Who is the real you?
I bet we could all describe a sunset with a reasonable degree of similarity.
We may use different words, but we’d probably all end up saying something like “lovely colours”, “awe inspiring”, or “wish we could paint it”. That sort of thing.
There’s probably the odd person who’d say it’s the change in refraction of the suns rays through the atmosphere due to the rotation of the earth when the sun appears to drop below the horizon.
But even allowing for that, we’d all be able get a pretty good picture in our heads of a sunset.
The same would probably work with anything else in the physical world that can be objectively described. Can you picture a magnificent sandstone building with lots of intricate carving around the windows and a grand sweeping mahogany staircase. What you picture might not be exactly what I describe, but would probably be recognisable as a magnificent sandstone building.
This system works pretty well. It allows for words, language, communication and great works of literature. And even ordinary works of literature.
But here’s a challenge, try the same thing for describing the character of a person. Take yourself for instance. Ask 10 people to think about your strengths and think about where they can see you working in 10 years.
It should be pretty simple right. If you’re like me, you might think you have some inner career truth that will naturally emerge. That there would be some dominant theme you could call your own. Like you’d be suited to bareback riding in a circus, or that you’d make a great midday television talk show host.
But if you do try this exercise, like I recently did, you might find yourself as surprised as I was.
I got such a varied range of responses: from counsellor, to writer, to policy maker, to process owner, to software designer…
If I am just one person, with strengths and weaknesses, why is it that this exercise has not built up a consistent picture of me and where I could work?
Part of it surely is that people are complex, and we all only get to see a slice of a person and imagine from there what the whole person is like. But I think there’s more than that.
I think when we consider and interact with other people we bring our own selves with us. We seem not to do that so much with a sunset. But when it comes to other people we tend to see them through a prism – a prism made up of our own emotions, experiences, hopes, loves, dreams, beliefs, and values.
One person’s software designer is another person’s counsellor is another person’s etc…we all see the world in such an individual way. Our emotions, experience, hopes, desires, beliefs and values all help us create a vision of life that is uniquely our own.
And it’s not a bad thing either. It means the richness of diversity we all have makes the world such a wildly varied and interesting place. That’s what allows us to connect as people and have great relationships.
But it does mean we need to be aware that when it comes to personality, objective truths are pretty rare if not impossible. If I can be seen as a counsellor, writer, or software designer….then I can be seen as many other things too. Which one is the real me? Which one is the real you?
The truth is that the only real us is the one we define for ourselves. The vision you might have of me is one refracted through the prism of you. And vice versa.
So we need to be true to ourselves when living our lives. In the end we must work out what it is we want to do, not what other people think we should do. It just doesn’t make sense for us to live our lives according to anybody else’s values.
And remember, what we think about other people can reveal just as much about us as it does about them. There’s something to learn in that.
When I can be uniquely me, and you can be uniquely you…then we’ll be able to achieve our potential and more. That’s how great teams are built and true relationships are made and sustained.
So think about this for a moment: Just who is the real you anyway? Maybe it’s time to take a closer look….
Let me know what you think is the best way to find the real you?