The Man I Don’t Want to See

Accept yourself for who you are.

But also strive to be better.

That’s what I’ve always told myself, but earlier this year I questioned how exactly I was striving to be a better person. I realized that the simple answer was that I was doing nothing.

To kick my personal philosophy into gear, I decided to ask trustworthy, honest people what aspects of my character they thought I could improve upon. I told myself that, whatever they said, I would not act defensively. I would believe them and accept their answer, because “What is my biggest character flaw?” is not an easy question to be asked.

My trusted allies gave me fantastic replies. I felt honored that people I care about took time to think on the question and respond to it.

The answers gave form to a person I don’t like thinking about very much. I heard about a person who can be arrogant and condescending. Sometimes he plays neutral when it’s better to take a side. He can lack empathy. He keeps quiet when it’s more appropriate to speak up. He often ridicules people and their deeply held values. He’s spacey. He can be blunt, cruelly so. As a whole, this person rang true. I didn’t like to look at him much, but I could recall instances of recognizing his presence, or at least seeing him in my periphery for a second before turning away in shame.

I wrote down everyone’s feedback and looked up resources to help work on these things.

As I began to do this, though, I also began to wonder if this chronicling of weaknesses, and the subsequent attempts to “fix” them, were indicative of yet another character flaw. This project of mine suddenly seemed naive, obsessive, and pompous. At least that’s what the little voice in the back of my head was telling me.

It’s more “human” to accept your rough edges!

No one else in the world is as OCD as you, you weirdo!

You’re being selfish by focusing only on yourself!

But these internal criticisms were neither logical nor rooted in a place of love. They were insecurities – that I’m not “real” enough, that I am “weird,” and that I am “selfish” for trying to become a better person. I decided to ignore them.

The only other negative aspect of this project so far is that now, being more aware of some of my flaws, I often feel more self-conscious. I ask myself more frequently if I am coming across as arrogant or condescending, for example.

So, I’m still exploring. I’ll let you know what I discover. I’m not sure I’ll be able to say, “Hello everyone, after 3 months of hard work I have indeed become a better person,” OR, “I’m still the exact same guy as before despite my efforts,” but I’ll probably be able to tell you something.

Would any of you like to join me? Or have you done something like this before? What did you find?

49 thoughts on “The Man I Don’t Want to See

  1. Why are you asking people to insult and judge you? If they’re having trouble answering, maybe they have nothing bad to say. Why not ask something like “What is my most noticeable feature?” It is open-ended and non-directive and opens you up to compliments in addition to criticisms.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I wouldn’t say I was asking anyone to insult me. When you have a certain rapport with people, they can criticize you and there are no hard feelings – because you’re so close! I like your idea of an open-ended question, but it probably wouldn’t have gotten much critical feedback like the kind I was interested in finding, don’t you think?
      Thanks for asking some challenging questions, Katharine 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey, Tom. You are young. I’ve been where you are. Too many people took my offer as an invitation for abuse. In some ways, I was setting them up, giving them just enough rope to hang themselves.

        People will show you how they feel by the way they treat you. Also, if you like yourself when you’re with a certain person or group of people, you are getting your answer directly from the mirror.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t think most people really want to put in the work of becoming better people (and it IS work) – they just want other people to put up with them as they are. I’d say ignore the little voice in the back of your head. Those voices are always negative, regardless of what you decide to do.

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    • Thanks for the advice, Deborah. I’ve thought on this post a bit since publishing it, and I agree that the little voices are the only real “enemies” here.

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  3. I too have been told that I can sometimes come across as arrogant and condescending, even though I am constantly trying hard not to. There comes a point in life where one cannot devote a large portion their time to pleasing others in the name of self-improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That you’re open to the possibility of being perceived as having negative sides show a healthy degree of self-awareness. A good basis for anyone wishing to be a decent human being. But there’s a thin line between being open and willing others to give you a good kicking, most notably yourself. With so many aspects and dynamics within and between our personalities, how can any of us really please everyone all the of the time. It’d be exhausting. Plus, it’s subjective interpretation. One person’s condescending creature is another’s confident and assertive beast. I couldn’t trust anyone who was offensively inoffensive. They make me nervous, and swear more than I usually do. Us Irish have a one-word-fits-all response… You’re grand. Or, to say it correctly – you’re graaaaaaaaaaaaand. Grand ranging anywhere from being a pain in the arse to being the perfect antidote to a pain in the arse. Depending on who you ask.

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    • Haha! “You’re grand.” I’ll have to remember that!
      I like your interpretation that “one person’s condescending creature is another’s confident and assertive beast.” I will keep that in mind as I continue to think about this.
      Thanks for you comment – I really enjoyed reading it!

