I once read that you are the only person you will ever get to know. And, I would add that it will take some effort. I would also argue that the whole statement is nonsense and say, instead, that you are the one person you will probably never fully understand. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Sometimes, I have absolutely no idea who I am, or more importantly, who I feel I was meant to be. But after a half-century on this earth, I haven’t quite given up trying to figure it out.
I believe we all like to think of ourselves as complex creatures, deep in thought, lofty in goals, and deliberate in execution. But, I’m not sure that’s always the case, and I think that’s OK. We each need to be who we are, but we need to do our best to understand that person. The point is that we try to know ourselves as best we can because it’s doubtful that we’ll ever truly understand anyone else.
Accumulated knowledge, combined with life experience, creates the person we are at any given moment. I’ve said it before, life is not, as Forrest Gump told us, like a box of chocolates, but more a pile of LEGO. Each piece snaps on as we encounter it and the picture of ourselves changes as time goes on.
The problem is that some people think we are the same individual indefinitely with unalterable personality and behavior. I don’t believe that. Our personal LEGO project is continually adding and shifting pieces in its ever-evolving image. If we’re not willing to learn who we are and why the meaning of that image may never be clear to us. But don’t be too worried, it’s probably not going to be totally clear anyway, regardless of our efforts.
Calling back to my earlier statement about not knowing anyone else, well, that’s just impossible regardless of what you do. Like the saying goes, people treat us like the clothes we wear, they only see what we show them. Trying harder to dig into their personality may be a fruitless activity.
Knowing someone else isn’t about the time you put into it but what they allow you to see in the first place. If they don’t let you in, you can never really know the person and, even then, it would only be in small vignettes of their true selves.
But you can get to know yourself, just be reminded it’s the “self” you are at that moment because it’s going to change. Remember the incomplete LEGO project? And it should change, that’s normal and healthy.
Some aspects of our LEGO project will never alter. For example, you might always like science fiction movies or romance novels. But being open to new things, like seeing a romantic comedy or reading Charles Dickens, is what helps us learn and grow.
So many people I know are stagnant, at least in appearance. They are “this way” and nothing will change that. We see this more often in very political or religious people.
Anyone who is rigid and unbending has hit a stagnation point. Yes, I can be stubborn, as anyone who knows me can easily attest. The last decade or so, however, has taught me the value of flexibility, even in some of my most ingrained ideology. Being open to a regular fitness routine or completing a 100-mile bike ride are prime indicators that I’ve relaxed my resolve a bit, partly by necessity.
But before I could embrace any of those ideas I had to accept my own behavior and alter it. I had to stop being so resistant to change and allow myself the experience. Only then was I able to appreciate the benefits. Because I recognized my own stalwart shortcomings, I was able to push them aside and make room for something new.
Most people avoid change, not because they can’t do it, but because they’re afraid of it. That’s normal too, but it can be overcome. There again, you have to take the time to understand who you are and realize that the human consciousness is in a constant state of change.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. More at deerinheadlines.com.