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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Who am I?

The Jordan Collective, Flickr

How often do you ask yourself that question:

"Who am I?"

Knowing who we are is the first step toward making the right choices for ourselves. Sometimes it's surprising how little we know about ourselves, or how misleading our views of ourselves can be.

If you're skeptical, think about this: if we were really clear on our deepest nature, needs and aspirations, we would be able to fulfill our own needs and feel content pretty much all the time, wouldn't we?

Intrapersonal intelligence, or the knowledge of oneself (through introspection), is one of the eight intelligences put forward by Howard Gardner's Theory of multiple intelligences, and a trait that I've always considered particularly important, even before I knew about this theory.

To do a short test and discover which intelligences are your strongest: 

Not only is it useful, it's fun to reflect on our personality and intrinsic tendencies. No later than this morning, I was chatting with D, and we commented on how the girls have been playing with dinky cars lately. D and I were both dinky cars enthusiasts in our younger years. I said that my brother and I would bring them to the sandbox, where we would build a whole city, complete with buildings, roads, rivers, etc. to play with our dinkies. D said: "I would never have put my dinkies in the sandbox, because it ruins them." I replied "Well I did, because it's so much fun."

That single observation tells a lot about D's personality and mine: he is good at discipline and responsibility. His things are always in order. I am good at fun and enjoyment of life. My things are often messy. We were already like that as kids, and apparently it hasn't changed. Which is perfect, because we complete each other really well. Without him I would lead a disorganized life, and without me he would lead a boring life.

(The best part of D being so careful is that his dinky cars stayed in such a good shape that they are the ones our daughters play with, some 30 years later.)

Any trait of your personality that you can trace back to your childhood? How does your spouse (or best friend) compare?

In my teens, I got a book that's a fantastic catalyst for self-knowledge: The Book of Questions, by Gregory Stock.

Some examples include:

  1. For what in life do you feel most grateful?
  2. What has been your biggest disappointment in life? Your biggest failure?
  3. What would you like to be doing 5 years from now? What do you think you will be doing 5 years from now?
  4. Would you have one of your fingers surgically removed if it somehow guaranteed immunity from all major diseases?
  5. If you could spend one year in perfect happiness but afterward would remember nothing of the experience would you do so? If not, why not?
  6. Would you be willing to go to a slaughterhouse and kill a cow? Do you eat meat?
  7. What do you seek in a friend yet neither expect nor want in a lover? Are you attracted to people who are healthy for you to be around?
  8. Is there something you've dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven't you done it?

And many more thought-provoking ones. Those questions are fascinating because they force you to question your deepest values and priorities, your strengths and your weaknesses.

Answering questions like these builds self-awareness, but you can also use it as a conversation starter and to get to know people better. You can even have your own "game of questions" with friends or family, where each of the participants comes up with her/his own question for the group. Today, we played with the children. Here are some of the questions we came up with:

Aimed at the adults:

  • Would you rather run 25 km or spend a night alone in the jungle (with no tent)?
  • Would you rather have 12 children or no child at all?
  • Would you rather eat unhealthy junk all the time, or healthy, but very spicy, and sometimes "weird", Chinese food all the time? (we're talking REAL Chinese food)

The real thing (yes, those are scorpion skewers)
(and no, I did not sample them)
Beijing, 2010

  • Would you rather wake up tomorrow able to play whatever you want on your favorite instrument, or able to run ultramarathons (e.g. 100 km)?
  • Would you rather lose all your money or lose your spouse?

Aimed at the kids:

  • Would you rather have no friends whatsoever to play with, or not see your dad for a month?
  • Would you rather eat a piece of pie with ice cream on top, or spend an hour at the lake?

And last but not least:

  • Would you rather burp uncontrollably (and loudly) every 15 minutes, or fart uncontrollably (and loudly) every hour?

So... did any of those questions inspire you? Feel free to provide your answer(s) in the comments below. You could even provide other potential questions!

For more on the topic of self-knowledge:

Know thyself

It's not what I think it is

Show me your neurosis, I'll show you mine

only alice, Flickr


  1. I always leave here with something to really think about!!
    I think The Book of Questions would be awesome (wish I would have had a copy for our long trip!!).
    Very cool that you and your spouse balance each other out!

    1. We did take that book on trips! It's also great for long winter evenings! :-)

  2. Toujours délicieux ton blogue.

    1. Surtout avec les brochettes de scorpion... ;-)

  3. I would definitely choose to spend the night in the jungle, yet would prefer doing it with my twelve children, cooking strange food on the campfire, waking up being able to play anything on the piano (although I wonder how I could figure that out while deep in the jungle), and I obviously would prefer being poor than losing my spouse; because you can always start over again.

    1. Same here except for the jungle: I'd rather run the 25 K. :-)

      Some would argue that you can start over again with a new spouse. ;-)

  4. Been there, done that.

    My premise was that you liked your spouse :-)

    1. The biggest dilemma occurs for those whose spouse is their main source of money!!! hahaha :-)

  5. great post! *claps hands delighted!*

  6. Hi Julie! I remember how I was in 5th grade. And I loved who I was in 5th grade. I lost my way for some years in middle school and in high school and in my adult years, as far as who I was, but I'm back to being my authentic 5th grade self. I feel that I really understand who I am. :D

    1. Interesting! I hope we can all hold on to the good parts of our past selves... while getting rid of the "not so good" parts. :-)

  7. I've never heard of that book but I want to get it! I think asking ourselves questions like that not only helps us discover things about ourselves but also helps us grow as individuals.

    1. Absolutely!

      I bring it in the car when we have a long drive, it keeps us busy! :-)

  8. After I decided I was a liberally educated man, I stopped asking the question, lol!

    I liked dinky toys too :-)

    1. Jackie Chan has kept the question alive! :-)

      Oh I LOVED dinky toys, I think I still do.

  9. I actually went and bought the book after reading this post :) interesting and a so many topics for discussion...

  10. I wouldn't care whether I farted every hour. I'd run 25k any day (training for a marathon at the moment). Not sure about the money/spouse dilemma because some nights, when he's snoring, I'd choose him. Some of those other questions are just in the too hard basket - luckily I don't have to have 12 kids or none.

    1. You're okay with farting but not snoring? LOL

      I told my kids I'd rather have 12 kids than none. That's how much I love them. :-)