Friday, October 3, 2008

Knowing Yourself

This is the third speech I wrote and gave for Toastmasters:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Madam Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests. These words by Ralph Waldo Emerson have always rung very true in my life. It seems like everywhere you go – school, work, home – everything you see – TV shows, movies, billboards – there is a new message of who you should be, what you should want, and how you should think. But the reality is that there is only one person you can be, and that is yourself. But you can’t be true to yourself if you don’t know who you really are. So the question is, how do you know yourself?

Everyone has some general sense of self. How could you not? You live your life through your eyes, you experience the world through your senses, and you make decisions based on your thoughts. But is this enough to really know yourself? Can you accurately depict what decision you would make in any given situation? You may think you can, but you may end up like I do, describing the person you wish you were, rather than who you really are. So then, if you can’t even trust yourself, where do you start?

You start by building a basic model. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is an assessment test that is centered on four dichotomies. These dichotomies are assessed based on three main descriptive categories of a person: attitudes, functions and lifestyle. The targeted questions in the assessment help you to understand your preferences towards extroversion or introversion, intuition or sensing, thinking or feeling and adaption or judgment. By determining these preferences you determine which of sixteen personality types you largely fit. Once you have determined your type, you will have a stronger idea of what your natural inclinations are going to be in a variety of situations and you will have a better grasp of the elements that make you who you are, as well as your strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge of yourself can help you to see patterns of behavior that you tend to follow that you may have never noticed before.

Now with a basic model, the next step is to look at who your friends are. It has been said, show me who your friends are and I will show you who you are. If you look at the six people you spend the most time with, they are a true reflection of who you are. Think about this for a second, it makes a lot of sense. When you have a question or a problem, who do you go to? When you have an idea or come across something of interest, who do you share it with? Your closest friends are the ones that you feel comfortable enough to show your true self. You chose them for a reason, maybe one that you are unaware of, but regardless, you chose them and you continue to choose them. By looking at what makes them who they are, what are their characteristics and values, you will be able to have a perspective of yourself and what really matters to you.

Now with a model and a perspective, the last major elements that make you uniquely who you are, are your beliefs and passions. Originally your beliefs may have been modeled after your parents, or from the religious teachings you follow, but there are core things that you have taken to heart and made your own. These meant more to you because they rang true or resonated with you because of the experiences you have had and the situations you have encountered. The difficult situations you have faced, the pressures and challenges you have endured and overcome have molded and shaped you into who you are. Your passion is evident through your accomplishments because it is what has fueled you to continue on during the hardest times; sticking with decisions to pursue one goal over another, succeeding against greater odds of failure.

Knowing your passions and beliefs, having a perspective of who you are, all built on a model of your preferences is a strong foundation for knowing yourself. By knowing yourself, you are equipped to stand your ground and be your unique self in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else. To be who you are and share yourself with the world is truly the greatest accomplishment.

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