What are the parts of ourselves that we do not know? Which parts would embarrass us, if we found out more?
Back when I was active on Twitter, I used to tweet more often while I was at airports. Somehow, I would broadcast something I would notice – a jibe at the abnormally high rates of food, a rant about why my gate was always faraway or my approval of carnatic music playing in the lobby.
When I observed this pattern, I asked myself why this was so. An unsavoury conclusion was that these tweets were my subtle way of showing off – of telling the world I was hopping across airports. This might not be the real reason, but it is certainly plausible. Moreover, all of this happened unconsciously. Only in retrospect, after keeping away from twitter for several months, did this thought even present itself.
This particular realization could be harmless. But it is certainly a symptom. I might be doing performing several other actions with consequences that are not as inconsequential. The problem is that I simply do not know what they are. How do I have them called out?
I could ask my friends or family. But most of them they are biased, and are likely to view my actions as favourable. Our friends are the thin slice of people who like us enough to voluntarily share portions of their lives with us. This problem exists with our families as well. The better the members of our family get to know us, the more they are predisposed to either like us or hide criticism of us for the fear of disturbing an important relationship.
But there are exceptions here – the ones who are discerning enough to spot our flaws, care enough about us to point it out and are courageous enough to express them bluntly. They could come in different forms: colleagues who suggest how to do something better, mentors who care about our well being, friends who are courageous enough to call our bullshit and people who see the world differently from us and express their disagreement. These people make us conscious of our unconscious errors.
And we would do well to keep them close, for they are invaluable – our critics who care.