer

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