Saturday, 12 February 2011

Lingering delusions

As you get older, so it's said, you know yourself better and shed all the self-delusions of youth. Is that really true? Or are we still busy fooling ourselves?

They're hard questions to answer, because we can never really see ourselves objectively, as others see us. We're always on the inside looking out, and from the inside, through the prism of vanity and self-interest, it's easy to keep distorting the truth.

I've certainly shed a few youthful illusions - that I'm a brilliant writer, or a witty conversationalist, or a sensitive shoulder to cry on, or that the great socialist revolution is just round the corner. Some pretences simply can't be sustained in the light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I like to think I've got a more realistic picture of my strengths and weaknesses. The things I've got a talent for and the things I'm hopeless at however hard I try. I no longer think I'm unique or special, I realise I'm just an averagely intelligent person who somehow muddles through life without making too many gigantic blunders.

But am I really any more self-aware? Or have I just picked up a load of fresh delusions to replace the old ones? Like thinking that as an oldie I'm more wised-up than all these inexperienced teenagers? Or thinking I'm a patient, forgiving soul when I'm regularly bristling over poor service and mindless officialdom? Or convinced I'm altruistic and caring while expecting others to solve their own problems and not be too demanding?

Even if I ask others how they see me, how their impressions compare with my own, are their conclusions any more accurate than mine? They may have created a certain image of me, and they tailor their observations to fit the image. If they've decided I'm shy and indecisive, that's how they'll keep seeing me, whether it's true or false.

At the end of the day, my picture of myself is too tarnished by optimism and wishful thinking to be relied on. Am I still as deluded as a muddle-headed schoolboy? Who knows? Who can see that clearly?

30 comments:

kylie said...

interesting post, nick
i regularly wonder how others see me and how i could objectively be described.

Scarlet Blue said...

They may have created a certain image of me, and they tailor their observations to fit the image. If they've decided I'm shy and indecisive, that's how they'll keep seeing me, whether it's true or false.

Have you ever shattered someone's illusion of you? You'll find that they become a little hostile towards you... as though it was you who deliberatley created their incorrect view.
I think it's best to be aware that we are all capable of nuturing misconceptions about anyone and anything.
Sx

Nick said...

Kylie - Well, of course I see you as this dazzling sex bombshell with an IQ of around 180 and a blistering sense of humour. Then there's all your other talents....

Nick said...

Scarlet - Very true about the tinge of hostility. People enjoy having a certain image of someone and they're very put out if that image suddenly crumbles. Celeb-worship being the obvious example.

kylie said...

sorry, that delete was me
and if i didnt know you were joking i would kiss you for that comment!

Nick said...

Kylie - Seriously, you sound like a lovely, caring person who gets lots of enjoyment out of life and would be a great friend. How's that?

kylie said...

i think i preferred sex bomb ;)

you're a sweetie

Nick said...

Kylie - I think you have to meet someone personally to find them sexy or not. If we meet in December, then I'll give you my verdict!

Roses said...

Deep meaningful philosophy with one cup of coffee...oh no.

A topic close to my heart. I've found people (mostly women) tell me I'm one thing, they assume my motivations, when in actual fact the opposite is true. They are judging me by their values, not by mine.

And then, there are other friends who are frustrated by me not taking myself seriously. Valuing myself. So, I've learnt to be wary about accepting someone else's vision about me.

By the way, God helps those who help themselves. Sometimes doing nothing to help a needy friend can be the best thing you can do.

Nick said...

Roses - I know, the number of times people have said I'm X or Y, and I ask myself how on earth they worked that out because it's complete baloney. But then I'm sure I have plenty of false assumptions about them as well.

Grannymar said...

It is no false assumption on my part that you are a genuinely nice guy!

Oh, and I forgot....... Kind to old ladies! ;-)

Nick said...

Grannymar - Gee thanks *heart swells with pleasure* Of course I'm kind to old ladies, I'm an old man....

And that impression of me is entirely accurate, objective and truthful.

rummuser said...

You have started off on a journey of self discovery. The fun is in the traveling. Not in reaching the destination. Keep traveling. You are in some great company.

