Saturday, August 18, 2007

Self-Delusion

"I would lie alone in the dark, feeling that I was a character in a story that had lost its plot. "
~ Pete Hamill, A Drinking Life~

* * * * * * *

I am currently a very confused woman, undergoing what I would define as an emotional life crisis. (truthfully, I do realize that I have been confused most of my adult life, and perhaps am only just now finding my own voice, able to define who I am/will be in future years.)

Am I any different than many in our society, near my own age?

I think...not so much.

* * * * * * *

Even though I am introspective by nature, I can go along quite nicely for many months, (or used to be able to), and not question my own self-perception. But, I also have my own narcissistic bent at times, thus, as each stage of my life has passed, and I approached a new one. I have looked at my own definition of self. Who I am, my basic character, my morals, my values, my reactions and intuitions regarding life itself, the one I am living, and the world I observe. I reexamine my own self...who I think I am...who I wish to be...what do I want to change about myself? To achieve this, one has to have a true "eyes open wide" perception of self...it is my hope, that I do.

We each define ourselves. We create a definition of who we are. I consider it a sign of emotional health if these definitions of self-hood change as we age, and assimilate new experiences.

But...what if this definition of self...does not seem to agree with the perceptions others have of us?

















I have met several people, who in a self-description, describe themselves one way, yet, as I come to know them better, the personality I perceive does not match their own description. In every instance, the person's self description is a much more positive view, than the one I perceive. Nor, in the eyes of others who know them are they perceived as they see themselves. I know this, because I have asked. I become very curious about this side of the human psyche. I wonder, am I the only one? Is it just me seeing the flawed self-view? In every occurrence, those I ask, answer in the affirmative. Yep, they see the other as deluding themselves. They too perceive the other as I do. Hence, from time to time over the years, I have called to question these perceptions of self, either my own, or those of another.


How can this be? How can a person go through life, with such a skewed self-perception?

I then ask myself, do they know? Do they know they are not the person they describe? Are they just unable to reconcile the two? Or, is this person they see themselves to be, really who they want themselves to be, wish to be?

When I have come across one of my fellow human beings who are not perceived by me, to be who they describes themselves to be...I end up asking of myself...

Am I too, deluding myself?

Am I truly who I think myself to be?

Are my actions that different from my words?

Are the reactions I receive/perceive from others of me, true, or self-delusions?

There have been several times in my life, when a friend, or acquaintance has described me to me. Almost always in a much more positive light than I see myself. I am, most often, quite taken aback...the person they often describe is who I wish to be...not who I view myself to be...I am that complete blithering idiot standing in the corner... yet, a someone will describe me as a self-assured, extroverted, warm, loving woman...at those times I am often tempted to look over my shoulder, surely, they are not talking to me!

In recent years especially, I have tried very hard to be the woman I want to be, and the woman I am, flaws and all, (oh! a multitude of flaws!), or at least who I perceive myself to be. No misconceptions...me...just me.

There are days when I feel in top form...we all have those days of brilliance...on those days...I know I am burning brightly. There are many more days, when I am not doing so great...my flame is sputtering...on those days...I hide away...in an attempt to find my center of balance once again...few people in my offline life see me then.

So, who am I? The woman in my minds eye hiding confused in the corner? Or, a woman who has her occasional moments of brilliance, while just trying to live each day? Maybe I am both.

Who are we all?

Do we ever know? I feel I am changing daily into a better me...I truly hope that is not a self-delusion.


* * * * * * *

This idea of not knowing one is deluding oneself has intrigued me for a long while.

Soooo....

I googled the idea of self-deluding behavior. There is much written regarding the subject, one of the more simpilied theories is cited here-- Psychology Today article.

"As part of a decades-long study that has tracked 130 individuals since nursery school, Colvin and his colleagues assessed subjects' personalities at ages 18 and 23, monitoring such traits as dependability and how subjects handle life's frustrations. The volunteers provided self-descriptions, and their friends contributed evaluations as well.

