Entering the room of mirrors

Simon Smart on the importance of self-awareness, and asking ourselves: “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?”

On the same night Will Smith infamously slapped Chris Rock at the academy awards, he was filmed dancing and singing at the Vanity Fair after party in what looked to be an unfettered celebration of his triumphant Oscars win. Whatever you made of Smith’s reaction to Rock (and it certainly split opinion), the partying looked dreadfully out of place. Where was the self-awareness?

For a recent episode of the Life & Faith podcast some of us put ourselves through the Enneagram test, a model which describes people in terms of nine interrelated personality types. This proved revealing and more than a little bit challenging!

My number (I’m a Nine) offered some positives: “[Nines] are open and unself-consciously serene, trusting and patient … They are genuinely good-natured and refreshingly unpretentious.” Happy with that!

But we all had to face our shadow sides and things like the potential for perfectionism, resentment, or overblown competitiveness.

Self-awareness is a rare quality today. Understanding ourselves and what motivates us, knowing our strengths and building on those, but also being aware of how we are likely to react under stress and, importantly, how that will impact others, is part of maturity and developing healthy relationships.

The Bible is demanding in terms of honest self-examination: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me,” writes the psalmist. The prophet Jeremiah mustn’t have been having a good day when he wrote: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

It’s a brave question to ask: “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” We all need to know that. And to be ready to respond to the answer.