A Conversation About Self-Awareness & Assumptions

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A friend, who was clearly absorbed in her own thoughts, got into my car, buckled up, and without so much as a Sherman T. Potter “howdy-do” said:

Do you think you were wanted?

Now I’m a good friend. Attentive. A natural-born problem solver, but you have to give me some context.  So I said the first, rather inarticulate, thing that drifted into my head: huh?

Then the story unfolded as she went on to explain that she’d started reviewing her life, all of her life, in light of a recent setback in which her job ended.

While she understood on a logical level why her job, which she tolerated, had been cut, on an spiritual level this experience had sent her into a spiral of self-doubt– and a need to understand it all.

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We talked for a while.  She explained that the question she had asked of me wasn’t about being wanted at work, but about being wanted within a family.  That is, did I think/she think that our parents wanted us.

In my case, Yes.  In her case, No.

Getting to the crux of her contemplation, she thought that being unwanted early on would have given her some superpower to automatically know when that sort of thing was happening again.

In other words, because she was so sure of herself had she missed some sign that she was going to be kicked to the curb by this employer?

We came to no definitive conclusion about her recent job loss, but we did stumble upon a good topic of conversation about self-awareness.  That is, how we all make assumptions based on previous experiences.

And how those assumptions when applied to the here and now, aren’t always a good guide for how to live your life, even though it’s easy to delude yourself into thinking that they are.

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Published by

Ally Bean

Observant. Creative. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Looking for the crumb of truth in the cookie of life.

36 thoughts on “A Conversation About Self-Awareness & Assumptions”

    1. nance, I saw the photo in my files and thought that figuring out how we fit in anywhere is a lot like figuring out where to put the next clove in the orange. Sometimes you’re so sure you know where the clove will go, but the tough skin won’t let you put it there.

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  1. Sometimes kids are a surprise and inconvenient in the moment but much appreciated later on. I know many parents that happened to. Unless you were made to feel totally unwanted for your entire life, I’m not sure that affects how you deal with things. Sounds like your friend is at a bad place and is connecting dots that don’t connect.

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    1. Kate, her childhood experiences have influenced her outlook on life more than most people who I know. She’s hardly distraught over losing this job, so the conversation was more abstract than emotional. But it did make us both wonder how your relationship within your family influences your assumptions about group dynamics later in life.

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        1. Yes, I have no doubt that there are lessons learned within a family group that stick with you, unless you make a conscious effort to unlearn them. Now whether those lessons affected this situation, I dunno. But it was an interesting conversation.

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        2. We could have a whole different discussion about this – not to hijack your post, Ally. It’s just that after almost 100 years of birth order assumptions regarding personality, recent research says it’s basically meaningless. It will probably be a long time before our assumptions change (if the research even proves to be true).

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          1. Zazzy, is that right? I’m not sure how birth order played into my friend’s childhood. Just that my friend never felt wanted then, and does not feel wanted now. Of course, the pain of losing her job is greatly assuaged by a hefty buyout package, so this conversation was less sad than you might imagine.

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  2. I don’t think we can ever accurately judge what other people will do or what they think.

    We see the world through so many of our own lens’ of experiences and they see the world through theirs.

    And what is weird is that our lens or their lens maybe distorted – not based on reality but on a sort of unconscious absorbed belief about the world that could be inaccurate. And we don’t even know it.

    Having lost a job, I have come to the conclusion, after constant rehashing of what I did or what someone else did or how someone perceived me or how I could have done it differently, that I don’t think I could change it. Because in that moment – I was acting on my view of life through my lens, others were doing the same.

    Who knows whether either of us really understood the reality of the other person’s situation?

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    1. itsathought2, you bring up excellent points. It is all about the lenses through which we perceive our experiences. In this case my friend’s lens was about not being wanted– and how losing this job reminded her of those early feelings.

      I agree with your conclusion that who knows where reality is and how much we distort it. All we can do is try to understand things, then apply the lessons to the next experience, I suppose.

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  3. I think there are lots of different discussion points in that piece. But to pick just one, I can tell you from experience that being unwanted and being told and shown that you are unwanted really does affect everything, but I think it tends more to invoke self fulfilling prophecies (in terms of that sort of thing happening over and over in your life because you get what you look for) rather than having some sort of Teflon coating to let it slide off or sixth sense in order to spot it coming. But hey, we’re all different, and react differently in the same situation. Your friend sounds tougher than me. But I have peace now, for various reasons; my life isn’t like that anymore, and the past really is a foreign country that I don’t have to visit, because it’s really not relevant anymore. But it was for a long time. Sorry if my comment is too heavy 🙂 I will be very interested in what Zazzy has to say about this. And I hope your friend is OK.

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    1. Polly, interesting take on this. I can see how early life experiences, negative or positive, can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They can create inaccurate assumptions within you. I’m glad that you figured that out– and have moved on from the past.

      My friend is a strong woman who knows where she came from and how she got out. But it surprised her to suddenly be not wanted again, dredging up old doubts. Life is odd sometimes, just when you think you’ve figured it out *bam* you’re back at square one.

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  4. My opinion on this matter is that an unplanned child and an unwanted child are different, but I suppose that bears on this matter. I barely know any planned people.
    I was desperately wanted, the end all be all of two people who wanted a child more than anything, and my life has been no picnic.
    I’ve heard it said many times that a child conceived in love stands greater chance of success. I don’t know if it’s true. I could find evidence for and against, but it sounds nice anyway.

