What country am I? What food am I? What famous person am I most like? Who gives a flying funicular? As I look at these on Facebook, my cursor hovering over the click here link, I tell myself that I have better things to be doing with my time and that no, I’m not all that curious about how I could be simile’d.
Those better things include going through the heaps of newspaper and magazine clippings of articles I thought worth keeping (and yes, I will some day get around to electronic bookmarking, but not quite yet). I came across a gem earlier today. A column by Mary Kenny in the Irish Independent titled: To see ourselves as others see us (20 December 2014). In it, she talks about verbal conjugation and how we apply different standards to ourselves than to others.
A few examples:
- I am diplomatic in what I say / You are economical with the truth / He is a bloody liar
- I aspire to high standards / You keep up with the Joneses / She’s a roaring snob
- I am sexually responsive / You are free with your favours / She’s a nymphomaniac
Many years ago, in another lifetime, I did a weekend Enneagram course. I was making a concerted effort back then to discover myself, to see who I really was, to distinguish between the values and principles I’d learned from parents, elders, teachers and friends and those I’d bought into myself. The nine-point personality scale, packaged as it can be in a Cosmo-type quiz, had me hooked.
I was convinced, having read up on it all before the workshop, that I was a Two, i.e., generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive. My main motivation in doing anything was, in my mind, to be helpful. After the weekend, I realised that I was a One: principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic (is that even a word?) and that when I offered to help people, it wasn’t for any reason other than I knew I could do it better and faster than they could. That dimmed the shine on my halo a little.
Fast forward too many years and countless meetings with Enneagram experts and enthusiasts, and I’ve come to accept that I’m actually a Four, i.e., expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental. Apparently I exhibit classic Four behaviour far too often to be anything else.
What the experience taught me was that other people see me a lot differently than I see myself. Mary Kenny might well have something in her verbal conjugations. Occasionally, getting an honest appraisal by someone you trust to be honest with you is no bad thing. Call it a benchmark. Treat it like an annual medical check-up. Whatever.
I was on the receiving end of such an appraisal last week and it was quite the experience. I’ve been on the delivery end way more often, so it made a change for me to be the one spluttering excuses. But I trusted the source. And I’ve acted on what was said. And I feel like there is something good around the next bend, over the next page, in the next book. This week heralded the beginning of many ends and as I figure out what next, I’m grateful for those people in my life who do me the honour of being completely honest with me. As the great Oscar Wilde supposedly said:
“But what is the good of friendship if one cannot say exactly what one means? Anybody can say charming things and try to please and to flatter, but a true friend always says unpleasant things, and does not mind giving pain. Indeed, if he is a really true friend he prefers it, for he knows that then he is doing good.”
I could do without the ‘always’ Oscar; occasionally will do me just fine.