“We’re fond of thinking we’re the bee’s knees, aren’t we?” Jonathon’s question was more commentary than query, so I simply flashed my friend a mischievous grin.
Without any pre-planning nor consultation with each other, both of us had dressed ourselves the same way on Sunday. Both of us donned coal-black Fruit of the Loom pocket t-shirts, stone-washed Gap blue jeans, and grey Nike running shoes. We had just finished congratulating each other about our excellent taste in casual attire. My young friend then asked the bee’s knees question, paused and pointed to my belt. “You should have worn a web belt, and what about your black socks?” I thanked him for the reality check then pointed out the slight mis-match between his blue socks.
Some of the great things about healthy friendship are good-natured teasing and being real with one another. A “well-balanced” person doesn’t let a friend’s unrealistic self-evaluations manifest without pointing them out. He notices when self-deprecating comments go too far and also points out hubristic comments when they appear. If we have pals like that, we should thank our lucky stars.
It’s normal to believe we’re the bee’s knees or the cat’s pajamas–that’s a sign of healthy self-esteem. It’s when we deviate to severely low self-esteem or to conceit that it’s time for serious self-reflection. If you have a friend like Jonathan you have a shortcut. If our friends are reticent about speaking up, then mindfulness about oneself is in order.
It’s easy to feel a bit out of kilter now and then. That niggling sensation is the time to pause and set oneself straight. Whatever roles we fill in life, its a matter of tough love coupled with gentleness towards oneself. The process of being real with ourselves is an ongoing process. It’s helpful to notice how our subjective view may differ from a more objective view of ourselves.
The vast majority of we humans believe we are exceptional beings. Most of us think we are better than average drivers. The majority of us believe we’re smarter or more clever than others. Our collective self-assessment is out of alignment with the mathematical definition of average. I’m guessing that for a person to believe she or he is better than normal, is normal. Such categorization is a weak point about statistics.
Given the state of feeling better than average, we may have extravagant expectations that our abilities and experience will not fulfill. Such delusions become frustrating annoyances when they meet with our biological and mental limitations. We certainly don’t want to aim low with sub-par expectations either. This is why being real is the optimum state of mind.
It’s healthy to aim high when planning our goals. However, it’s unhealthy to aim so high that we miss our marks at every attempt. There’s a difference between persistence and the stubborn habit of hitting one’s head against the wall. The best remedy against this is to exercise the right amount of prudence. When we are honestly realistic about our strengths and weaknesses we can more effectively reconcile our ideals with our limitations.
Realistic reconciliation allows us to aim high but not so high as to be unable to ever accomplish anything of value. Being real keeps us from burning out. Being real is also a morale booster that gives a loose framework regarding our abilities. The more realistic attitude keeps us motivated because we’re more aware of what we can do.
Better yet, being real in the interpersonal sense, keeps us centered. Being real stops us from being too needy or too independent. This enhances the way we interact with others. Being real is a check on both submissiveness and arrogance.
In the end, reality checks help us be the bee’s knees.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders something from the actor Austin Stowell. “I would say I don’t like people who are really into themselves or are very materialistic. Just always talking themselves up. Not being real is the pet peeve. Be true to yourself.”