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My level of self-awareness seems to be increasing and I’m not sure I approve.

I’ve spent most of my life not noticing what people think about me. That could be because after spending many years as pig farmer, I can’t be too sensitive about social status.

Lately I’ve noticed a change. It started about a month ago when I was in a meeting with a guy I’ve known for about a decade. He’s a nice guy, but our political philosophies don’t align much, and I’ve derailed a few of his plans. At this particular meeting, he spoke after I had, and suddenly I had the thought “he must just hate me. I bet his head starts to ache just seeing me come in the room.”

It was a new feeling. I like most people and I just assumed most people liked me, but I’ve never based that feeling on actual evidence. Perhaps I should have. There’s a chance I’ve been confusing politeness for affection.

I should also try to stifle my impulse to say things out loud. That would help a lot.

A few years ago, I was asked to participate in a public radio show at the studio in St. Paul. I’m not sure why, but when people ask me to do things, I usually say yes.

Anyway, on this show I felt there was an excessive level of smugness and self-righteousness. It bothered me, so I wrote a column about the experience. That was okay, but then I sent a copy of the column to the host of the show, which may not have been okay. I thought, and hoped, she’d read the column and think, “Hmm, interesting perspective.”

I never heard from them again, ever, so now I guess their response was probably more along the lines of, “Hmm, this guy is really a jackass. Don't ever have him on again.”

The same thing has happened when I’ve written to United States Senators and magazine editors.

The latest example came from one of those real-estate stories about people house hunting. A couple was looking for an apartment in Brooklyn, and one of their requirements was a good kitchen, because while the husband had a regular job, he was also working on a career as a pizza influencer.

He filmed himself making pizzas, then posted the videos on the internet, intending to get rich and famous doing it. I laughed to myself, because, really, does the world need a pizza influencer?

See, I can be smug and self-righteous as well.

My next thought was that he’d probably get a million views and end up making ten million dollars.

It made me think of the Robert Burns poem that reads, “Oh would some power the gift to see ourselves as others see us. It would from many a blunder free us...”

I’m sure being able to see ourselves as others see us would be a gift, and it would save us from many blunders.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for ignorance. There’s also something to be said for taking politeness as good enough. I can’t make everyone like me, and I probably shouldn’t even try.

Copyright 2023 Brent Olson


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