In times of stress we get down to the nitty-gritty of who we really are and there it is for all to see. Hopefully, we will also see it, but we may not.
Day in and day out we go along trying to put our best foot forward. We like to think of ourselves as reasonable, pleasant, intelligent - this list can go on and on.
A sudden burst of anger or rudeness or stupidity, we tell ourselves, is uncharacteristic.
What if it isn't uncharacteristic? What if it is how we appear to others on a day-to-day basis? How will we know?
We could listen up for sounds like these:
"You need to-"
"Why don't you-"
"Do you realize-"
from people who love
and care about us.
Chances are pretty good that someone has been trying to tell us. Even the worst of us has someone who cares, even if just to make their own life more palatable being around us. Have we been swatting away helpful hints like so many irritating gnats?
We could listen up for sounds like these: "You need to-" "Why don't you-" "Do you realize-" from people who love and care about us. Few people will come out and say, "You are very irritating- or rude - or -" When we do hear those words, do we dismiss them as coming from someone who doesn't really know what he is talking about or doesn't really know us?
Maybe we can listen for what isn't said to us. When did we last hear someone tell us that we are a very pleasant person? Never? There's a clue. Has anyone told us lately that we are lots of fun?
Has anyone used the word negative about us? Do we have a nagging suspicion that sometimes we are negative? If we do, then maybe it is our modus operandi. It's not a good thing.
Occasionally someone asks me if a particular column I've written is about them. Sometimes they did pop into my mind as I wrote, other times not at all. However, when they ask, they need to explore why the thought occurred to them. Perhaps my words had a familiar ring or they've recognized something they wish to improve about themselves. Self-awareness is a good thing and we really can make changes when we want to improve.
I am also writing about myself. I am part of the "we." Sometimes I'm aware of my own flaws but always I'm aware that I don't know what I don't know.
There are some sweet people living with very critical people and I caution them to pay little attention to constant criticism. There is danger in giving too much weight to those who are mirroring their own flaws by seeing them in everyone else. Most of us, however, don't fit in that 'sweet' description.
What we need is a balance of self-respect and a healthy desire to become aware of how we appear to others. If we are really brave, we will ask some people who we know value us and have our best interests at heart to coach us on at least one thing we could improve that would make a big difference in our life.
I'm not brave enough for a laundry list but I can handle one or two gentle suggestions now. How about you?
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 38 years.
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