To Know Thyself is the Hardest Thing

The problem with understanding oneself is not so much the internal, self-reflective aspect, but understanding others well enough to place oneself in relation to them.

For example, being a very small, shy, quiet, and generally oblivious to the world around me person, who has always felt like the rest of the world was loud and brash and big and violent, I conceived of myself, growing up, as more peaceful and less prone to violence and aggression than others.

In more recent years, I’ve come to realize that this is not quite accurate. While I do feel more fear than others, I also get madder–perhaps some exaggerated “fight or flight” response.

People are very, very bad at realizing how they compare in traits to other people. Take the Anti-Violence organizers who beat the shit out of their ex-Roommate. “…Nikole Ardeno and Emanuel Velez, who allegedly jumped the man as he was walking down the street on Tuesday. Police say the defendants kicked the victim as he was unconscious, causing him to have seizures and vomit blood.

Police Chief Chris Luppino says Ardeno was still wearing the same “Stop the Violence” T-shirt that she had on the night before when she led a march in the city protesting two recent shootings.”

I suspect these two folks do not know themselves very well.

(And I am glad to at least be able to say that I am a saint next to them.)

Unfortunately, Dumb people don’t know they’re dumb, and smart people don’t know they’re smart.

“Across four studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd.”

So the big question is, how the hell do we figure out what we are dumb about, and what we’re smart about? Or whether we actually get angry a lot and need to cool down more, or if people are just being jerks about our legitimate concerns? How do we achieve some clarity of thought about our place in reference to those around us?


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