2015 Grateful 43

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.

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3 Responses

  1. You are Mary Murphy, you live [currently] in Budabest, what you eat will depend on what diet you are following. [currently]. What does it matter how you judge yourself and against what criteria. Truthfully, why should it matter what others think of you. Be honest with yourself and you will, [probably] be honest with those around you. As a Christian, you will [presumably] treat others as you wish to be treated, or at least you will try to ! That goes with the faith [for better or worse] that you were brought up with. Other than that, just get on with your life. You don’t need others to take you apart, and then leave you to reassemble yourself.
    Mary just go with what you have, and be thankful. Find some peace within yourself and where you are; I doubt you will find that in travel, no matter how many aeroplane seats you choose to occupy or how far you choose to fly.
    Medicine doesn’t always have to be unpleasant, or need to be accompanied by a spoon full of sugar !!

  2. Wasn’t it the ancient Stoics who said ‘know thyself’? Of course it matters how one judges oneself, otherwise one’s talents may be wasted to the detriment of those around one. And of course it matters what others think of one – upset enough people and you’ll suffer. And you can’t be honest with yourself or others without being prepared to impart the odd home truth – in a positive spirit.

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