14 October 2013

Some Thoughts on Self-Awareness

Something strange happened to me on Thursday.

I did something which I have always believed I am bad at, only this time I was good at it.

It was a class presentation, which I have always dreaded and have in fact dropped certain classes for upon learning that they would be required. My confidence has really been boosted over the past 10 months so they no longer give me a sickening pit in my stomach; however, I'd still prefer to sit and listen quietly than stand up and speak.

The first strange thing was that out of the three members of my group (we gave a group presentation, each of us talking about a different aspect of our subject), I seemed to be the least nervous. I am slightly older (1-3 years) and have a bit more college experience than most of the students in my classes now since I am a 3rd semester senior, so it may have been that my own anxieties about presenting have become muted while my classmates' are still fresh. However, having never been the "confident one", it felt totally alien to be reassuring the other group members and attempting to calm their frazzled nerves.

What was really strange, though, was that on the elevator after the class was over one of my other classmates (whom I have never interacted with before) turned to me and said, "Your presentation was really good. You made eye contact and were so confident. I was like, 'I want to be like that'". Not only was I incredibly flattered, but I was also quite taken aback- me, confident? and not just passable at presenting but good enough for someone to actually admire me? This did not fit with my image of myself or my skills at all, and as I walked to my car I thought, "maybe the person I've always believed myself to be is not who I actually am".

I've found that throughout our lives we seem to accumulate a list of traits and qualities that we assign to ourselves. Some are told to us often enough that we internalize them, others we discover or diagnose on our own. Especially now that social media plays such a large role in our lives, we are encouraged to define ourselves in our profiles, about me's, etc by a list of adjectives rather than letting our personalities come out organically through our interactions.

One of the biggest ones for me has been that I'm shy or introverted. People have told me this so many times over my entire life that it is just a facet of my identity now. I am pretty introverted, I like my alone time, and I was definitely a shy kid- but having this specific idea of myself cemented in my brain totally blinded me to the ways in which I am not introverted. It even caused me to believe that I was naturally predisposed to be bad at certain things- things like presenting in front of a class. The fact is, though, that many of the things I have self-diagnosed myself as bad at I am actually decent and even good at. It just took an unbiased stranger to bring it to my attention.

Often people say that you should not be concerned with the opinions of others, just concentrate on how you view yourself. I have found, however, that the way I view myself is frequently inaccurate. I have a list of things that I believe myself to be, and when those things change (or are simply not true) it can be difficult to see the discrepancies. I think sometimes other people can see us far more accurately than we see ourselves.

I'm so glad that girl complimented me in the elevator, because it brought me a bit closer to understanding who I am and what I'm actually capable of. The past two years have been a whirlwind from which I'm still in the process of re-emerging. I'm recreating and redefining myself, but it's easy to get lost and be unable to see or notice the changes. That interaction was a reminder to try to see myself objectively- to let my personality and abilities speak for themselves, rather than stuffing them under preconceived ideas of what they are.

<3 Em

1 comment:

  1. You are very cool. Insightful, too. And much loved. Just sharing my perception, not intended to impose limiting beliefs in any way :D