Sunday night Aaron and I were sitting on the couch and nothing was on TV, I think we ended up watching Design Star. As the judges were criticizing the designers I asked Aaron to name my biggest flaw. Trust me, I wasn’t picking a fight. But I was sincerely curious what he thought it would be and if it would be the same flaw I thought was my biggest. It took him awhile to answer. Like minutes. During these few minutes I thought about good criticism. I don’t mind it. As long as it’s coming from a genuine place. It’s when criticism comes from a snarky place rooted in other things than a sincere desire to make me a better person that I have problems with it. But I am very well aware of needing to improve lots of things in my life and I’m curious what others think those things are. Because really, that’s the true test, not what I think of myself. Otherwise having a perfectly arranged refrigerator would mean lots more than it really does.
So before I tell you what Aaron thought my biggest flaw is, you think what it is. And if you don’t know me, well, you’ll have to trust me when I name the flaws I can think of. I was really expecting Aaron to come back with things that truly drive him up a wall. For instance, he could’ve said stubbornness, nagging, perfectionist, taking on more things than I can reasonably handle, non-communicative when I really need to be, to name only a few.
But he didn’t come back with any of these. Nope. He said, “I think your biggest flaw is you can’t put yourself in other people’s shoes.” HUH? You mean I’m unempathetic? “Well, no, not necessarily, I think you really CAN’T put yourself in other people’s places, even if you try.” So I’m like defective? I can’t? “Yeah.” Talk about a surprise. Part of me was happy that he didn’t name all my other flaws, and then part of me was not. Empathy is something in all honesty I had none of 8-10 years ago. Okay, maybe 15 years. Let’s just say I didn’t have any empathy until a few years ago. But I’ve worked very hard on gaining empathy the last few years, so for this to be my biggest flaw, I must have a long way to go. I have always been extremely black and white. Right and wrong. I have to admit it’s easier to live life that way. To not have so many gray areas and indecision. But ultimately it’s too judgmental. And when Gunnar was little we moved into a situation that was foreign to me and around people I didn’t really know. Definitely out of my comfort zone. And I’ve been in lots of ‘uncomfortable zones’ moving to NY right after we got married and pretty much not knowing a soul. And in order to survive and be happy, I developed empathy. I tried for the first time to feel what others were feeling. And it made for a much more pleasant experience. I wasn’t judging them for being wrong or making a bad decision but I would try and understand WHY they made the decision they did. Who knows, maybe people were asking themselves the exact same thing about the decisions I was making. But ultimately, it made me happier. And the times I was judgmental, I was never happy.
I take what Aaron has to say about my lack of empathy very seriously because to me empathy is his greatest strength. I could name lots of other qualities I love about him and ones that he has that I don’t and would love to have. But empathy remains the one that I believe he has mastered. I admire this about him so so so much. There’s a lot I admire about Aaron, but in an effort to not get mushy on all of you, and I’m not a big fan of mush myself, we’ll go on.
After our whole empathy therapy session I asked Aaron if there were any runner ups (runners up?) since it took him so long to answer the first time. He said I’m intimidating. Which is funny to me because I’m kinda small and pretty much unterrifying(is that a word?). But it’s not the first time I’ve heard that. Heck, my little (big) brother in law told me I was scary a few months ago when I had to have “a talk” with him. I know I can be, but I don’t try to be, honest. Sometimes I can be quiet, SOMETIMES. ON RARE OCCASIONS, and during those occasions I think people may interpret that as cold or intimidating. So I will add this to my lovely list of improvements. It seems I would prefer to tackle the home improvement projects much quicker than the self improvement ones.
Unempathetic and intimidating. Tall orders, but worth a big try.
Here’s to empathy and what’s the opposite of intimidating? Overly friendly? Yeah, this is going to be tough. . .