Someone left a comment to the post about smugness, the post that ended with me suggesting that I might often be smug too. The person said: "I still can’t understand this penchant for self-revelation." I’m sure there are other people who think it odd that I talk about certain ‘personal’ things. So, let’s talk about that. Why do I have this penchant for self-revelation?
Well, first of all, I believe that if you are open with people they are more likely to open up too. Many people are not interested in opening up, for whatever reason. I realize that nothing I say is likely to make them open up, and more likely they’ll simply be put off and feel awkward if they are exposed to this sort of behavior. I’m not writing for those people, and I’m sorry if they’ve been made uncomfortable by what I say. Hopefully, they’ll alleviate the discomfort and stop reading this blog (and, by the way, I don’t believe the person who left the comment I started this post with is one of those people).
Okay, so here’s the thing: we all tend to act like we have a complete sense of why we do the things we do when, in fact, we often don’t really know why we make certain choices. There are lots of books that discuss this elusive truth (a recent one that I highly recommend both for content and engaging style is Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert). But, no matter how many intelligent people remind us of this phenomenon, we pretend that we know ourselves perfectly, that we have a complete grasp of why make every choice we make. Then, armed with that foundational delusion, we go on to make assumptions about why other people act the way that they do.
So, what’s the remedy? How can one break the habit? I believe it requires brutal honesty: you have to admit that you often have no clue about your own behavior or the reasons for it. I have to remind myself every day that this tendency exists, or I’ll quickly forget about it. I can ask for help from other people, but that’s not really what I need. What I need is firm resolve and attentiveness, which the spiritual people call ‘mindfulness.’ Whatever, you call it and however you attempt to attain it, I think those who have dealt with the problem all agree on one thing: it’s really hard.
So, back to the original question: why do I tend to be self-revelatory on this blog? Answer: (1) because it helps me admit to myself that I need to pay attention to certain things, and (2) it allows other people to see what I’m doing, and, maybe in the process, it can help them pay attention too. It’s better to be unsure of something and admit it than to pretend you know things that clearly you don’t know.
How well do we all know ourselves? That’s the question I like to focus on. But, actually, being selfish, I really only want to know about myself.