When the researchers looked at subjects who were "self-enhancers" -- those whose glowing self-image bore little resemblance to their true personality -- a disturbing portrait emerged.

"Self-enhancers tend to be hostile, lack social skills, and appear anxious and moody," says Colvin. "They are sensitive to criticism and keep people at a distance -- perhaps so that they don't get negative feedback that might alter their overly positive view. They are trying to hide their flaws from themselves." (I have two old friends that are very good at self-delusion, yet, they also have very good social skills, but, if looked at more closely, those very social skills that bring them many friends, also keep them at a distance, there are very very few who know them well...hmmm)

"Positive self-esteem is good," says Colvin. "But the context has to be based on reality. Knowing that imperfections exist is the first step to improving yourself."


* * * * * * *

Is that it? Are the self-enhancers unable or unwilling to see themselves as they truly are, because it is too painful to "know thyself" and make the changes necessary, in which actions and words match? This is where I become most confused...so many use the words...but the actions do not correspond with the words. The twain do not meet...as I perceive them.

Thus leaving me with yet another question.

Are those of us, that tend to have low-self images, more apt to see ourselves as we truly are?

I have never had an extremely positive self-image, in fact there have been years of my life, when I felt as low a life form as "the bacteria that feeds on pond scum." But, I have over come that, I know my worth....most days...I know there are many facets to me that are wonderful...but...I also am fully capable of recognizing the not so wonderful.

To fully get my questions answered, I would have to ask one of these people that I see as true self-deluder's...but...I fear to burst their bubbles...so I don't.


* * * * * * *

It seems many have pondered this issue, or one similar. There are many quotations examining that fine line between striving to be better, and self-delusion.


"To thine own-self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day.
Thou can'st not then be false to any man."
~Shakespeare's Hamlet~

"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."
~ Henry David Thoreau~

"Each person's only hope for improving his lot rests on recognizing the true nature of his or her basic personality, surrendering to it, and becoming who he or she really is."
~Sheldon Kopp~

"To be pleased with one's limits is a wretched state."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe~


"What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly."
~ Carl Rogers~

"Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, 'This is the real me,' and when you have found that attitude, follow it."
~ William James~

"Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be."
~ Fannie Brice~

"
Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."
~Carl Jung~

"People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering."
~ St. Augustine~

"
Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are."
~ Amy Bloom~


* * * * * * *

Blogger afterthought: Deluding others about who we truly are, is not always a protection of self-esteem, in some people it is often done by design. We listen to the emotionally charged words of another and respond viscerally. Yet, if we can get past the words, and observe their actions, we become confused, we question, we tell ourselves, "he is deluding himself".

If we decide to delve deeper, we find the words, the rhetoric, to have been a manipulation of our emotions to achieve a desired end that does not meet within our own values. George W. Bush is a prime example.


* * * * * * *

The old adage,

"Actions speak louder than words".

Is indeed...a truth.






3 comments:

Phil said...

I know that sometimes I completely delude myself. It's a wonderful device I think we all use from time to time to protect our fragile psyche from acknowledging the ravages of age or unmet goals, or that we are just ordinary people. Sunny, you probably delude yourself sometimes in both good and bad ways. One way you shouldn't ever delude yourself about is that you are a wonderful, thought provoking writer who deserves a bigger audience.

deb said...

I wrote something along the same lines tonight. Maybe there's something in the air. I like this quote you found.

"Each person's only hope for improving his lot rests on recognizing the true nature of his or her basic personality, surrendering to it, and becoming who he or she really is."
~Sheldon Kopp~

I'm tired of trying to fit into other people's ideas of how I should be, how I should behave, how I should think. I want to be who I am, all of me, without apologoy.

Sounds like you do too.

Sunny Delight said...

Phil, I think you are right, we all have moments of self-delusion...but I do know that I am most definitely...just ordinary people...most days I am OK with that.

Thank your for kind words...I write what I am thinking about...and that is good enough for me.

Deb, being "just ourselves" is hard, one of the reasons I left my marriage, but I think we both (you and I) are getting there...at least I hope I am...but I do want to continue to be a better me too.