The Tacit Self vs. Envisioned Self

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The Tacit Self vs. Envisioned Self

Jessica Chow

Everyone has different personalities. There is the polite persona, the friend persona, the mean persona, the family persona, and so on. Why do we have these different facets of ourselves? The simple answer is because of our tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the information and experiences that shape us over time, which we harbor in the subconscious. It is hard to believe that we unknowingly acquire so many different, influential traits. Such a concept is sometimes frightening to accept, but there is daily evidence of its existence. By just watching a person go through a day, an observer will notice many signals that indicate tacit knowledge at work. The greatest challenge is not observing tacit knowledge, but rather interpreting it.

What does a tacit observation reveal about a person? How does tacit knowledge affect a person as a whole? At times, there is a great discrepancy between the envisioned self and the tacit (unconscious) self. In other instances, there is hardly any difference. It all depends on what one decides to accept is true about oneself. In general, the tacit self reveals the true nature of a person more than the person's own envisioned self. I will use my own two selves envisioned and tacit to create a rough example.

The most obvious influence my tacit self has is over my voice. In my daily conversations, there is a great amount of voice change. Whether retelling a conversation I had with another person, answering the phone, or revealing something embarrassing, my voice changes. Though the observations can be quite noticeable to an outsider, the interpretation of them and what they reveal about my true persona is not.

I did not always talk in a deeper, "stupid" voice when imitating people (or myself) in past conversations. How did such an action embed itself in my tacit knowledge and, unbeknownst to me, permanently change my way of speaking? Somewhere in time, I gained that tacit knowledge. However, the influence of my environment is unimportant when it comes to interpretation. In my subconscious, I clearly believe that changing my voice to become slower and deeper in tone will convey a sense of stupidity or confusion, on the part of the speaker, to my listener. It could be inferred that a person that contains such tacit knowledge is not that friendly and/or is somewhat arrogant. Thus, my tacit self begins as a semi-arrogant, possibly unfriendly entity.

My next change in voice occurs when I interact with strangers and people I respect. When I converse with an unfamiliar person, older family member, or respected adult, my voice rises significantly in pitch. For some reason, many different people harbor this same tacit knowledge. It is reasonable to infer that this tacit knowledge, which influences me and so many other people, is a way to show politeness.

In movies and other similar aspects of American culture, the more refined, polite characters (particularly nave females) speak gently and at a fairly higher pitch than the other characters. In comparison, the lower class and less gracious characters speak more roughly, loudly, and deeper. From a different angle, change in pitch to imitate those refined women in the movies can also show a concern for showing one belongs to a higher social class. Over time, much of the population, including myself, has absorbed this small detail in its subconscious. Thus, my tacit self has two new traits: politeness and concern about social image.

My last change in voice occurs when I experience embarrassment or uncertainty. When I am uncomfortable with a certain topic or am unconfident in what I am discussing, my voice becomes significantly softer and childish. My regression into a childlike, less audible voice reveals how unsure and, in a way, frightened I am. It also creates the illusion that it is not truly me, at my usual state, that is in the awkward situation, but a less developed, unknowledgeable version of me. Therefore, if I remain embarrassed or do not answer correctly, it is not really me that will be blamed for such occurrences, but my alternative, childlike self. It is yet another aspect of my unconscious my tacit knowledge that imposes this belief on me. Thus my tacit self has another trait to add to its persona: the want to mask self-doubt.

Away from observations concerning voice change, there is another observation of tacit knowledge that is also a reflection of childhood. When I am cold, I walk with my arms slightly out and away from my body. Though I have the knowledge in my conscious that compacting my body would allow me to conserve more heat and stay warmer, I continue unconsciously walking with my arms out during cold weather. This is indeed an observation of tacit knowledge.