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  5. Tom, I would like to take a different tack than the others who have thus far responded, if I may. All of us are flawed, and so wondering how others perceive our flaws is only human. Rarely do any of us want to know the truth about ourselves at any cost, and so I commend you. The flaw isn’t in asking, but in thinking that anyone we question would have the objectivity to truly answer us without interjecting their own flaws, as your other readers have wisely cautioned. Yet, I would go a step further, as in reality, stopping here leaves us little hope. I long for hope.

    Since we know that we, as well as every other human are terribly flawed, then where do we turn to find that objective truth about ourselves that we inherently seek? I know of only one place. It was spoken of Jesus, “God didn’t send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 in the New Testament)

    Jesus chose to become fully human, born of a woman, yet fathered by God. He fully joined us in our suffering and yet chose not to respond like us. He loved extremely, when we give up. He forgave extravagantly, when we become bitter. He sacrificed extraordinarily, to the point of death even for his enemies, when we might sacrifice to the point of death for our closest family and friends, maybe. Why? Because our flaws (called sins and “the flesh” in the Bible) have eroded and destroyed the relationship with the only one who could objectively tell us about ourselves, and then have the power to offer us true freedom from ourselves, all from the perspective of perfect love. He came to restore that relationship, the only way that would be effective, by his own death. Anyone willing to go to that extent, for me, would be one I could trust to show me my true self.

    This is what I’ve experienced in an ever growing relationship with Jesus, my Redeemer, and the lover of my soul for the last 50 years. He has shown me myself many times, in order to save me from myself; and always with the objectivity of a lover to the one he loves most.

    Want to find your best self? Looking to Jesus is the only way I’ve found.

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  6. Takes a lot of courage to ask those questions of close, trusted friends, and for sure it is a process. For me it’s one of biblical proportions. Thank you for reading my blog!

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  7. Well for starters, I think it shows a great sense of character that you want to work on your weaknesses, a self awareness that many people lack.

    I went through a phase of getting into self help books etc, very similar to yourself, with similar attributes I wanted to work on.
    Sadly, self help books and that ilk are written by the person who used the principles etc themself and itsimply doesnt transfer to the reader. There are usually a few nuggets in there but essentially every so called guru is telling you you should be like them which logically is an impossibility.

    But it’s a positive thing to be introspective and want to refine yourself, just make sure it isnt a rabbit hole and everything becomes questionable. Hope that all helps and at least makes sense.

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  8. It’s an excellent thing to want to be a better person. My struggles along that line have usually been within the framework of religion–going to confession is all about trying to improve your moral character. But any determined effort in this area is a good thing. In terms of selfishness–perhaps it’s best to measure it in the number of times you step up to help others. There are a plethora of ways, from food banks to making sure you’re super-polite to people behind counters who have to deal with rudeness everyday and have to smile in return. For instance, I recently took the time to really thank the bank teller I usually go to–telling her how much I appreciate her work and how hard it must be to try to be perfect every day, and her response was full of relief and gratitude. No big deal on my part–just a couple minutes–but it made a small difference. I’m hoping the small differences add up. 🙂

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  9. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are what you are but facing yourself and trying to be a better person is commendable. Thank you for the follow and nice to meet you.

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  10. Hi Tom. Welcome to the Neverending Story of becoming a better person, at least in my opinion, it should be neverending. I’m 68 years old and my goal every day is to be a nicer person than I was yesterday. Well, you know, good luck with that. We’re never finished with who we are. I have learned some hard and disheartening truths about myself, but I’ve also learned that I’m a pretty fantastic person–and I’m not the only person who thinks so–just kidding. Anyway–what helps me more than anything is what I call my “Nice Role Models.” Right now I have two. When I’m in a difficult situation, I ask myself “What would Stephanie do?” I’ve shared this with her and as a result she has involved me in more areas of her life–more great learning experiences. Enjoy your life.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The basic rule about being a good person is being conscious about your actions. If your words and actions don’t infringe upon someone or hurts them then I guess you’re good. Beyond that, being bothered about opinions and what others think about you is an exercise in futility as you would have learned by now. It just leaves you more frazzled as you’re being more prudent and cautious about your actions and words than being conscious, all the time. Besides, ten people will have ten different things to say abut you so don’t even bother. Use that time and energy to ask yourself if what you’re doing is right or not and that little voice at the back of your head…believe it or not will act as your moral compass…well, at least 9 out of 10 times…even the compass gets tired pointing north all the time!
    Be yourself and have fun!

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    • Thanks for the advice! I’m definitely not listening to every thing I hear – really trying to rely on my trusted/loved ones. I agree that being conscious of our actions is so important. A lot of evil arises from carelessness and ignorance.

      Liked by 1 person

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