How well do you know yourself? (and how to know yourself better)

Know thyself – the Oracle at Delphi

When I was sharing what happened between my mom and I, someone remarked, ‘that was good of your mom to recognize that she was mad at herself for getting mad at you’. And I thought, that’s interesting; are people not aware of their feelings?

Then there was this other discussion I had about how we notice in the moment, let’s say when we’re fighting, and we decide not to get really angry or react in a certain way, maybe in a way that we normally would. It’s like we are having an out-of-body experience, our own Groundhog Day in which we are acutely aware that we are at a crossroads.

Unfortunately, I haven’t always taken the high road. I’ve argued and I know when I’ve acted like a baby, throwing a fit, but I can’t seem to stop myself. Fortunately, I’ve worked hard on my personal relationships and learned to ‘fight right’ so that I’m not tossing cleavers or anything (See: mom #truestory).

women eating in battambang
Street 2.5, Battambang, 2015

So I could say I’ve made some progress there. However, I’m not so great at when I’m in a restaurant. No, I’m not one of those people who order, “Can I have scrambled eggs? But with the whites only? And could you not salt or pepper or season the eggs at all? And make sure the toast isn’t toasted too much, just a light toasting will do.” Nor, do I return the dish after it’s been served and it’s not what I ordered or not hot enough or something like that.

But! If they take too long I get super grouchy especially if I’m hungry. I get hangry (hungry + angry). When I first heard that term, I laughed so hard because I knew that was the perfect word to describe me. Traveling can be a ball of fun because of this. If I’m around other people I try to control it, but if I’m just around the BF, he knows I’ll let him have it.

Although, if a restaurant fucks up a few times, getting the food late to me and the bill wrong, I get pissy – and I don’t hide it and I don’t tip. I don’t know what it is about this situation. Restaurants. Yeah, they are my Achilles heel.  Maybe I should have been a restaurant critic.

Khmer young learner girls studying English
My Khmer students working hard, Siem Reap, 2016

Being a teacher has trained me to be self-aware though. When I was learning how to be a Waldorf teacher, they pretty much hammer into your thick head that you have to be conscientious of how you dress, your body language and speech. Prior to that I was working at a children’s summer camp, and my boss told me that I had to clean up my potty mouth which I did. And before that, I was in high school and college theatre, so yeah, it has been decades of reminding myself of “what am I doing, how am I speaking and what am I saying”.

This makes me, in turn, aware of other people’s body language. When I walked by a classroom, I noticed one of the teachers sitting on his desk with his legs crossed, and I thought, “Oh, his crotch is at eye level for the students”. Or that time I was at a meeting and one of my colleagues was holding his red pen erect like a penis. I giggled and looked away. (Now, you might be wondering if I’m constantly looking at men’s packages, and I’d say, let’s save that conversation for another time.)

This isn’t to say that I haven’t done stupid things in the classroom. When I have, it’s been because of some spontaneous burst of energy that has caused the faux pax which is funny because I don’t consider myself a Jane-on-the-spot gal. In fact, I don’t like surprises and changes sprung last minute.

I’ll admit. I’m a planner. I like to plan things. So if you ask me if I want to join you guys for drinks or dinner after work, I’ll 99% of the time turn the offer down. However, if you told me a day or two ago of this plan, then the chances of me going have increased.

Because I know this of myself, I try to warn people. I like it best when I have time to digest when something has changed. Of course, in the classroom, I don’t have that luxury so it’s interesting that I’ve learned to adapt. I even expect it so maybe that’s where the difference is.

So how do you get to know yourself?

What are your values?

One way I’ve tried to tap into ‘what makes me click’ is looking at values. Taylor Pearson has this crazy list of values to choose from. You can read his post about it here.

Or you can scroll to the bottom and take a look at his long list and see if anything leaps out at you. My list hasn’t changed in a while. I might have to take another serious look at it soon, maybe when I’m more settled.

