Saturday, July 14, 2012

Are You Self-Scrutinizing? Not Enough? Too Much?

I have a friend (C.) who engages in what he calls "self-absorbed list-making."  He just sent me his list of "Things I'm Good At" followed by "Things I'm Not Good At."

This is the same friend who wrote a list of "Things I Believe" which I discussed in the blog, What Should I Believe In?.  He says he considers his lists an exercise in self-understanding.  Also, he clearly has chosen self-absorbed list-making over other possibly more dangerous or addictive activities.  So I applaud his pastime.

His list, so far, is short although wide-ranging.  It includes work habits:
  • I am good at finishing what I start
  • I am good at procrastinating
specific skills:
  • I am pretty good at learning languages
  • I am good at writing music (sometimes)
and mental processes:
  • I'm good at questioning fundamental ideas that others might accept as self-evident truths.
His list of things he's not good at is presented without apology:
  •  I am not very punctual
  •  I am not very good at making money. I just don’t think that way.
Although there is occasionally a slight wistfulness:
  • I wish I were better at renewing old friendships than I am ...
  • Sadly, I am not much of a ladies’ man.
What am I to make of this?  Most of us do not feel the need to make such a list unless we're preparing for that horrible (but important) job-interview question, "What are your weaknesses?"  (Interviewers want to see if you are capable of self-scrutiny.)

Most of us also prefer to hear how wonderful we are from others. ("You're a fabulous lover.")  If your self-esteem is shaky, the list might lead you to the nearest bridge. 
On the other hand, it might not be a bad idea to make such a list, and having done so to look for ways to share or teach the things we're good at, or to seek to improve the things we wish to improve - or maybe just to understand and accept ourselves more.

I just sent C. the following questions:
  1. Do you feel you know yourself better after completing your list?
  2. Has it made you want to become better at things you are not good at, or more accepting of yourself?
  3. Has it provided a framework for what seems to be your life?
  4. Do you recommend this for others?
I'll report on his answers when they arrive.

I tried momentarily to write myself a list of things I'm good and bad at, but I didn't get very far.  I'm not that self-scrutinizing.  I know one thing though.  If I did make that list, I don't think I'd send it to anyone.  Unless they asked.

Meanwhile, how do you self-scrutinize?


  1. Nice blog post -- but I'm not sure why you say that if you made such a list you'd never send it to anyone else. Is it "oversharing"?

    1. no, it's not oversharing. I'm not sure anyone would find it that interesting (except job interviewers), unless I specified the sexual details, and then it would sound like a personal ad.

      maybe it just seems too big a project.

  2. C's reply to my questions:

    I have not "completed" this list -- nor any of my lists. I expect I've only just begun.

    Time will tell if it makes me any better at the things I'm good at, or worse at the things I'm bad at -- but I doubt it.

    I have no response to your other two questions.