Below is a letter I sent to Gadi, my piano teacher on the subject: Self-awareness.
How are you?
I am sending this letter to this address and not to "S. Piano Yossi Patt" because it is intended to my friend and not to my piano teacher. (In case you didn’t notice that, I consider you as a friend and not just as a piano teacher).
You do not have to read it right away. You also do not have to answer me at length. Just tell me in a few words if you agree with what I write and if you have comments on the subject.
The topic is: Self-awareness.
You, by the way, once told me that I had a high self-awareness. This compliment touched my heart for two reasons:
1) I strive to have one.
2) It touched me also because it came from you, as you seem to me the person with the highest self-awareness I have ever met.
How do I define self-awareness? Well, as its name implies: it is the virtue to think about, and as a result to bring back to consciousness things that people usually repress, because they are ashamed of them and do not want to admit them to themselves and to others.
(Sorry if my next sentences will not be clear to the end. I will give you an example of what I mean right after that).
The benefits of self-awareness are that they allow you to acknowledge and correct your weaknesses, instead of choosing behavior that is perceived by others as wrong (stupidity, hypocrisy, arrogance, laziness and more ...). And anyway, the smartest of the others know how to discern pretty well what in your innocence you tried to hide.
The disadvantage of self-awareness is that you become vulnerable because you are constantly:
- Ask yourself awkward questions, and struggle with the anxiety they make you feel.
- Changes the path in your behavior.
You are also exposed to the criticism of the idiots who catch you for what you have indulged in them, while they are unwilling to acknowledge that they too suffer from several of the same defaults.
Example: In my first year at the Technion, I lived in a dormitory with a student named David. I will note here that throughout my studies I was a mediocre student. David, on the other hand, was a brilliant student. He would score hundreds in every exam he passed.
I enjoyed this sharing in the room because it would help me a lot in preparing my homework. On top of that, he was humble and kind-hearted: when I would ask him a question about something I did not understand, he would always answer me willingly.
Our private joke was that he would tell me in this case like Sherlock Holmes to his friend: "Elementary, my dear Watson!". And when I understood his explanation, it would really seem very simple to me too, and I would say: "How I did not think of it myself!".
He was not like quite a few other outstanding students, who when asked the same questions would refuse to answer, or worse: would answer in such a way that you would not understand their explanation and would feel even more stupid. (Between us this is an example in itself of the lack of self-awareness of these outstanding students: they in their subconscious wanted to prove to you how smart they were and you were an idiot, that you did not understand something so trivial, even after you had got an explanation for it…)
On the one hand as stated, I enjoyed this commonality. But on the other hand, it bothered me: I would constantly make him hypocritical compliments, and I did not behave friendly to him.
Years after I graduated, I pondered this relationship again, and here I put the element of self-awareness, and bringing it back into consciousness things I repressed, because of which I behaved in a complex way with him. The simple truth was revealed to me: I envied him! I just envied him! I could also hate him, speak ill of him and try to harm him, as people sometimes do when they are jealous. I did not do that, but I was still wrong in my behavior towards him.
When I realized this, I called him, even though I had not spoken to him since graduating. He was already a respected professor, while I was left with my poor bachelor's degree. I said to him, "David, you know: I indeed acted this way but that's because I was actually jealous of you!" He laughed and replied, "If I had to be jealous of the people I meet today, my situation would be bleak! To teach you that just as an outstanding student in high school math, I became a mediocre technical student, David also eventually found people smarter than him.
What do you think, Gadi? Jealousy was just an example. We come across thousands of such examples in life.