The Artist’s Way: Morning Pages

writing in a journal
My former desk setup in Chiang Mai, 2014

I read some of this book when I was in high school. I don’t think I was ready for the deep commitment or mature enough to appreciate it. I found a copy of the book when I was here in Thailand years ago and started to work through it again, but I ended up giving it to a friend who really wanted to dive into it.

Now I have a Kindle copy and I’m reading it again. I’m determined to get through it even though I don’t think the book really pertains to me because it seems to be about allowing your inner artist out to play. And yet, I like exploring things that don’t appear to have immediate appeal, if that make sense.

Anyway, one of the BIG things that she recommends that you do is write three pages in your journal as a ‘brain drain’ so that you have room to be creative. I suppose it’s like empting your mind of the junky bits, the stuff we fret about so that you can get to the good stuff lying underneath.

Even for an avid journal writer like me, three pages is a lot, so I’ve included a list of things that I’m grateful for and daily goals. I can already see how forcing yourself to write more is helping me evaluate what’s going on in me noggin, what I worry about, and make sense of life lately. I’d recommend it.

Living the life of the mind

Psar Leu man-reading
Reading at Psar Leu market, Siem Reap, 2015

I think it’s important to have distance from your self and a little resistance, too. That’s why even though it’s fun to take the Myers-Brigg personality test and read horoscopes and such, I don’t think you really can figure yourself out this way. We have a tendency to see ourselves in a certain light and we’re not always right.

“I’m a fairly patient person.”

“OMG. Are you kidding me? You are the worst!”

“Whhaaaat?”

“You always freak out when we are waiting in line.”

Hesitates. Then laughs.

“Okay. Yes, I hate waiting in lines, but I’m patient with children.”

“That’s different…”

And so on.

I like reading non-fiction, I like reading blogs, articles, books, etc., that allows me to learn, grow and think. I’m definitely part of the ‘critical thinking’ generation + the ‘question authority’ group which has helped me to develop a strong independent voice.

These days, you don’t even have to love reading to gain all sorts of amazing knowledge. There are great YouTube channels that house university lectures, exercise programs, language learning and audiobooks all under the blessed sun. Podcasts are also a great source of information.

So for me, I feel like when we learn about other things, we do gain a better foothold of what we like, don’t like, what’s out there and that provides insight (and hopefully flexibility) into who we are.

How to you get to know yourself? And how well do you know yourself?

24 thoughts on “How well do you know yourself? (and how to know yourself better)

  1. “The Artist’s Way” was a huge turning point for me years ago, when I first read it, and perhaps the book that propelled me onto a quest of self-discovery. I did those morning pages for years, and found them very helpful. These days, I gravitate to a daily yoga practice, as that balances my moods out nicely, and is the most effective way for me to find a sense of equilibrium. I find it interesting how we gravitate towards different tools in the different stages of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yoga has definitely been part of my morning routine for years. These days though with all the changes and moves, it was hard to do it. Mainly because I didn’t have private space. I sort of use it as part meditation, too, but now I’ve had to adapt and just do it with out people around.

      Good point. We do gravitate towards different tools, books, inspirations due to whatever we need at the time.

      Glad to hear the book was so wonderful for you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a good question. I think we truly get to know ourselves when we are alone and also with others. For me, being alone is no problem and when I am alone I feel I can think freely and really do what makes me happy – and know what makes me tick. With others, I find that they make me question and stick by my values. Like you, I very rarely go to after work drinks, even if I am told days or weeks in advance – reminding me I am more of an introvert than extrovert, preferring to unwind on my own and that I don’t need to status quo to dictate who I am.

    It can be such a revealing process finding out about yourself. You might not like what you find out.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For me, being alone is easy. For others it might not be and that’s interesting in itself and something for them to discover why.

      When I’m with other people, I don’t mind. It’s just I have a limit. And of course, it depends on what the circumstances are and who you are with. But the big thing for me is how much you learn from being in a relationship – it feels like the point of them – to be comforted, challenged and see someone hold a mirror up to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I loved the poster of your values; I’m so doing that now.

