I find it hard to talk about myself. I’m always tripped up by the eternal who am I? paradox. Sure, no one knows as much pure data about me as me. But when I talk about myself, all sorts of other factors—values, standards, my own limitations as an observer—make me, the narrator, select and eliminate things about me, the narratee. I’ve always been disturbed by the thought that I’m not painting a very objective picture of myself.
This kind of thing doesn’t seem to bother most people. Given the chance, they’re surprisingly frank when they talk about themselves. “I’m honest and open to a ridiculous degree,” they’ll say, or “I’m thin-skinned and not the type who gets along easily in the world,” or “I’m very good at sensing others’ true feelings.” But any number of times I’ve seen people who say they’re easily hurt or hurt other people for no apparent reason. Self-styled honest and open people, without realizing what they’re doing, blithely use some self-serving excuse to get what they want. And those who are “good at sensing others’ true feelings” are taken in by the most transparent flattery. It’s enough to make me ask the question: how well do we really know ourselves?