Colin Wright is a huge proponent of self awareness and ideas relating to self awareness. He advocates for recognizing ways in which our actions and ideas are shaped by our limited perspectives, draws attention to the parts of us we hide from ourselves and others, and he challenges us to rethink our goals and desires to become more aligned with our true personalities. Throughout his book Considerations Wright brings all of these ideas into focus in ways which are very novel and were very new to me as I read Considerations. Regarding self awareness and understanding our true selves he writes, “Reach deep and acknowledge the dark parts of who you are, then sand smooth or sharpen those aspects of yourself, just as you would with any bad habit or misfit trait. It seldom serves us to conceal any part of ourselves, especially from ourselves.”
For me, Wright’s quote speaks about the importance of being honest with ourselves about the thoughts we have and the actions that result both explicitly or implicitly from those actions. When we are able to accept that we have feelings, thoughts, or tendencies that run counter to our ideal self image, we are able to shift our focus to address those issues and make changes in our lives to grow for the better.
I think a fantastic example of this which I had to address myself deals with racism. I don’t think the majority of people in the United States would consider themselves to be racist or to discriminate against minorities, but unfortunately many people have an implicit bias that skews their behavior towards minority groups or individuals in a negative direction. Within the first split second we meet another person we make judgements as to whether that individual can be trusted, is a good person, is successful, and whether or not they are someone we should interact with. These thoughts and ideas race through our mind faster than we can recognize, and if we leave those thoughts unchecked, we may react negatively to another person, and those thoughts can materialize in small actions through body language, facial expressions, and through cordial or not so cordial greetings. Without realizing it we may inadvertently frown at a member from a group to which we do not identify, or we may quickly advert our eyes, or possibly just not say hi or even acknowledge their presence. None of these actions are explicitly negative or enough to classify any individual as a racist, but nevertheless, the person on the receiving end does pick up on the fact that they are not welcomed into your social circle.
What Wright in his quote above is advocating for is an understanding that we all have our dark spots like the situation I described. If we turn our attention inwards and focus a light on those dark spots we may not completely overcome them, but at least we can control them and manage the way they manifest in our lives. Without accepting that we have these dark spots we live in an illusion where we have placed ourselves on a false pedestal. From our perch we risk inadvertently harming those around us by creating a blindspot in our actions. When we accept our shortfalls, we can identify new ways to move forward and become more egalitarian.