    I think there’s a culture these days of getting to know yourself; MBTI, identifying goals and feelings, and of course, Buzzfeed quizzes. That’s a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think it speaks to the larger desire to know oneself that many of us face. We know we need to know. Hopefully it’s a step in the right direction for us as a whole, although I think there are pitfalls and red herrings everywhere. But I see a day when men and women won’t feel marginalized for discussing their real feelings and needs…

    Anyway, I also agree with what you said about following a test or horoscope or result too closely. Thinking we’re one way when we’re not. Not all the time. I’ve heard a lot of people say they don’t like the MBTI because they feel like it’s trying to lock them into one personality. That’s not the point of it, and it’s odd to use it that way, but I understand. “That’s just my type,” has become an excuse for weird or offensive behavior.

    I tend to see all the tests as a guide. If it’s useful, I can use it to grow. If it’s not, I discard it. I like knowing my type because it makes me feel like I’m not the only one “this way” in the world, but I try not to let it lull me in to not shoring up those weaknesses I do have.

    I also think it’s difficult to know yourself, fully, whatever that means, until you’re dead. You can know yourself well, certainly. I know how I handle a lot of stuff, but not everything. I have no idea what kind of mom I’d be, or political leader, because I’ve never been those things. I can guess based on similar situations, but often we surprise ourselves, positively or negatively. For me, this is pretty exciting. I’d hate to know everything about the world and about myself. Finding out stuff means I can grow and change, and that’s way better than enlightened boredom, in my opinion.

    There’s a great quote from someone I can’t remember; age is what happens when you get to know yourself, or something. I can’t remember it. But it makes me, a young whippersnapper, look more fondly on aging as a time of peace and security.

    Regardless, fantastic insights, and I’m off to do that test!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up some astute points. One: yes, we appear to be on the road to ‘self-discovery’. At this point, I’m not sure if it’s just a money making genre or if folks are getting something useful out of it.

      It’s very American, right? ME, me, me. I think if it can be coupled (ha!) with knowing how to listen and get along with others, then we’re on the right road. Because if you just look at the news or politics, there looks like a lot shouting, finger-wagging, and frankly childish behavior going on.

      “As a guide”, another yes. Reminds me of guide books – so annoying when they aren’t accurate and up to date. The biggest ah-ha for me with the MBTI was discovering that I was an introvert that acted like an extrovert (or however they put it) because that really nailed it.

      But what’s surprising is how many ppl think they know themselves or don’t even bother. I’m also of the mind of not liking ‘oh, I’m this way’ as an excuse for shitty behavior.

      Thanks young whippersnapper. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Therapy, right? That’s how I got to be more conscious of what kind of person I am and the impact I have. Except that maybe women are too concerned about the impact we have and we make everything our fault.

    You never see guys going, “Oops, sorry, let me put my legs back together so I am not taking up two whole seats on a crowded subway.”

    So maybe now I need to learn to care a little less? Or is that the road to cleaver-heaving?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Women are definitely more likely to be people pleasers, open-minded and silent martyrs. And like any set of qualities, it’s important that they don’t move into the extremes. I know, easier said than done. I see this in myself.

      I do think, however, that we need to create a society that allows men to express themselves in a healthy way, ways that are not the traditional chest thumping ways.

      I want to help women, but I want to help the men, too, you know? We have to work together and heck, we are living here together, so it makes sense…

      Yeah, caring less, I don’t think that’s the right direction. I fear we already live in the ‘me first’, me first merge, me first to grab the last toy off the shelf, etc, society. I think we could use more the Japanese courtesy / mindset of thinking of others first. In other words, America desperately needs more working togetherness.

      Like

  5. Every time I think I know myself, something new and confusing happens to make me realize I don’t know jack 🙂

    I agree with your restaurant values!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Yeah. I know, you climb the hill only to realize there’s another one on the horizon. True, true.

