It was a wintry Saturday afternoon in March when I stumbled upon a long forgotten folder concealed in the depths of my computer. As I idly browsed through its contents, reminiscing about bittersweet times past, a document from high school caught my eye. On probing further, it was revealed to be a summary of my persona, thoughtfully written by teachers who had watched me grow up for 15 years. It described events from my childhood I scarcely remembered, highlighting various traits and characteristics that defined me as an individual. All my interests, talents, strengths and weaknesses had been laid bare for me to reflect on.
What struck me the most was how relevant it all was, even to this day. I had certainly matured over the years, but in essence, I remained that very same little boy who cherished a special love for cars, astronomy and writing. I even shared his dreams and desires, although I had no idea that their roots ran so deep. It was as if my entire identity had been skilfully distilled into a few pages of prose. I wondered if this was what it felt like to have your biography written.
This got me thinking – reading this article had been a wonderful exercise in self-discovery. It was akin to looking in a mirror and contemplating who I really was. This experience also presented a unique opportunity for me to confront my demons, face my flaws and play to my strengths. Besides, if it could help me in better accepting who I am, then surely others could stand to benefit as well – especially stressed-out students at a university such as TU Delft where spending time on oneself for the purposes of personality development is a rarity. Since I was painfully aware that not everyone had an essay about their many characteristics just lying around, or the time to write one, a condensed version was the need of the hour.
It is essential to present yourself as impartially as possible
Therefore, I set out to make an exhaustive list of individual words that encompassed my identity as wholly as I could manage. I urge you, the reader, to do the same. Granted, it took me about an hour but at the end it was worth it. A word of caution is in order here, however. It is essential to present yourself as impartially as possible, without omitting or downplaying your shortcomings, or exaggerating your virtues. It is also important that you refrain from asking someone to describe you because the entire purpose of this task is to understand oneself by thinking back to one’s interactions with people.
Once this is complete, you will be able to hone in on the aspects which you feel you are lacking or on which you have received criticism from others. Selecting just ONE at a time and making small, incremental changes till a positive effect is apparent is a good strategy. An example could be making it a point to talk to one stranger every day if you feel your shyness is making you miss out on social interactions. It is less than ideal to get sidetracked and attempt to work on multiple traits at once. This neither allows you to focus on improving one trait significantly, nor lets you partially refine several traits because the amount of change required is too great.
Only when you’ve established that sufficient progress has been made over the course of weeks or months, should you consider moving on to the next item on your list. This effective approach to solving problems and improving oneself is practiced and preached by the likes of Warren Buffet.
With some patience, the results will speak for themselves and leave you pleasantly surprised. And the next time somebody asks you to tell them a bit about yourself, or what your strengths and weaknesses are, you will know exactly what to say.
- Vishal Onkhar is from Chennai, India, and is pursuing his master’s in Vehicle Engineering at TU Delft. He is an avid player of chess and video games, but he also harbours a special interest for reading and writing fantasy fiction. He doesn’t drink coffee but good music and film has the same effect on him.
- Also read his Delta Lab articles The parsimonious guide to expenses in Delft and ‘Sorry, ik spreek maar een beetje Nederlands’ and other tales … in English.