In 2008, the spiritual organization I am a part of, issued the annual teaching for the youth titled, "Know Yourself." I figured that's pretty easy; after all I do spend all my time with myself, so to speak. So I was very self assured in the belief that I knew myself very well (and even more sure, that I was awesome.) The fact is that I had been pretending so much, for so long, that I genuinely believed my pretensions to be who I really was. Over the last few years life has showed me how deluded I was and disabused me of all such notions. (Mind you, I still think I am awesome, but in very different ways.) I learned, through observation or experience, that there are a certain circumstances in life that give us a glimpse of our real selves. Here is my top 5 (in no particular order):
1. Competitive Sports:
All sports, by nature, require that we bare all on the field. While individual sports are a display of will power along with physical prowess, I find team sports are those that teach us most about ourselves. Do we take the responsibility of making up for the shortcomings of our teammates? Can we put in those dives in the field which aren't reflected on the scorecards? Are we unreservedly happy for the success of our teammates even when we aren't doing well ourselves? Are we aware of the effect our attitudes have on our dressing room? These situations do result in some soul searching, and the results surprise us, more often than not.
Put people together in a confined space for long enough, and eventually they will get tired of pretending and reveal their true colours. That's why reality shows like Big Boss grab so many eyeballs. While I don't like the system of using a person's private space to earn TRP's, I do find myself watching. What we do when we are forced to live within four walls, sharing our space, tells us a lot about what were made of. Reading The Diary of a Young Girl was in many ways so much more compelling than a fiction novel.
It's all about how we treat people. People who matter to us, particularly those we interact with often, like a daily basis. Because that familiarity is what makes us take them for granted, and we drop our polite facades and show a glimpse of whats behind the mask. Whether it's how we treat our coworkers or our partners, our actions towards them define us.
4. Tough times:
Points 1., 2., and 3 kind of dovetail into this one. Conflict; be it between the leaders of nations or the wills of individuals; and our thought and actions in times of conflict, lay bare who we truly are. I think that's why training periods are so severe in the armed forces. Because they mould soldiers into people who make the right choices in the worst of times. How many of us can keep our heads, hold our tongues, and stay our hands when our world is crashing down? There is no yes or no answer, we all succeed and fail to varying degrees everyday.
You know what I mean. The real ones, not those pseudo-social followers. The people who we take for granted and don't need to pretend around and know us best. Ironically, they are also the ones who we tend to push away when they say something we don't like. Chuddy-buddies, schoolmates, parents, life partners, life coaches; they come in many avatars. They aren't afraid to tell us when we are toeing the line or even crossing it. Most people reading this are thinking about a few people like that in their life right now. And if you haven't met them yet, don't go looking. They find you. Can't make them, can't break them, can't buy them. Custom made, every last one of them. They will show us the mirror when our faces turn ugly. Then they'll put it down and look us in the eye and say,"doesn't change the fact that I love you."