      All that humility makes you wonder how we get out of bed. 😛

      Don’t agree with my restaurant values! Hahaha. I was contemplating changing…or attempting to.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love your values poster and I’m gonna sneak on over to that site when I’m done commenting 🙂

    So, I thought I knew myself pretty well, but therapy changed all that. Nothing better than someone else calling you out on your bullshit and make you dig a little deeper. I always thought I was a very easygoing, go-with-the-flow kinda gal, but as it turns out, I’m as Type A as they come – I just simply don’t express it outwardly (it all jumbles into a ball of stress internally, causing both emotional and physical constipation). So yeah, I poked fun at my husband and his family for being Type A’s and here I am, ONE OF THEM, hah. He had a good laugh and now he taunts me (lovingly) with, “one of us! One of us!” Hard pill to swallow, but my god, that revelation was a weight off the shoulders (actually, more like bowels) because now I lean into who I am and figure out the best way to become the best version of my true self. It’s just the beginning of the journey for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I don’t know if I’m Type A or B or C! I suppose now you’ve given me homework.

      I will say that being with the BF has helped (is that the right word???) me realize what I’m neurotic about, that I’m a planner, a doer and basically the opposite of him.

      Nothing like a partner to make to see you in a new light 😛

      Like

  7. My husband used to get “hangry.” It took me a long time to figure out what was going on. I thought hunger was hunger; the answer was food. But everyone is different.

    Being introspective, I suppose, has made it only natural to try to understand myself and other people. It’s also a useful skill for a fiction writer. If you know yourself, it’s easier to know your characters, even if you’ve never experienced what your character is going through.

    When I’ve done something wrong, that’s when I feel the need to know myself better, to understand what I was thinking and feeling so I can avoid similar actions. The same goes for when I feel stuck or unhappy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, sometimes i even get shaky if I’m hungry. I think it depends on what I ate previously, maybe there’s a drop in blood sugar or something. I hate being sensitive like this. The BF, on the other hand, can go all day without really feeling hungry, or can handle it much better. I guess he’s a slow-burn calorie person and I’m the opposite. Sounds like you and your husband were the same.

      Good point. Writers have a tendency to be more introspective regarding character motives, “putting yourself in another’s shoes” and those are all great qualities.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. LOL!!! While reading, I was thinking that I was going to comment and mention about my Myers-Briggs result, then I saw you mention M-B, ha ha!

    Well, actually, I THINK I know myself too much already, but I guess you can’t really know, right? Not until something happens then, BAM! Uh-oh…But I really wanted to say that when I read my results, that’s when I realized that I really was what they said I was. I didn’t think I was because they said it. I just realized they were right. It’s said, though, that personality changes can happen, depending on one’s experiences. So to be honest, I check the results from time to time to gauge if I’m still what i think I am. I try to see if I’ve changed, if for the better or worse. I want to know so I can correct what I think needs correcting.

    “if a restaurant fucks up a few times, getting the food late to me and the bill wrong, I get pissy.”

    That’s so me! I can be very friendly with the people who serve me, but I hate incompetency and bad customer service in general.

    Regarding that “conversation for another time”, will wait for it, ha ha haaa!!!

    *Oops…will continue my comments later*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment made me remember that personality changes also happen during different circumstances, too. I that’s why travel, parenting and new intimate relationships can cause such upheaval and duress. We’re being challenged to re-act in a new way or even if we respond in our usual ways, sometimes it doesn’t work!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love how you presented your core values. Maybe I should do that as well.

    “Even for an avid journal writer like me, three pages is a lot, so I’ve included a list of things that I’m grateful for and daily goals.”

    Three pages, I can do, especially if I just have to keep writing. My problem is how to stop or what to exclude to fit just 3 pages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, setting a time limit then? 5 minutes? 10? Now, 3 pages doesn’t seem so bad, I quickly adapted. Regardless, I’m glad I pushed myself to write a little more. I think I had gotten into the habit and a little lazy.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Wanna to mention I did visit the Delphi Oracle in Greece. It is high up in the mountains in a remote area where one wonders how the slaves brought all that stone over.

    Maybe I should visit the Oracle ’cause with age, I give less of a batshit. And hence, might be too vocal in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

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