It is clear that at least one aspect of my childhood has stayed in my subconscious, and it will forever influence me. As children, our parents bundled us up with layer upon layer of clothing, so much so that our arms could often not touch the sides of our body. Though somewhat twisted, this idea of warmth, associated with my arms not touching the rest of my torso, has become a part of my tacit knowledge. This reveals that, in terms of my tacit self, experiences from childhood can, and probably do, greatly influence me. It could be therefore inferred that my tacit knowledge has a slight dependency on past beliefs. Thus, my tacit self is somewhat dependent on the past. Whether practical or not, I still carry out some of the same actions that proved beneficial in the past.

My last observation concerns forced yawning. When I am uncomfortable in a place or am trying to delay discussing something, I "yawn." It is not a real yawn, but rather a forced one. This yawn helps me feign tiredness and/or disinterest, depending on the situation. This is most obviously a form of self-protection. There is a belief in my subconscious that yawning will convey to any observers that I am uninterested in anything around me, tired, boring, or all three.

Yawning is a repellant. By yawning in an awkward conversation, I feel that I am showing my peer that I am unconcerned with what we are discussing, and am hiding the fact that I actually feel awkward. By yawning in a place I feel uncomfortable in, I feel that I am making myself less approachable. Unlike some people who thrive in unfamiliar places and discussions, my immediate reaction, which my subconscious dictates, is to subtly distance myself from people and certain topics. The fact that I harbor such tacit knowledge and am so influenced by it shows that my tacit self is quite timid.

By interpreting the past few tacit observations, I can develop a potential persona for my tacit self. The traits I gathered about my tacit self were the following: semi-arrogant and possibly unfriendly, concern with politeness and social image/status, want to mask self-doubt, somewhat dependent on the past, and quite timid. From an objective standpoint, my tacit self seems to be very self-conscious and, generally, scared of the unconventional. Most often it is the person that is unsure of him or herself that feels the need to mask feelings and feign self-assurance. Moreover, concern with image is a telling sign of unease with oneself, or the want to be accepted. Dependence on the past and being timid also reveals that one has a fear of new situations and experiences. Summed up, my tacit self is very self-conscious and self-doubting.

As stated before, the envisioned self and the tacit self can be very different. It has been concluded that my tacit self is not very secure with itself. So, how does that compare to my envisioned self?

My primary envisioned self varies from my tacit self. Though I do admit that I doubt myself at times and have a great nostalgia for the past, I do not think I am nearly as self-conscious as my tacit self suggests. Over the years, I feel that I have become much more self-assured (though not arrogant), and independent. When I compare myself to my friends, I feel that I am much more self-reliant and sure of myself than they are. I would never categorize myself as overly self-conscious. I relate to my tacit self in that I am quite shy but, other than that trait, I feel that my tacit self is a more exaggerated version of my real self. However, with deeper thought, I find I have different opinions.

One's primary view of oneself will almost always be very favorable. Yet, if one thinks more sincerely, I believe he or she will find that the tacit self is not all that different from who one believes he or she is. When I consider my view of myself with more thought, I realize that I am more timid that I care to believe. I still believe I have made tremendous progress since my childhood towards asserting myself, but there is definitely great shyness in my general persona. I am also very self-conscious and self-doubting. There are countless examples that I can recall that reveal this fact. My primary vision of myself focuses mainly on the progress I have made over the years, not my whole self as it is now. However, without deeper reflection, I would not have made that realization, and I would have considered my primary envisioned self as my true self.

It cannot be proved that analysis of the tacit self is wholly accurate in describing one's true self, but it is usually closer to the truth than one's personal, primary view of oneself. No one wants to view him or herself as unconfident or weak. Therefore, the first answer to revealing one's general persona will usually be in a more positive, stronger light than is true. Analyzing and revealing the tacit self helps a person realize the weaknesses and insecurities he or she harbors in the subconscious. Though it can be hard to accept, the tacit self embodies much of what one does not want to believe is true. The tacit self is as close as one can get to the true nature of a person, and the primary envisioned self is the filtered, edited view of a person.


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