And so I frequently reach out to acquaintances and online friends, inviting people I have exchanged tweets or emails with to coffee or lunch. As a result, I have shared innumerable cappuccinos with people I barely know. Some have been celebrities, some ordinary citizens like myself, but all have been friendly and interesting in their own ways.
I think with our longstanding friends and our family we fall into familiar patterns of interaction that make recognising ourselves difficult. Being with a new person allows us to have a clean slate, start anew, be whoever we want to be. There is no history and there are no expectations, there are just fresh reactions. And in these fresh reactions we can see who we really are.
And of course, every person brings out something different in each of us. I always thought of myself as anxious, until I began meeting people who believed that I am courageous. And I always thought of myself as being fairly conservative, until I met people who brought out my wilder side.
As counter-intuitive as it may be, I think that the key to learning about ourselves is, sometimes, to stop looking inwards, and begin focussing on others. Get out amongst the people. Socialise. Make friends. And without effort, without conscious thought, amidst all those interactions, your true self will begin to emerge.
Try it. And let me know.