Peggy Noonan wrote of the tragedy of 9/11 and observed that those killed were being exactly who they were when they lost their lives. Someone trying to carry an injured colleague from the building or another pushing by people in a stairwell to get out, each was being him- or herself.
Crisis can create character for sure, but more often it simply reveals it.
Covid-19 has revealed who we are.
It hasn’t shown us who we want to be or think we are, but who we each are at this moment in history. You and I have had our true selves exposed.
What is your “self”?
When someone attributes their behavior to “just being myself,” they are often offering an excuse, as if they have no control over who they are. It assumes that the self is a singular state of being, set in stone.
But is it that simple? Don’t we have a range of self, a higher or a lower nature, a better self or a worse self?
Consider the police officer who gave his protective gear to a nurse because he believed she needed it more. Or the doctor in full protective gear who taped a picture of himself to his scrubs so patients could relate to the person treating them.
At the same time think about the woman screaming at a grocery store employee that she needs more than the number of items allowed. And she probably does, just like all the other customers who need more but respect the shortage and need to share. Or the man encouraging others to take reckless risks because he believes Covid-19 is all a hoax with a cast of tens of thousands pretending to be sick and dying.
Crisis reveals the “self” we will are at the moment. Sometimes a situation temporarily hijacks our primal brain and causes panic and rage and we behave in ways that we regret later. But experience and maturity can give us the time to choose our response, to be thoughtful. We can choose a productive, healthy response rather than simply react to the stimuli. And if we do that enough, over time that determines who we become.
Covid-19 and all crisis reveal our truest selves at a moment in time. We and others see our default self that has been developed by action and choice and time.
But that doesn’t trap us going forward. Who we are doesn’t determine who we can be.
Despite whatever self we might have been in the past, we can use this crisis to change ourselves, make ourselves better and more noble. We can use the time we have to self examine, be more thoughtful and less self-absorbed.
What has this crisis revealed to you about yourself? And how are you using what you’ve learned?
Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit www.marksanborn.com. He also teaches professional speakers and leaders how to increase their messaging and public speaking effectiveness. Learn more here.