We Are What We Like?

Who we really are can often be found in what we really like.

Getting to really know ourselves can often be a lifelong project. I know that many feel they’ve known themselves for years, so what’s the big deal? Knowing themselves, sure, but how well? Answering that question can bring on a painful subjectivity, for we all, at some point, think we really know ourselves.

I must admit that much of my interest in self-knowledge comes from Eastern thought, which gives much importance to knowing who we really are. They connect self-knowledge to peace, happiness, even enlightenment. Those crazy Asians think if we can control our own minds, we can control our responses to the outside world and find peace within ourselves… but we must know and understand ourselves.

The two most important days
in your life are
the day you are born
and the day you find out why
– Mark Twain or Ernest Campbell, pick one.

Okay. Not a real popular idea in these United States, but it might be catching on. I see, from time to time, a few more indications that we might be just beginning to look inside more, the better to deal with what is outside. And this idea is what I want to play with today.


For many Americans, setting aside the time for quiet reflection, meditation, even some meaningful reading, can be asking too much. And that’s too bad, for self-knowledge is so helpful in giving ourselves the insight to guide our lives in a more positive, more productive and more fulfilling direction.

I think that observing ourselves and others for the purpose of understanding what we like about ourselves and our lives, can be helpful and enlightening as to who we really are. Each of us is unique in so many ways, and knowing our likes and dislikes is simply one more way to distinguish us. Plus, it’s fairly easy to figure out and almost always fun.

However, knowing what we really like, what makes us really happy can be a bit trickier than it sounds, as many of us have to cut through the standard cultural bs of who the outside world expects us to be, and what we are expected to like. Those of us who are self-indulgent enough to dig into ourselves for some of these answers are usually seen as selfish, self serving; and to a point, they’re right. It’s necessary to be self-indulgent enough to know who’s really in there, and even why that person is in there. Yup… trickier than we might think it is.

So yes, part of knowing ourselves involves knowing what we like… and what we’re good at. But what about others? Once we’ve become at least fairly comfortable with our self-knowledge, can we transfer these ideas to our perception of others? Sure, why not? And as you might expect, one great and fun way to learn more about another person is to observe what they like, I mean what they really like. Watch what excites them, what they talk about, what they often spend too much time on… things like that.

At this point, another section of my brain kicked in… that section that is trying to learn to see both sides of a question or idea. I hear it’s voice, and it sounds pissed –

Me 2 – “Wait a minute, just hold on there, Bucko. What kind of crap are you peddling here?”

Me 1 – “what do you mean? I’m just trying to pass on an idea of how to get to know ourselves better, along with an easy way to read others that might be fun.”

Me 2 – “Sorry, Dude, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. There’s no accurate way to begin to measure another person by what they like, for Pete’s sake. That would be way too narrow a measurement, let alone a painfully inaccurate way to figure out another person. C’mon…”

Me 1 – “ I don’t agree. I think it’s a great and fun way to quickly analyze another to figure out who that person is, and how they might think.”

Me 2 – “ No, no. no no. Look, let’s say you’re sitting in a bar, and you strike up a conversation with another guy, have a few drinks together and discover that you have a few things in common. You find out he likes sports, music and cars… hot rods. You laugh at his jokes, he laughs at yours, and because you now know what he likes, and that those are the same things that you like, you naturally assume you kind of know him. At least that’s the thread of what you’ve been trying to sell here, right?”

Me 1 – “Well…”

Me 2 – “So to finish this… days, maybe weeks later you find out, somehow, that your “new friend” is a MAGA Republican (you’re a liberal Dem) and it turns out he served a little time for beating his wife and setting his house on fire. And you know that scenario is possible, it’s already happened to you several times, remember? Now where are your conclusions as to how much you know about a person, just by observing what they like, for chrissakes?”

And there you have it.


Well, I feel like an idiot. That other voice is right, of course. At least my “self-knowledge part” was right.                 I think.

Steve Hulse

Leave a reply, always happy to hear from you

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2011 - 2020 Steve Hulse, All Rights Reserved