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    1. joey, good distinction. Unplanned and unwanted are two entirely different things. I was unplanned, but wanted. My friend was not so fortunate, but she’s been a success in life so maybe it didn’t matter. I’ve never heard that saying before, but I like it.

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    1. susie, there’s sense to what you say. I’m always looking at how all the pieces fit together and why, but sometimes a cigar is just a cigar! [Who said that? Einstein? Freud? One of those smart people.]

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  5. I am finding both your post and the comments to be really interesting and I want to comment on everything! But I won’t.

    I will say that previous experiences, particularly childhood experiences, both good and bad will affect the way you view any new experiences. I think that it’s easier to connect the dots (whether those dots are real or not) with negative experiences, but just look at the comments from people who felt wanted. It’s kind of easy to think if you’re raised in a loving, supportive family you’re going to view the world differently from someone who felt unwanted. It’s just that there’s so many things that intertwine!

    Do you remember string art? Does anyone still make string art? You know, where you pound a whole bunch of nails part way into wood and then connect them with string to make a picture? In my view, everything in your life connects to everything else. Most of the time you don’t even think about this stuff then something happens, like your friend losing her job, and those connections are suddenly highlighted into a kind of “it all makes sense now” reality. But you might only be seeing part of the picture or you might be putting too much emphasis on a small subset of connections. I think you can gain awareness regarding your connections, I even think you can “cut the string” so to speak, but I still think the connections are there and they can lead us to make assumptions that are not necessarily valid. Perception is not necessarily reality – that’s something I have to constantly remind myself of. Being aware that I make perceptual errors doesn’t stop me from making them, it’s just that most of the time I can stop and remember that my conclusions might be an invalid leap.

    It’s what makes trying to understand people and why they do the things they do so interesting to me. You can have what looks like the same set of life events (nails) and different people will connect them differently to create whole different “pictures.” Why is that? Is that the “nature” part of the equation? It’s complicated and it’s fascinating and it’s what makes so much of what is “known” in my former profession to be absolute B.S.

    Please excuse the lengthy comment! I really enjoyed both your post and reading the comments. Clearly a topic of interest to me.

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    1. Zazamataz, the string art visual is wonderful. Thank you. You’ve explained what influences us, and how, in a way that I’ll always remember. This is what friend and I were talking about, but didn’t have the words/ideas/background to put it together so well. We just knew intuitively that in life there are connections which a person might, or might not, understand correctly.

      “Perception is not necessarily reality” is a phrase that will stick with me. So true, but easy to overlook the wisdom contained within it. It’s easier to spot the triumph of perception when watching politics, than when living your own life. However, it’s in daily life where we make are biggest assumptions about what is real.

      ‘Tis a miracle any of us human beings survive and thrive as well as we do, eh?

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  6. I was very wanted and cherished, so I think that gave me a lot of confidence about some of my abilities. (others like athletics or art, not so much) I also think that being the oldest helped me with my leadership (bossy?) capabilities. 🙂

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    1. Margaret, I find it interesting to learn what adults think about their childhood experiences. If the experiences are positive [or perceived to be positive], like yours, then adults tend to connect their successes to their childhood. But people like my friend, whose childhood was less than ideal, approach adult life with a different set of expectations. And therein is the gist of this story!

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  7. So much to think about based on one comment from your friend. The comments and article link are really interesting if inconclusive. I wonder how much personality figures in the whole discussion.
    I have seven kids and they’re all so different, as they should be, but they too have used their place in birth order to justify their own perceptions. (I’ve done it myself as the oldest daughter in a family of six.) Each one of them was wanted but each is born into a different family, so to speak, the dynamics changing with each arrival.
    My eldest son is a case in point. He has a tendency to look for the negative in things. (Like his dad?!) One time I dished up the dinner, nine plates all laid out and he came in and said, ‘Is that all I’m getting?’ I asked, ‘Which one is yours?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he said.
    He had already decided that he was going to be shortchanged. And was wrong. He laughed at the time, a bit shamefaced that he’d jumped to conclusions without any evidence other than his own expectations.
    I’m not sure what value this comment brings to the discussion except to say that personality may play a bigger role in our perceptions than birth order. And I think the earlier comment about being unwanted versus unplanned probably has an impact on a child’s perception of self.
    I very much enjoyed reading this and could imagine hashing this over with a group of people all bringing different points to bear on the discussion.
    I hope your friend gets a new job, a better one and enjoys her payoff. And I’m glad that, whatever may have been her upbringing, she has a friend that she can turn to when questions resurface.
    Sorry about the long comment. I’m a helluva blether. :/

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    1. scottishmomus, no need to apologize for the long comment. This was the sort of post that brings out lots of thoughts. I enjoyed the story about your son’s assumption based on nothing. I’m sure that we all do that from time to time.

      I tend to agree with you that birth order is not as important as innate personality. I’m an only child who people always think must be a middle child. I behave in ways that society has said = middle child, but I am who I am. So, I find the birth order idea suspect.

      I have to admit that my friend and I didn’t make the distinction btwn being wanted v planned. However, once joey mentioned it, I realized that has a lot to do with how a child perceives his or her place in a group throughout life.

      As you said, so much to think about based on one simple question. [Don’t you love it?] Thanks for stopping by to comment here today. Nice to meet you.

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      1. Good to meet you too and glad you didn’t mind the long comment. I like speculating on the reasons behind things so this was right up my street. The psychology of humans and our interactions is a fascinating subject. Maybe, especially, because it’s inexhaustible. 🙂

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