Know Yourself?

Who are you?

No, I’m not singing that Who song, which many people will forever associate it with CSI. Nor am I talking about the identity you have in your wallet, or how thew government knows you.

I’m talking about who YOU are. Do you know yourself? Do you know who you are? Are you the sum of a lifetime’s accumulation of knowledge? Or, are you who others say you are?

Somewhat deep questions for a Friday the 13th, but they have been questions and thought that have rattled in my mind for a while. Am I a good person or a prick? is it pettiness that drives my thoughts or a old-school eye-for-an-eye mentality? When I question someone’s motives, is it out of concern or elitism?

Personally, I blame my recent interest in Buddhism for this self-reflective inspection of who I am, why I think what I think and act how I act. One thought that has come up is the old chestnut of nurture Vs. nature.

For those unfamiliar with this concept, it talks about how people develop depending on their up-bringing. Does who they are and who they become stem from how they are raised by their parents, and the principles they are instilled with via parents & family (nurture). Or does who they are depend on where they grew up, including economic, regional, societal, etc. (nature). I’m a firm believer that both play crucial roles in human development.

As a kid, I didn’t always get what I wanted. But I got plenty. I never wore the cool clothes because we couldn’t afford it. I was also short and fat, which wasn’t a good combination. I had a terrible, cheap, hair cut, which also didn’t help. I was bullied pretty regularly. But instead of growing a thick skin, I got mad. Which only fueled the bully fire. I had a little help via my brother, but once he moved onto high school, I was on my own. I often faked illnesses so I didn’t have to go, including one particular morning where I literally clung to the bed while my mother tried to pull me off of it. I didn’t hate school. I hated the people there.

The only time the bullying stopped was when I fought back. Mind you, in this case, fighting back meant telling someone who was teasing me to “Fuck Off!” very loudly, in class. The result, a slap on the wrist, a four-day weekend, and a little notoriety among people in my class. And bullies left me alone.

High school was better, sorta. I wasn’t bullied, but I became a ghost. I had friends, but I did little to nothing socially. The highlight of my day was escaping to the library during lunch and reading. Only in my last year, where I went half days, drove to school, and actually skipped classes did I become a “typical” high schooler. If not for a serious crush on my best friend’s girlfriend, a situation she no doubt enjoyed, and a lame-ass prom, I would have gotten through high school somewhat unscathed.

College was a lot more fun. The courses I took were great, especially drama and writing. They helped focus my career choice in the right direction. Socially it started out good. It was a fresh start. No one knew the fat kid who got bullied, or the ghost. I was new. It was new. My friends were new! Sadly, my lack of social skill, honesty, and sincerity eventually got the best of me and my new circle of friends went away. At least I was left with a few core friends. I nearly screwed up my second year of college because of a girl I was, unfortunately, in love with. Like the crush in high school, this girl was damaged and I wanted to save her. Not a good basis for, well, anything. Friendship. Relationship. Like the crush in high school, she knew she had me and used me to her advantage.

By the time I did my second, two-year run through college, I was becoming who I would eventually become today.

So, who am I? Well, like the majority of people on the planet, specifically, the western/ industrialized civilizations, I’m flawed. I used to think the bulk of my issues came from school and my social missteps. That holds true, but over the past few months, while my life has been through some changes (bankruptcy, losing my house, job loss, loss of privacy, to name a few), I have had to re-examine who I am. This has led me to think about how I became a sarcastic, snarky, short-tempered, over-reacting/dramatic, petty individual. As much as I enjoy being sarcastic, the other terms of endearment come from people in my family. More often than not, they were, and are, right.

What has come to mind recently is whether or not I was always like that, or did them repeatedly reminding me of my more negative personality traits help to re-enforce them? Sure, everyone has bad days. They get angry, pissed off, maybe even lash out and over-react. But repeating these stupid actions, and telling others, especially in my presence, solidify that particular behavior. When loved ones, people you trust, tell you these things, even in jest, does it have an effect on who you are? Does telling others instill an “If they say it/ believe it, it must be true.” idea in other’s heads?

The truth can be the most powerful thing. I alway believe in telling the truth. But it should always be tempered with compassion. Talking constructively to someone about their personality traits and how they affect they’re life, with dignity and compassion, is a way to help both sides open up and perhaps understand each other. Bluntly telling someone they are “a professional victim” lack any empathy or compassion. It is harsh and cruel.

Through school, I was shy and quiet, save for that “Fuck off” episode. It wasn’t until college, where I performed in plays and did monologues in my drama courses, that I found a voice and came out of my shell. Despite this new-found freedom, I still found myself puzzled. Before, when I was quiet at a social gathering, they’d worry if something was wrong, or if I was having a good time. When I found my voice, and tried to engage in a conversation, I learned that people preferred me to be quiet. I’d either be interrupted or talked over. When I tried to be biting with my comments, to either prove a point, or to just be heard, many didn’t want to hear it anyways. When I’d get frustrated, I’d be quiet. Then they’d ask what’s wrong. Damned if I do. Damned if don’t.  That’s probably why blogging and social media has attracted me. The down-side, actual conversation with real people in a social setting is now reduced to staring at others while you wait for them to pull dulled gaze away from their iPhones & iPads.

The truth is, I’m not perfect. I’m so far from perfect that light traveling from perfect would take many, many years to get to me. I screw up. Lose my temper. Say stupid things. Do stupid, petty things to make a point that doesn’t need to be made. Get frustrated by lazy people who don’t do simple things. 

But, who doesn’t? If it’s a minor thing, it will fade. Talking about it lessens it as well. It can even make it comical and ridiculous. If it’s something serious and bothersome, talking about it helps. It clears the air, puts things into perspective, and makes something serious or hard to talk about easier to deal with.

But dredging up the negative about anyone, especially knee-jerk reactions to anything, large or small, does nothing for either person. I firmly believe doing it repeatedly only spreads that negativity. It belittles the person repeating it, it affects those hearing it, and it harms the person they are talking about.

Sadly, I’m not above this. I’ve been the worst offender.

The difference is, I recognize what I’ve done and I plan to fight against it, to make changes.

For those who don’t see what they do, I can tell them that the things said about me, whether true, or exaggerated, have affected me, and not for the better. Although I recognize the wasteful thoughts and words, said as a jibe or behind my back, I can’t change what you say or think. That is the beauty of life, it is impermanent, it can change, whether we want it to or not. It is something I have begun to see and understand. That is the first step to changing.

I at least know the truth and my own imperfections.

Can you say the same?

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