Self Matters To Others

Self also matters, as I’ve hinted, because it’s who we are to others. It’s the “user interface” that makes social interactions possible. Understanding who others are, is the glue that makes community possible. Self not some simple-minded ego-centric concept that can be disposed of, for the sake of “spiritual evolution”. Our public Self, as well as our private Self, is the vehicle that our personalities use to find our place and fill our space in the wider world. And our Self is the reference point others use to interact with us.

Our Sense-Of-Self is what makes life meaningful and gives us direction not only in our own minds, but in the context of the wider world we inhabit. Yes, especially in the context of the wider world. Only by knowing what matters to us, and how we think and feel and believe, can we lead lives that are truly responsive and responsible to others. And only by knowing who we are, can others be responsive and responsible to us. As we solidify our Self identity by picking and choosing our actions, each day of our lives, we mature and grow in the presence of others. We teach others who we are and how they can treat us. We define our boundaries and alert them to characteristics that can both attract and repel. Being who we are and doing what we do each day, builds the personality that not only carries us through life but – just as importantly – also connects us to others.

Let’s say that you’re a member of a tight-knit department, and each day, your co-workers see you doing things to help others around you. Holding doors open for people. Getting someone a cookie from the cafeteria, when they’re having a bad day. Picking up they slack on projects that others are struggling with. In the context of the group, you’re a valued member with a stable Self-expression that others can count on. Your habits define you and make your position and role a predictable and dependable one. Far from being rote and boring, the predictability of your behavior is you chief asset.

It’s who you are.

And others have a Sense of your Self that also operates instinctively to prompt them to look to you for help when they are in need. They don’t need to pause and think, “Who might be able to step up and help me with such-and-such?” They just know. And if they’ve walked behind you into the office often enough, they know they can count on you holding the door for them, when their arms are full of folders or boxes. The larger group has a Sense of who you are, as well. And it relies on that Sense to instinctively shift activities to and from individuals who are known to be a certain type of person. Having a known identity and role in your group doesn’t make you less of an individual. It makes you more of one – and more capable to express your individual gifts and talents in the company of folks who know and trust you to be part of their social ecosystem. Just as you need to know who you are to function effectively, your social circle needs to know that, too.

When we haven’t figured out who we are, we drift… aimlessly letting circumstances dictate our life’s direction. When we have no Sense-Of-Self, we have no rudder to guide us as the winds and tides of life push and pull us. And everyone around us knows it, too. They need us to have a clear Sense-Of-Self, so that we can participate in their world, connect with them, and provide support and ballast as they weather the seas of life, as well.

6 thoughts on “Self Matters To Others”

  1. This is why i believe the worst part of my m-tbi’s has been the unattached self. part ptsd but more neurological, i believe. i like your statement of making others aware of our characteristics, both those that repel and those that are not i try to explain that i lack a feeing memory. but to expect people to understand/except is not very practical. especially, when i’m very consistent in my caring for others. at least now that i’m aware of tbi’s, unless i’m fooling myself. one good friend who has accepted me as i am, is having trouble as i have worsened in some ways. he says that say dumb things in public but when tell him that i want to stay home and not in crowds on some level he sees it as rejection because before i was able to “fake-it” easier and fit in. i’m hoping this improves. but i wonder if the plasticity is there as much now. the last tbi, was crushing for me. but i know from past experience that the mind is incredible. theres hope.

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  2. I, too, lack feeling, much of the time. Some days, it puzzles me… why do I make the effort? Why do I bother? I believe in my case, it is because of my own personality – I am the type of person who believes I have a sacred duty to be of assistance to others. I am keenly aware of how much I have been given in my life, and for me to sit back and not do anything with my gifts… that would be wrong. And I could not live with myself. Even when I am feeling so low and so unattached to anything… no feeling for anyone or anything… that commitment to be of service is what keeps me going. Where do I come in? Who can say? The main thing, is that I am active in ways that further the welfare of others, and that I am leaving a legacy of help behind. I have no chlidren, so I feel that even more strongly. Through all the years of confusion and pain, still I have made a difference and played my part. I take time for myself on the weekends, so I don’t implode (or maybe I do…) and I start again the next week. I would really rather not *have* to do all this. A part of me does not see the point, because it is so meaningless and disconnected for me. I really don’t understand, some days, the point of it all. But others seem to respond favorably to it, and for me, the important thing is to simply TRY. Simply Show Up. Participate. Because even if I don’t want to, others need me to, and that is the need I serve.

    That’s just me, but I feel it so strongly in my bones — maybe because my family is full of teachers and nurses and ministers and missionaries… Maybe it is genetically ingrained with me, to put the welfare of others first. But whatever the reason, I have to say that has probably played a huge role in my recovery.

    In the end, other people don’t seem to care about my shortcomings. If anything, they make me more accessible to them. Being honest, being clear, being honorable with them… that’s what matters the most. That they gain a greater sense of their own dignity and worth, from my interactions with them. Luka, this is something that most people can do – including you, to whatever extent you are able. I hope you will join me, as I do my part to make the world a little more human — and habitable for the other humans who are here with us.

    It sounds like you already are.


  3. BB. Great response. Very meaningful this morning. And one that makes me want to take a different look on how I’ve chosen to live out life now. Am I trying enough? I have valid reasons to say yes. Putting myself out there to get knocked in the head again or abused due to communication deficits would be masochistic and I’m not sure my creator would like it. He did not create me to be a fun time for his other creations. Or to add to my ptsd nightmares. But I think the answer is no, I’m trying but i could be trying harder. On some level, I’ve recognized the the last injury and the ptsd all became too much and I made peace with living life out here in my older age years, trying to gain some comfort at the end. 10 years of pain and deadened streets. A second car collision another ambulance ride another brain injury. Decided that swimming against the tide was a fool. Getting abused for communication deficits. Seemed like enough is enough. Idiopathic swelling due to stress hormones and inflammatory, auto-immune problems brought from the radical shift of having come so far to living with deficits again. But something has worked through me. In times of extreme duress and confusion and mental/head pain, I felt myself of service to my fellow human. Not understanding them, I felt true compassion for the human race. And I showed it. But like many warriors, I’m less effective during times of relative, very relative, periods of calm. Adrenaline burn-out. I feel my body weak. My ptsd is high,very high. Am I saving myself on the side of the road, while the end of my life races by. Or am I choosing to be no more masochistic and tax my system to total disease. Either way it sucks on some level, but better to go out trying. And giving of self to the end. But what self? Life is difficult. For the TBI survivor and for my entitled family who reminds me I’m a failure and think that the teaching profession is for losers. Ok I have to work on some bitterness. I will do. Thanks 4writing! Luka


  4. Well, we do what we can. I get upset, sometimes, thinking about how badly people have treated me over the years. At the same time, though, I have not realized it. And when it comes down to it, if it did not matter to me then, why do I hang onto it now? In a way, the poor treatment literally woke me up – it made me more alert – which is why I believe I have always sought out people who mistreated me. Not because I had a wish for ill treatment, but because the “rush” I got from being around them and always being on the defensive, provided a much-needed adrenaline pump for my slowed-down brain.

    I have found other ways to boost my brain, but I still tend to seek out bad situations and edgy people because I feel more awake with them.

    In the end, I do need to protect myself. And there are other people in the world who need my help who are not a$$holes. It IS exhausting, though, and I have become an expert in clever excuses for getting out of things. I talk about other commitments I have (commitments to myself, so I don’t lose my mind), as well as pre-emptively scheduling things that will prevent me from getting sucked into open-ended activities.

    I need extreme structure and predictability, or I’m no good to anyone. I found that works for me. It makes regular life possible.


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