Michael Thomason

Michael Thomason

As the years go by, it seems I grow more introspective. I have done most all I will ever do, my children are grown and gone, and my work life is set and all directions pretty much settled. I smile nowadays at the energy and enthusiasm of youth, how they chase the butterflies and fly their kites and dream their dreams. What once thrilled me now just makes me wonder what all the fuss was about. I guess this is what it is like with most folks of my age. And I suppose that is what introspection is all about; turning the lens back on oneself. 

If I am like others, I would say that we all possess two qualities in greater or lesser degree—self-confidence and self-consciousness. There is a lot more to a life, of course, but these two qualities are what I am “introspecting” today. I have always had a degree of self-confidence but thought I was simply average; there were folks out there with real talent that far overshadowed mine. My problem for many years was that I was too self-conscious; worrying too much what others thought of me; too shy, too awkward, too bashful to just let my little light shine.

On the other hand, too much self-confidence along with too little self-consciousness, or humility, are ingredients for the perfect jerk. We all know people like that. They probably are no more a genius or no more talented than any of us, but think they are God’s gift to mankind and it shows.

I always wanted to grow my self-confidence but felt my self-consciousness held me back. I am better now, and it only took most of my life to get there. Where others might bemoan their lot in life and wish they had done this or accomplished that, I find myself content with where I am. I have always tried hard to accomplish my goals, realizing I will never be the smartest or the richest or the most gifted in the room. I am good with that. I know we need goals to drive us along and I’m not saying we should simply be satisfied with what we have or where we are. Rather, I am saying that wherever we are on life’s course, let us be content in ourselves knowing that the race could end any day. But we still run the race. We still enjoy the pursuit of happiness, we are just no longer consumed with consuming or driven to achieve. The very act of living, of enjoying, is sufficient unto itself. How rich is one who has it all but enjoys none of it? When is enough enough?

This is what I call introspection, looking into oneself. Are we happy, are we content? Have we led a good life overall, despite the missteps? I sure hope so. Where I am is what I am talking about. You cannot impart wisdom to the unreceptive. About the best you can do is get some for yourself, hold on to it, build on it, realize it is the balm for a long life and hope others learn by example. Little decisions, good or bad, repeated enough will lead to a direction that cannot be changed. Hopefully we have made good decisions, overall. 

If I could have been less self-conscious early on, I think it would have helped my self-confidence. I have heard the most beautiful model still thinks herself fat and ugly sometimes. We see ourselves in photos and go straight to faults no one else notices, being too absorbed in their own. We are all like that. We need to bolster our self-confidence without becoming so self-absorbed that we lose our humanity, our humility, our direction.

Any talent you or I may possess is average, mostly. There are a few out there who are wildly talented in looks or ability, or otherwise possessed with extraordinary gifts. The first step towards wisdom is to realize that you did not create the native gifts. The gifts are just that, things given. So pure talent or looks or riches or poverty or hardship are not the meaning of life or how you will be judged. It is always what you do with those talents or gifts or lack thereof. Anybody can apply themselves and look better, run faster or learn more. How far you or I go one way or the other is up to native talent, individual choice, and a dose of chance thrown in. And in the end, perhaps it helps to recognize we were all created in the image of something or someone greater than us all. In that knowledge, I am confident and conscious, near as I can tell. 

Michael Thomason is a local business owner and award-winning columnist for the Herald-Press.

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