To know your deepest character traits, don't introspect; simply ask those around you

Human beings are complex animals. Our brains are the most complex part inside us. What is astonishing is the web of deceit it creates around our identity. We often fool ourselves about our identity. We may think a certain set of traits are our strengths and certain others, our weaknesses. However, the truth may be something entirely different.

I am not referring to the bullshit that MBA aspirants would use in the interview round of a management program. For the question, "What are your weaknesses", Manik Daruwala of the TIME institute goaded his students to say something silly like, "I get impatient at times" or the rather bombastic, "I have very high expectations from myself and others". 

What I am talking about are more real, much deeper characteristics. Like being arrogant, being deceitful, being too greedy, and so on. Or on the positive side, being empathetic, being street-smart and so on.

We often subconsciously create a narrative about ourselves in our own heads. This is different from the narrative that we attempt to create in the minds of others. So, while someone may believe they are quite naïve (to pick a random example), they may try to do things that may make them seem street-smart to others.

What I am referring to in this post is very different from both the above. It is not what we or others think about us. It is what we actually are. 

How do we know what we actually are? Isn't it what we know or think about ourself? I highly doubt it.

About what we actually are, I believe, rather counterintuitively, people around us are most well-informed. Let me explain.

Our deepest character traits always manifest in our actions. We cannot prevent this. Our actions are almost always guided by these traits. There might be some rare cases where we do things by force or out of compulsion. But these actions are very few. People around us are seeing us acting out aspects of our character. Soon enough, these become evident.

We might be fooling ourselves about this. Actions, though, rarely lie. So, assuming you want to know more about yourself (and I guarantee there are several benefits to this), stop introspecting and start asking those around you. People whom you have spent a lot of time with. Family, friends, co-workers.

At least this is what I believe.


B said…
Fantastic perspective. Self-awareness is all great but in the end what we do is what we are.