Most of us have never met ourselves; we believe we are different than how the world perceives us. We think, we are handsome and beautiful, while the people probably look at us, as an ugly duckling. As school goers, after watching a movie, involving any of the following popular actors, most of us thought that we resembled Paul Newman, Rock Hudson, Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews; depending on our respective genders and preferences. Even childhood innocence makes illusions attractive. You see what doesn't exist.
We don’t know ourselves, not just in terms of physical appearances but most significantly, there is scant awareness about our character, attitudes and demeanour. We willingly refuse to recognise our real selves. Prettily devised of Aesop, “the fly sat upon the Axletree of the chariot wheel and said, ‘what a dust do I raise”. We live in illusion. This illusion can take a serious toll to inflict tendencies, where we begin to hallucinate — that is developing a false perception of ourselves — in medicinal terms it is the chemical reactions, imbalances and abnormalities in the brain that pushes the inclination to see ourselves not as others see us, but as how we see ourselves. Mostly a false fascination!
Psychologists define self awareness in the following terms — it is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards (Shelly Duval and Robert Wickland).
Often we want to imitate for self improvement. In this effort, we tend to overlook personal inadequacies, covering education, skill, or even experience. Just because, we admire, we foolishly begin to emulate, with no self awareness of the need to firstly improve ourselves.
At the corporate level, either your supervisor or your peers evaluate you, rarely do we indulge in honest and fair self appraisal. In vice or shortcomings, we find good; and in good, we find vice. There is therefore an imperative need for everyone to discover their own selves, regardless of whether, you are one who is supervised or you happen to be the supervisor.
“Know thyself”, is inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi. (Plato). Misery can be lost, if we discover ourselves. “He who acquires much from himself and little from others, will keep himself from being the object of resentment” (Kung Fuzi). Self awareness helps make for everything that would lead to realisation that success and happiness depends upon oneself and not upon others.
We know the world, except our own self. Jalaluddin Rumi, says: there is a basket of fresh bread on your head, and yet you go door to door asking for crumbs. Knock on your inner door. No other. A Buddhist saying is, you yourself must make the effort. The buddhas are only teachers. Depend upon yourself and upon none else. Everyone can raise oneself only by way of one’s own actions. The nearest neighbour is inside you, push open that door, for it alone gives the truest and sincerest advice — it will tell what you know, but refuse to accept; it will identify gaps in your learning, knowledge, experience, etc that we flatly refuse to acknowledge. Self discovery is the key. If you are not for yourself, who will be for you?
Being aware of the self leads us to making our lives happier, better in decision making and us effective as leaders. The lack of it is a serious handicap particularly for those who are or are aspiring for leadership positions. No man does more to you than you can do to yourself. Confidence can only stem from a proper and judicious evaluation of self worth. To get to the fruit, learn to climb the tree.
Love as an emotion blinds to many of the several faults anyone may have - we love ourselves so passionately, that we remain blind and oblivious of our inadequacies and regularly fail to do a fair estimation of ourselves — our strengths and weaknesses. William Shakespeare in sonnet 110 describes it very succinctly, “Alas! ‘Tis time I have gone here and there, And made myself a motley to the view, Gored mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear, Made old offences of affections new.” Self awareness clears up illusions, “I don’t know whether I was there a man dreaming I was a butterfly or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man”.
It is only self awareness that can become a beacon of light to lead us towards self reliance. Each one of us has a fair understanding of public awareness and also of our own private awareness of our own selves. The public integrity and the private sense of honour must always remain aligned. If they are out of step or not in consonance there would be a major personality flaw or disorder in place. An immediate recognition of this incongruity is an area of post haste action. Correction must take place.
Managers who possess no awareness of their self, end up being supervisors who don’t know how to engage with their staff on an emotional plane. The need of understanding yourself so that you can develop a sound understanding of what and why others treat you in the manner they do, gets cleared explicitly. The ability to manage behaviour with the instilled values and acquired talent must allow for clarity of understanding why people perceive you as they do. Managers / leaders have to demonstrate in their attitude a very keen sense of timing that is, when to act and when to wait. This skill can only be derived if one is cognisant of areas of strength and weaknesses.
“I must die or be better”. (Abraham Lincoln) Intelligence or basic nature demands that supervisors must adopt expeditious strategies to plug short comings, inadequacies and deficiencies, so that actions do not get permeated with either disgust or get saturated with depressive thinking.
Self aware managers have in them the ability to renounce their opinion, if they are found to be erroneous. This is a great characteristic to possess; a general willingness to except personal errors and mistakes, for improving and learning both for self and others.
Indulging to understating oneself is possibly the crowning diagnosis — such managers rely heavily on their active and heightened sense of intuition.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance contributor