Somehow I am unable to put a face to your name, but if I were to hazard a guess, I imagine that you would look somewhat like Danny Kaye and talk with your tongue firmly in your cheek.

newjenny said...

The self is a disconcerting dark beast, lurking in unfathomable subterranean depths. You are married to it, and there is no divorce. This predicament renders you unique and special.

Eryl said...

Didn't Nietzsche say something about it being impossible to know oneself, only others can see what you are because it's shown by how you behave. There is, of course, the problem of interpreting that behaviour: to me someone who leaves a tea bag in the sink is a lazy filthy swine; to my husband s/he's someone with more important things to deal with.

Nick said...

Ramana - Indeed, the fun in life is the travelling (and the strange sights you see on the way). I've sent you an email with a couple of pics of the real me!

newjenny - Hi! Very true about being married to the dark beast lurking in the depths. Sometimes a divorce seems very desirable! But does that make me unique and special? Or just in the same predicament as everyone else?

Nick said...

Eryl - This is it, my behaviour can be interpreted in many different ways. Though I would also see the teabag in the sink as the sign of a lazy filthy swine. Luckily neither of us would dream of doing anything so vulgar.

Baino said...

Yep we're all totally delusional and I think the delusions to change with age. What does it take to really 'know' someone? Years of living with them I suspect then they still have their secrets. Although a friend of mine insists, People are not mysteries. I beg to differ.

newjenny said...

To others you may be just a regular person. But you are not others - that's what's special and unique about you. x

Wisewebwoman said...

I've always loved the quote "walk a mile in my mocassins".

I had a great, dear friend, now deceased, but coincidentally originally from Belfast, who was a great talker, a gifted orator (also a judge) who would always say after a speech - "if you really want to see how I live my life you are welcome to follow me home".

He had an open door policy. One can learn so much about another by the how, where and domestic surroundings of a person.

We can never really see ourselves clearly. I have long term friends and when we meet now we always say to each other "how am I doing?" never "how are you?". It is always very revealing.

People perceive me as very warm, caring and joyful. I don't believe that for a second. It is not me.

I view you as introspective, reflective, attractive and maybe a bit persnickety who doesn't make friends easily. Amirite?

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Baino - That's true, even if you've lived with someone for many years, there are still things they don't tell you, either intentionally or unintentionally.

newjenny - I guess you have a point there!

W3 - I like the idea of asking "How am I doing?" I must try that out. My impression is that there's a part of you that's warm, caring and joyful but another part that can be just the opposite, depending on the circumstances. I'd say your view of me is pretty accurate. But then you've been reading my intimate confessions for almost four years now....

Suburbia said...

I just have different delusions I think!

Self Reflection is a good thing though, isn't it?!

Nick said...

Suburbia - I think self reflection is a very good thing. Otherwise you go on making the same old mistakes and annoying the hell out of other people.

secret agent woman said...

Often people will declare that they are something that is the opposite of how I see them. Sort of like the phenomenon where someone says. "I don't like to gossip, but..." or "I'm not a racist, but..."

Me, I'm impatient and impulsive and quick to argue. But, hey - at least I know that about me.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I fancy that I know myself pretty well, but often friends tell me things which contradict my self-image. I tend to obsess over my imperfections and mistakes and find it hard to forgive myself for things I would easily forgive in others. But maybe that is just another construct out of vanity - who knows?

Nick said...

Secret Agent - And where does the truth lie? Are they seeing themselves inaccurately or are you? It's sometimes hard to know.

Heart - Not being able to forgive our own failings is another issue again. That is, if the failings are real and not entirely imaginary! I see a follow-up blog post germinating....

Liz said...

I think I am reasonably self-aware. i understand my motivation for most things and I'm sure that comes as we get older.

Oh, now you've set my mind wandering and thinking and arguing with itself ...

Nick said...

Liz - I'm not sure I understand MY motivation for most things. Especially when I think I'm doing something very considerate but there's probably some selfish impulse underlying it....

tattytiara said...

With experience and maturity comes clarity, for sure, but all is a very, very big word indeed.

Nick said...

Tattytiara - I think some things become clearer but other things are just as confused. Am I a friendly, likeable sort of guy or am I actually a bit standoffish and superior?