Knowing Me, Knowing You

He who knows others is wise;
He who knows himself is enlightened.
Lao Tzu

How well do you think you know yourself? Sometimes our perception of ourselves can be at odds with how other people see us. This can be literally true — as illustrated in this fascinating video which was commissioned by Dove and explores the perceptions women have about the way they look.

In the video a forensic artist sits and draws seven women. The women are sitting behind a curtain and so his sketches are based entirely on their own description of themselves. He then does a second sketch based on the way a stranger describes the same woman. In every example the stranger’s description is more flattering than when the woman describes herself. It’s fascinating viewing and quite moving when the women finally get to compare the two images of themselves. Why are we so self-critical? (I found myself wondering how the experiment would have turned out with men instead of women and would welcome thoughts and comments from male tips readers)

Finding out how others perceive us can be a real eye-opener. One of my favourite exercises is Asking for Feedback where you pick four or five people from different spheres of your life (family, friends, work colleagues etc.) and ask them to give you feedback.

Not only can this be a very validating experience but it can shed light on strengths and natural abilities we aren’t even aware we had. Sometimes it can be hard for us to appreciate our innate abilities simply because they come so naturally to us. Being a superb organiser, or a gifted teacher or a whizz at numbers is so effortless that we don’t recognize it as one of our strengths.

So if you fancy having a go at this exercise, simply choose your four or five people who know you (be sure to pick those who will give you constructive feedback) and ask them some or all of these questions (email is best as it gives them a chance to think about it):

What do you like/value most about me?
What aspect of my behaviour would you most like to change and why?
What do you perceive to be my greatest strengths/natural gifts?
What do you think are my greatest accomplishments?
How do you think I come across to new people?
What could I do, if anything, to give people a better impression of me?

Feel free to alter these or add other questions. For example, if you’re thinking of changing career, you could ask ‘What kind of work/job do you think would suit me?’

This is a wonderful exercise for boosting confidence. And it’s a great way to affirm your skills and talents, as well as getting constructive feedback about behaviour that may not be serving you so well.

Awareness is the precursor of change. How will you change your life so as to build on your natural strengths? And what will it take for you to fully appreciate your own beauty within?

© Annabel Sutton, Coaching Tips – 2013

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