Community//

Is it actually possible to completely know a person?

Exploring the art of knowing people

Do you remember the stand-up comedian/actor, Robin Williams?

A perpetual curve on lips, side-splitting humor and his uproarious comic attitude depicted that he is the happiest person on the planet. Everyone marveled at his sharp wit and rib-tickling comic skills. He was successful and admired by millions.

Then one day, at the pinnacle of his success, he was found DEAD in his room.

News of Robin’s suicide hit like a brick for his admirers. Of course, the thought of a comedian taking his own life was perplexing for everyone.

The cause behind his death was determined to be a major depressive disorder. In other words clinical depression.

He had wrestled with depression for years and was also diagnosed with early stages of Parkinson’s disease.

The reason behind bringing Robin’s case here is to highlight the fact that people are not what they seem. They tend to be doing well when in actuality they are struggling on their own, quietly. Most of us have become quite good at hiding our true emotions for the general populace. We would rather judge people and form biases created on limited experiences. People tend to be a lot more complex than others conceive of them. For a lack of a better expression, the analogy of the onion should about give the necessary insight.

You may know what my favorite color is; what food I enjoy the most; what makes me happy, you may even know how I’ll react in a certain situation or what makes me tick. But, would you actually know me? I think you won’t. 

And why is it that way that you won’t?

The alchemy of character transformation

The world we live in is constantly changing, a calamitous situation, topsy-turvy as they say. People aren’t always what they seem. You must have heard the adage that “Everyone has two sides to their face”. Right, but not completely. It is actually three, as per the Japanese anyway.

First, the side that you consciously and unconsciously share with the people around you. Second is the side which you want to hide from every one; it may be your strength or weakness, but you don’t want it to be exposed.

The third and the most important side is the reflection of your truest nature. This side of yours that you haven’t explored or don’t want to. Personality traits that you are not even aware of. These traits are exposed in unfamiliar settings and situations where our habits do not suffice. Where we just have to take action in the spur of the moment. A reflex action if you may.

Here’s where the alchemy of character transformation works. Here is the point where personalities gamble. You don’t know when a prince can become a pauper and a caterpillar can become a butterfly. Here you are unpredictable in your own predictability. These three aspects define YOU.

Nobody knows the REAL YOU!

It doesn’t matter how long or how intimately you know someone. It could be your best friend, colleagues, siblings, parents, a trustworthy confidante, a lover or your beloved spouse. You can never TRULY know them, not entirely. There will always be something that goes unsaid, a hidden desire, a private shame, an unfulfilled dream, and an incomplete love story. All these unsaid things complete the definition of the ACTUAL YOU, which nobody would be completely able to figure out or observe. No one will ever be able to paint a full picture of your personality. In bits and parcels yes, but not the full-fledged Mona Lisa or David that you are.

The cards of self-exploration

Once somebody asked the philosopher Socrates to sum up all philosophical commandments, he replied in two words: ‘Know yourself.’

What Socrates was implying is that we are so busy in evaluating other people that we don’t play the cards of self-exploration and devalue the importance of self-knowledge. This lack of self-knowledge ultimately leads us towards making wrong decisions such as incompatible relationships, unsatisfactory jobs etc. Self-knowledge is important for one central reason: it offers us a route to greater happiness and fulfillment.

So, before evaluating other people, it is better to assess our own selves. There is an entire world within you which is beckoning you to come inside and have a peek at the marvel of nature that you are!

Don’t be too quick on judgments!

The biggest mistake that we all do is that we are too quick to judge. We judge people based on particular experiences which might abide by certain social pressures, rules, norms, values, culture and ethical standards that we ourselves are guilty of abiding by. I wonder whether we can ever get under the skin of another person because only the person himself knows his pain and misery. Maybe the girl who comes home late in the night is giving extra hours at work to pay for her brother’s school fees. You never know that arrogant and peevish guy in the classroom has been through a lot of stress since childhood. Life is tough and people are instinctively hard-wired for survival. We never know their daily struggles. We just want to quickly JUDGE them and not really make an effort to know them. For we evade hard work, putting in our time and effort, for fear of being let down in the end.

Parting Words.

One thing we need to learn is to dichotomize between knowing someone and simply knowing about them. We can know about a person, but we can’t completely understand a person. Because everyone has his own hidden truths, unbearable personality traits and stories that can’t be shared.

Each one of us is an Incident. Every personality is a story.

So, next time before claiming that you know someone from inside out, think multiple times!

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.