Leaders need self-awareness. A lack of it is one of the major reasons for leadership failure. This is accepted wisdom. There are thousands of books on the subject and hundreds of workshops, retreats and interventions promising increased self-awareness. Self-awareness and understanding leads to increased satisfaction and joy in our lives. But is it easy to build? How do we understand ourselves better?
Learning about the self is tricky and difficult. Some of the ways we can initiate that understanding is through psychometric tools, feedback from friends and colleagues, 360-degree feedback and so on. However, chances are that we might be only understanding a shield that we have created--a false persona--instead of really experiencing and knowing our core self.
As you start an inner journey, you might first encounter layers of false personas, subconscious layers of deception and avoidance.
Many a times we create layers of protection around our real self and create a false persona and this makes it even more difficult to understand and accept who we really are. Many of us form such an identity because of our early life experiences and how we were treated and labelled. Then we might hold on to this false identity throughout our life without challenging and examining it.
As you start an inner journey-- which will happen only if you are a serious seeker and reflective thinker--you might first encounter these layers of false personas, subconscious layers of deception and avoidance. "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate," wrote psychoanalyst Carl Jung. While we think we know our self, we might be hidden beneath defences and resistance. We might say that we are open to self-discovery but we might be hiding behind apologies, justifications and intellectualizations.
Someone serious about self-discovery might say, "I always thought I was a calm guy, a thoughtful, caring and considerate person. I never got angry and was always polite and gentle. But when I started exploring who I was, I discovered underneath that 'niceness' there were feelings of jealousy, rage, fear; things that were unacceptable to me. But behind that fear, rage and jealousy I also found my capacity for love, joy and fulfillment."
We might say that we are open to self-discovery but we might be hiding behind apologies, justifications and intellectualizations.
Our social conditionings, our defense mechanisms and false sense of identity might hide our true self. The Upanishads in their wisdom state:
"The ocean transformed, through the action of clouds, into the form of rivers, ceases to be itself. So indeed have you forgotten yourself through the power of conditions? Of friend, remember your Full Self, you are the real self. The ground of existence." The Upanishads.
So what are some of the things we could do to build greater self-awareness? Here are some tips that will help you to reflect and explore your true self.
1. Look at activities and experiences that gave joy and meaning for you personally in the past. Why were those activities and experiences meaningful for you?
2. What are some of your natural strengths and gifts?
3. What are your core values? What is truly important for you? What do you value most?
4. What irritates you? "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves," wrote Carl Jung.
5. What is your life purpose? If everything around you could support you what would you do? What is the legacy you want to leave behind?
Reflect of on these five questions not with the mindset of finding quick answers but with the mindset of deep inquiry. This will give you a sense of your true self.
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