Learning about yourself never stops. We've all heard of 'lifelong learning', but this refers to, more often than not, to professional development. It normally comes in the form of training, and honing or learning new skills which enhances your daily role, work priorities and / or develops your talents or weaknesses to help you to perform at your best.
Recently I've been thinking about personal development. I'm a huge believer in pushing your boundaries and stepping outside your comfort zone. This could be trying sky diving. This could be breaking your desk based lunch time routine and going for a walk. However, sometimes people can be the things that make you question who you are and push you onwards for development and personal discovery. This is both a good and bad thing, depending on the circumstances, but some of my experiences of this have have affected me on a deep level. I have questioned who I am and what I believe or think when I've been faced with similar people to me.
For instance, you know I'm kinda green? Well, I met someone VERY green a few years ago, and this is when I first noticed this situation. Now, the period around 2007 was when I was at my most environmentally friendly stage, starting a new job in recycling, shiny and fresh from graduation in an environmental degree; I was keen to do as much as I could to have as little influence on the environment as possible. The main thing I remember from meeting with this new person was that I was enchanted by his hybrid car (possibly easily impressed). I thought "There's more I can do!!". Finances aside (I could never afford a new Toyota Prius!), I knew I would struggle to be THIS green. It all felt different.
This challenged me in a significant way.
Now we all know it's not easy being green, but I began to seriously question myself. Who was I? Was I really who I thought I was? Did I really believe in the protecting environment that much?
Honestly, with hindsight, at the time I felt a bit like my personality and my interests were being threatened. I was the keenest greenest person I knew up until then - it was who I was, what I was known for! It sounds silly now, but meeting someone with more dedication, passion and interest in something I was interested in made me re-evaluate what my true beliefs were. It made me wonder, ponder quite deeply in fact, was I really the person I thought I was? Did I really have it in me to uphold these beliefs and take on this challenge?
I could have taken this chance meeting as a sign I needed to become more green. I could have given up all together and thought "well, I'll never be that good." So what did I do?
I took a breath. I calmed down. I decided to scale back a little. Things were getting a bit "green extreme", and I wanted to re-evaluate.
You will know, hopefully, that I run a weekly travel blog, Born To Be A Tourist. Travelling is a HUGE passion of mine, and my travel blog shows I get about a bit, both in the UK and abroad. Of course, travelling isn't a particularly environmentally friendly activity, but I'm always thinking of ways to limit my impact, even if I fly. For example, volunteering with environmental projects while I'm away, or travelling for longer and taking fewer flights in the year are some of the things which have worked in the past.
Also, I believe that if I try to consider the environment in many other ways in my daily life (think energy saving light bulbs, efficient driving, water hippos, buying from farmers markets etc) I can justify a flight or two! You can't bring your life to a halt in being green, but I'm still a believer of also getting a good deal and STILL doing what you can to protect the environment. The key to life is having a bit of a mix of everything, but this personal encounter was an interesting way of making me investigate my true feelings and desires a little deeper.
Does this ring any bells with anyone? Am I sounding nuts right now?!
I remember another time when I noticed yet more strong personalities and beliefs made me question who I truly was. When I worked in Costa Rica with Raleigh International for 8 weeks (2012), I worked with many project managers from lots of walks of life. They brought different ages, skills and passions, and more varied interested and agendas to the table, many of which I had never come across before. However, many traits I'd seen before - in me. Most, if not all, were lovely people; out-going, keen on the environment and certainly keen on charity work. I always thought I was all of these things, but interacting with people EVEN MORE interested in the same things as me made me question myself.
Weirdly, I became a little more introverted as a coping mechanism. This is something I'm not really very proud of, and I'm not sure it helped me with the project work I was tasked with running (that's another story!). However, this was a natural and very personal reaction to spending a prolonged and intense period of time with such incredible, friendly, dedicated, enthusiastic, dynamic and interesting volunteers - people very similar to me. Sure, some of our team were very different from me, as would be natural in a group that size, but these people challenged me less, in an odd twist.
It's the people who are similar to me who spark some deep thought and considerations about myself.
It's been over 18 months since I've returned from the Costa Rican project, and I have become a different person. So many things have changed in my life (where I live, relationships, family dynamics, the job I do), least of all my personality.
They say your personality improves with age (yes, I AM pushing 30 now!), but I must have changed substantially for me to have noticed in such a short period of time. I'm more patient. I think about things differently. I've become more reflective. I have become more aware of myself; my behaviour and reasons for this, drivers, and understanding of situations due to my background, personality, and experiences. All of this is good, I think!!!
I think feeling 'threatened' by challenges to who you think you are as a person is maybe the wrong way of describing it. I think this was more like noticing how meeting new people with similar interested can affect the way you view yourself. Should you be more like them? Maybe, maybe not. Should you change the way you feel about things? Maybe, maybe not.
You might not have much choice in how it affects you and how your personality develops (like my in-adverted introspection) but being aware of the influences on your life and embracing what's good about them is a wonderful thing.
So what can I learn from this?
When people challenge who I think I am just by being more extreme versions, I guess the lesson is I don't need to feel out-of-sorts. Taking the opportunity to meet new people, to learn from them, and to grow as a person is a positive step.
Just a little philosophical, personal, social comment this week. What are your experiences of this - if any!?
Until next week,
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Born To Be A Tourist
Image from this education website - thanks Uni of Minnesota!