Is it possible to not know oneself?
That is the biggest question I have pondered of late. In the past few weeks, I have been told by various persons and quizzes who I am. Some of these have been solicited. Other opinions offered without invitation. But the result has been the same. Whoever these people/quizzes say I am I am not. How can I be? Yet they all tend to be quite similar in their description of me. This begs the question, are they correct and am I wrong? Do I not know who I am?
The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, said “not knowing oneself deeply, profoundly, is ignorance; and you cannot know yourself if you cannot look at yourself, see yourself actually as you are, without any distortion, without any wish to change”.
Well, I don’t want to be ignorant. I’m just troubled by these opinions of my being. I have heard my whole life that I am weird. But I’ve been comfortable with that. I spoke with a lisp, I was the only black girl in my class for years, I am left-handed, I “developed” before other girls, I speak with an accent, so I’ve been comfortable being different for much of my life. I have also been told since I was a child that I’m stubborn and despite my quietness I have a temper, like my grandfather.
Stubborn, weird, quiet, introvert, quirkyalone, snob, insensitive, short-tempered, perfectionist.
During my psychiatric rotation in medical school I allowed one of my preceptors to administer the Myers-Brigg personality scale to me. It was tedious and repetitive but in the end I got typed – INTJ. I don’t remember much of what that personality type meant at the time. What I do remember was that the psychiatrist thought my results were odd. He said I came out “male” which I couldn’t understand. I wondered if that was his code-word for “uppity female who doesn’t know her place in the world”. When I pressed him, all he said was there were a few questions I answered like a man would. Just that. I didn’t want to press further. After-all, I was in the middle of learning that there is a thin line between sanity and insanity. I didn’t want to end up on the insane side! I don’t know about you, but I think psychiatrists are odd people – something about working with “crazies” day in and day out you know. But I wondered did I come out as emotionless and cold or did I show dominant or overbearing or rigid thought structures? I didn’t forget though. INTJ.
Medical school and post-graduate training have labelled me as “seemingly uncaring” and “aloof”, and each time I am very disturbed. I do care. Deeply so. What kind of material is this wall that I have built around me made of that people can’t see that? The good thing about these professional evaluations is that my attendings always admit that as they get to know me they can see that I am very attentive and extremely caring more than they would expect. My final reviews are always stellar. But I don’t find that comforting. I’m training to be a consultant – someone who only briefly interacts with others. I need to be the kind of person who makes a good first impression. Alas, it seems I simply lack those skills. Once, I cried in my program director’s office during a review of my evaluations. He was an extrovert and one of the few who got me. I cried because being who I am obviously is not working for me – with family, on the social front, and now professionally. Why couldn’t I be extroverted? Why couldn’t I be bubbly and cheerful, passionate and excited? Why couldn’t I be touchy-feely? Why do I lack the gift of gab?
My program director, the extrovert, would ask about my social life and seeing that I was having the same “problems” there would tell me, you know KChie, you are who you are and not everybody is going to be able to see the real you, but I wouldn’t change. I wouldn’t change, yes you can try to smile more, and figure out a way to say things that show that you care so colleagues don’t see you as cold and uncaring, but overall I wouldn’t change.
And with that, I would feel better, wipe away my tears, take a deep breath, and march out back there! I would smile, I would try to seem interested or excited in a call from the MAR to admit a new patient, or from the nurse to write an order. I would carry such positive attitude out into the social arena. Is it any wonder then that at the end of the day or the end of a workweek I would need time to recharge myself? But even with this expense of energy to try not to be me, it still gets flung back in my face.
Stubborn, weird, quiet, introvert, quirky-alone, snob, insensitive, short-tempered, perfectionist, prude, traditional, conservative, uncaring.
I c-a-n-‘-t f-i-g-h-t i-t a-n-y l-o-n-g-e-r.
I do know myself. I am not ignorant of my being. Maybe it’s time to reconcile my inner vision with reality. I should just accept who I am and accept that I will be often misunderstood. It’s not me. It’s them!