Around 6 months ago I started a mental journey that wasn’t always comfortable: especially finding out what I was really like. We all believe we have free will, and go about our daily lives as if it is what we are choosing to do. I thought the same.
However, here’s a small list of how amazing I was:
- I knew the answer to everything.
- I understood everybody.
- I could work everybody out.
- I was always right.
- I was a good listener.
- Books were for boring people.
- I was more intelligent and better than others.
- I expected something in return for everything.
- I pre-judged everybody.
- I blamed others for things that went wrong in my life.
- I never loved without wanting something in return.
- I would make assumptions.
- 7 billion people and I was the only one gifted with common sense.
- I believed I was a doctor, psychiatrist, vet, comedian and best parent in the world all at once.
- Start with or put ‘I’ in everything.
- The list goes on…
What a complete jackass I was.
Of course I didn’t think I was a real doctor, but that never stopped me from diagnosing everybody, giving my opinion on what they should be doing, advising parents how to bring up their kids, or telling someone I understood them completely.
I have spent most of my adult life believing everything I thought was fact and that all my ideas were golden. Perhaps this attitude is acceptable when you are a teenager, but being an adult who is unable to listen, let alone accept fault, is not acceptable.
The problem is that while growing up we accumulate a vast amount of information, and this information gets filtered and coloured by what we already believe. The biggest issue is that we ignore or disbelieve new information whenever it conflicts with what we have already learnt. It cripples our ability to learn and to have conscious thought, leaving us controlled by our preconditioned thoughts and reactions.
I don’t think for a minute that I was a bad person, but I certainly wasn’t the kind, understanding, knowledgeable and amazing person I had convinced myself I was.
I am now 42, barely 6 months older, and coming to the realisation that I know very little was like eating a massive slice of humble pie. It has given me a new understanding and freedom that is hard to explain. Just having the ability to listen without judgement or wait my turn has given me an insight into other people’s lives I never previously realised existed.
Guess what! They can be right too…
When you make your life about learning and compassion you get to see the world through clear eyes, with a mind that hasn’t been preconditioned to conform to a lifetime of paradigms.
So am I still a complete jackass? Not a ‘complete’ one, but I certainly can still be one sometimes. Like the old cliché – ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, but it did get built.
I have a goal and a definite plan for reaching it. It is ambitious but the reward is going to be worth it. Part of that plan is to drop the jackass attitude as much as possible – hopefully one day that side of me will rarely surface. I don’t believe it’s realistic to get rid of jackass-ness completely, but I’m working on it.