I spoke to an executive at work recently to get some advice on how to deal with a sticky situation. During the course of our conversation he said to me, “Have you done any work on self-awareness?” My immediate and defiant response was, “I’m self-aware.”
And the thing is that I am. I know myself very well. I know who I am and why I do the things that I do and what makes me tick. I know the good, the bad and the ugly.
But self-awareness is more than that—it’s also about the impact you have on other people. So when this executive asked me that question I said without batting an eyelid, “I don’t have that kind of impact on people. I’m not that influential.”
The thing is we all impact our surroundings in big and small ways. I always assumed that my impact is small to miniscule and apparently that is my blind spot—that’s the part of me that I can’t see but others can.
Once a coach (who I thought was rude) said to me, “When you walk into a room, Amulya, you’re noticed, whether you like it or not; and people immediately judge you. Some like you and some dislike you. It’s your body language.”
I didn’t know what to do with that. I just walk into a room and people hate me—how the hell am I supposed to fix that? And is how people feel about me, my problem? I don’t want it to be because I have always secretly believed that people don’t like me. Even when people like me, I’m certain they really don’t or that soon enough they won’t. And because I believe this, I have learned to care less about what people think of me, it’s a defense mechanism—and this is why I refuse to believe I impact people in anyway.
I wish I was a wallflower
I have trouble dealing with this insight about myself, that I am noticed because all I have wanted is to not be noticed. People who know me will shake their heads and think, “She’s full of shit. If she didn’t want to get noticed, she’d behave differently.” The thing is,since this is my blind spot so I don’t see it. In my head I walk into a room and no one even knows I’m there until I want them to know.
Growing up in India, where you (girl child) don’t want to standout because that’s never a good thing but you can’t help it because you don’t know you’re standing out or why, you just know that it’s bad—you want to hide and blend in.
I don’t want to walk into meeting rooms and be noticed. I want to walk so I can also sit in the back seat and go through Facebook on my phone while someone is doing death by PowerPoint. I don’t want to impact people and changing how they feel about anything. I think that’s too much responsibility. I don’t want to be judged before I even open my mouth. But apparently, I have no choice here. And growing up because I had no choice here, I decided that I will not care about what people think about me. It was easier than changing their minds.
“But people like you. Many people like you,” a friend told me when I talked to her about this and I looked at her blankly because I’m actually waiting for the friend to start disliking me sooner than later. I am always waiting for people to do or say something nasty to me, almost like I’m expecting it and when it happens, I’m relieved, thinking now it’s over and I can move on.
But when people look at me they don’t see this. They see someone who oozes self-confidence, speaks with authority and is opinionated. I am all these things. I also lack self-esteem. The good news is that I’m always surprised when someone good happens to me or someone says something nice to me; the bad news is that I never believe the nice things people say or expect the good thing to last.
I have gone through most of my life feeling like a failure and so when my therapist says, “Amulya, you deserve good things to happen to you and good things are happening to you, and you should enjoy this,” a part of me is thinking she’s full of shit and I can’t help but wait for all the good things to vanish into thin air and be replaced by the bad.
Obviously, my blind spot is causing me a few problems, especially with respect to self-perception because I have no clue how I impact others.
But I got help when the executive I spoke with at work introduced me to an excellent tool: the Johari Window. The window is a simple four blocker.
- Block 1: What you know about yourself and what others know about you
- Block 2: Things you know about yourself that others don’t know
- Block 3: Things you don’t know about yourself and others don’t know either
- Blocks 4: Things you don’t know about yourself but others know – and this is the blind spot
Your ultimate goal is to increase Block 1 by reducing Block 4. The way to do this is through feedback and shared discovery. You actually have to listen to others tell you things that maybe hard to hear, you have to believe this and accept this—and then decide how you want to deal with this feedback. Just by acknowledging the feedback, you reduce your blind spot; you’re aware of how you are perceived. The rules of feedback don’t change—it still needs to be from a trusted source and delivered in a way that’s not judgmental but encourages you to take it in and process. (Important: do not accept feedback from just anyone; choose the people carefully or they’ll fuck with your head in nasty ways.)
Minimizing the blind spot
For the past two-three years I have been on a journey to find happiness and now I realize that uncovering my blind spot will help me in this quest. Today, I am happier than I was a few years ago—I realize its importance and value; but I’m also prone to depression so I know this is a balancing act (I am getting pretty good at it though). So now I start a new journey—to minimize my blind spot. I’m going to try to understand who I am seen from the eyes of others—and then I can decide what I want to modulate and what I don’t. I feel good about this new journey. I feel this is the right time and the right place. I’m ready.