Three Steps To Understanding How You Show Up In The World
Knowing both who we are and how the people in our lives see us is key to making deep, lasting connections and living a confident, fulfilled, and successful life.
We discussed the benefits of self-awareness in our post Know Thyself: How To Be Self-Aware and in that post we focused mainly on internal self-awareness and the many benefits of understanding ourselves.
While internal self-awareness is very important, having it is not an indicator that you will also have external self-awareness. This post is going to deeply explore external self-awareness – what it is, how to get it and why it matters.
So, to start, raise your hand if you’ve ever felt misunderstood. I thought so. Why is there disconnect between our intentions and another’s perceptions? The reasons are many but one of the most common, and one of the few that you actually have control over, is the gap between how you think you’re showing up and how others actually see you. To help us see that more clearly, we’ll explore:
- How we consistently think, feel and act in various situations
- The emotional and physical behaviours we consistently demonstrate
- The impact of our emotional and physical behaviours on others
Do you have someone in your life that talks “at you”? That can talk for an hour and a half straight without allowing you to get a single word in or asking you a single question?
How do we analyze that based on the three factors we want to explore?
I can’t say for sure how this person thinks and feels in these situations. But, I know how I perceive this person in these situations. I see that this person seems very wrapped up in their own thoughts, ideas, and life and has an outsized view of the degree of interest that everyone else has in their life. It appears that this person is not at all interested in anyone else’s thoughts, ideas, or lives.
Now, I can also play amateur psychologist and try to determine what deep seated fears, beliefs, or insecurities this person has that is causing this but for the purpose of this exercise, that is really not relevant. We are simply looking at the what, not the why.
- What are the emotional and physical behaviours they consistently demonstrate? Constant talking about every minor detail about themselves and even the extremely mundane aspects of their life, at length.
- The impact of this on others? A feeling of utter boredom, unease and a desire to escape. Everyone I know avoids talking to this person. Or being talked at by this person, rather.
Let’s do an example from work.
You work in a small team at work. Seven people who all respect and enjoy each other. But there is one person on the team who is consistently negative about other team members’ work quality. Whenever she is working with someone one-on-one, she finds an opportunity to make passing negative comments about other team members. Or shares personal info about others that they’ve shared with her. Recently, she has noticed that she’s being excluded from group activities and that people aren’t connecting with her one-on-one.
- How is this person perceived? As negative, as disloyal. Again, we don’t know for sure what this person’s motivation is in doing this we can only know how we see them act and how we perceive that.
- What do they consistently demonstrate? Negativity and disloyalty.
- What is the impact on others? Fear that the person can’t be trusted and is sharing the same types of information about them.
Take a moment to reflect on someone you know that you believe is not aware of how other people see them and consider the three questions above.
At this point, I feel I should mention that in a study conducted by organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich, she found that while 95% of participants believed that they were self-aware, only 15% actually were.
Which is why this post is about self-awareness. Analyzing how other people show up was just our warm up.
Now we look at our own selves.
At our most recent Find Yourself workshop we did an in-depth interactive session titled Self-Awareness as a Superpower. Here we looked both inside ourselves, from our own perspective, and followed that with questions designed to help us uncover how others perceive us.
This is how we did it.
Step 1 – Think about the person who knows you best. What would that person say are your greatest strengths and your greatest weaknesses. Do you agree or disagree? Why? Is it possible that their perception of how you show up is more accurate than yours? Can you have a frank and loving conversation with them about this that will serve your goal of becoming more self-aware?
Step 2 – Do this several times a week, especially on days where you’ve had a negative interaction with someone.
Reflect on your interactions with others today. What went well and what didn’t? What did you do or say that influenced that (including your reactions to what the other person did or said)? Are you seeing a pattern in your life of these interactions or in your connections in general? Apply the three questions above to you. How do people respond to you? How do people connect with you, or not? Can you determine what goes awry in the negative interactions? Can you apply behaviours from the positive interactions to the negative ones for a different outcome?
Step 3 – *Warning* This step will make you very vulnerable. Don’t do it before you’re ready. But when you are, and if you apply what you learn here, you’ll improve your external self-awareness exponentially.
Choose three to five people in your life who know you very well and you trust to be honest but caring in their feedback. Please choose wisely, you don’t want to choose the person who will white lie their life away people pleasing. This may include friends, siblings, co-workers, a boss, a partner, a mentor or advisor in any combination that you can make work. You will need to tell them that you are deeply committed to advancing your external self-awareness and that they can help you by answering your questions honestly and fully.
These are the questions:
- What are my strengths? (ask for 3 to 5)
- What are my weaknesses? (ask for at least 3)
- What can you count on me for?
- What can’t you count on me for?
- What am I known for?
Call your people and ask if they’re willing, giving them the questions at the time (if they say yes) and then arranging a day/time in the near future to call them back for their responses. A phone call works over texting or email as this conversation won’t be only sunshine and rainbows and hearing love in their voice rather than reading the facts on your phone will make the feedback so much easier to accept.
You will get feedback that doesn’t surprise you, and feedback that does. There will be commonalities here and they may really give you pause. You don’t need to accept all feedback as fact but you’ll miss an opportunity for greater awareness if you don’t at least reflect on everything you hear.
Will you do it? I hope you do. Not ready for all three steps? Then start with steps 1 and 2 and settle into that for a while. Remember, do step 3 only when you’re really ready to hear the tough stuff along with the great.
Don’t want to explore this on your own? Join us at our next Find Yourself workshop. This seminar and more like it, along with private personal sessions are all designed to support your self-awareness and personal growth.