Saturday, March 31, 2007

Know thyself

Evidently I snap my underpants when I put them on. That's probably more than you wanted to know about me. In fact, it's more than I wanted to know about myself. It's not something I knew about myself until my husband pointed it out the other evening. You can bet your life that after my bath, I was painfully aware of how I put on my underwear. Isn't it funny how little aware we are of ourselves, particularly of our physical selves? One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was to poke holes in a paper bag, put it on my head and look at myself naked. By removing your face (and thereby your self-identity) you can look at yourself objectively, as if it were someone else's body. It's hard to look at oneself objectively, either physically or mentally. When I was very thin I thought I looked normal, even large and ungainly. It was only after I gained weight that I began to appreciate how thin I had been. It was also then that people began to point out to me that I had been kind of scary thin (not deliberately so--just very fast metabolism). Now that I am at the upper end of normal for my height I still cannot perceive whether I look fine and should not worry about it (as many people say, but we all say that) or whether I am as pudgy as I feel.

On the mental side, I try to judge myself accurately, but it's very nearly an impossible task. "So, I turned myself to face me/ but I've never caught a glimpse/ of how the others must see the faker/ I'm much too fast to take that test"--Bowie, Changes. Even those of us with the lowest self-esteem still love ourselves too much to really completely look. We don't like ourselves but we love ourselves. We justify and excuse ourselves because we know all of the factors that led us to this point. It is likewise nearly impossible to look at others objectively because we don't know all of the factors in someone else's head--no matter how much we think we do.

Mirror's wife, my friend, and I were discussing the Eneagram once and I said but doesn't it depend on some self-knowledge? Don't all personality tests presume that with the anonymity of the test you will be honest and that honesty will reveal the real you? My mother and one of my bosses have so little self-awareness that it seems almost impossible that they not know that they are lying to themselves. (Don't worry, my mother doesn't have a computer and my boss would need me to identify this site, make a shortcut on her desktop and put it in her calendar to read to find it). Almost anything they say about themselves almost makes me want to believe the opposite based on personal observation from, "I've always been organized," to "Everybody loves me." At points I want to scream and shake them and say if that's true, why (in my mother's case) is your house a wreck or (in my bosses' case) do you need me to put your files back? I won't even touch the examples of why, "Everybody loves me" is clearly not true for either woman (or for anyone for that matter). I absolutely know that not everybody loves me. The problem is that both of these women ARE completely sincere, in as much as they know themselves. Therefore, doesn't it follow that if they were to take personality tests they would answer that they are terribly compassionate, understanding people people, when any casual observer would argue with that? The test would simply confirm to them what they already know. And no amount of outside truth would convince them that there self-view was not accurate. Of course, would it be at all desirable to prove that to them? I love both of these women (and am terribly frustrated by them) and I really wouldn't want to be around if they had to truly face themselves. Why would I want that for someone I love?

I, on the other hand, am waiting for filmic proof that I snap my underpants. Just kidding. I veer between trusting my own impressions (everybody else sucks) and doubting myself (I suck) and there is no film that can show the truth in that dilemma.

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