Describing Oneself from Two Views
This is the first exercise in a series of four simple exercises designed to help you examine your self-perceptions. In this one, our purpose is to paint our portrait from two views, our own and an external one. Doing this exercise and the others in this series, aids development of key fundamental awareness skills whether your goal is personal or spiritual development.
30 to 40 minutes (create list 10 min. and 20 to 30 minutes to consider the list)
- Concepts - All essays in the section
- Growth Fundamentals - all essays up to Knowing Yourself
The place to start our journey of awakening or growth is through self-examination. Hence, the first thing we need is information about us, to find out where we are in the now. We know that when we are in balance in an area of our life, the resulting energies are positive and beneficial and when we are not in balance, we get the opposite effect. We identify areas of imbalance through self-observation. Doing so leads back to the source or sources. To do this we need to take stock of ourselves, and we do so in stages, not all at once. This exercise is one of four that will help us to get to know ourselves better. By working through them, we develop the knowledge and skills needed to grow from within.
The value gained is not just in identifying areas of strength or weakness; it is in starting to notice how we react to what we are thinking. That is we start thinking about what we think. Hence, as you do the exercise it is worthy to pay attention to how you react to the thoughts you have. Notice whether you hesitate before writing something down, write down your thoughts about your uncertainty, any feelings you notice or even just that you hesitated, before moving onto to another point. It is not an issue if the exercise takes longer than the estimated time. The benefits of doing this may not be apparent now, they will be.
We are looking for an honest representation of what we think and feel. You will not be able to be 100% honest so do not worry about it. The exercise is simply to take a snapshot of our view of ourselves, as we think we are. The purpose goes beyond the words you write down on paper. We want to engage ourselves, to get to know ourselves not as we think we are, rather as we truly are. We want to start noticing when we have mentally editing an answer, as this is an indication of an underlying issue that our rational mind is avoiding or would prefer we ignore. We want to note this as it will be of benefit later on when we start to hone in on specific issues.
The primary reason for not editing your thoughts, for writing the first impressions you have is that you have them. If you edit your answers, you are focusing on an imagined self. This is natural, and is part of the reason for the exercise. We want to expose misconceptions about ourselves as these are due to flaws in our programming. We may, for example, want to believe we are “a certain way” when we really are not. When we want to grow, we must accept that we hold beliefs about ourselves that we think will make us feel better about ourselves rather than what is actually the case. That we all have blinders of various kinds is not a trivial point; try to remember this it at all times. We are trying to develop a better understanding of ourselves. Should we start to deny the thoughts we have we are not being honest and growth will be limited or even regress for a period.
By going through these exercises, you start the process of identifying areas of interest. This will make your work easier. When your confidence grows, you can use the same technique to explore a particular issue or problem. Using the analogy that our rational minds are a program, what we are doing is troubleshooting the system. You are unlikely to change that of which you are unaware, and you cannot become aware without looking. Other exercises will cover the concepts and methods of debugging and modifying the programming that is out of balance.
In the exercise, we are going to make two lists. This is not as easy an exercise as it may sound so do not take it too lightly. This avoids the tendency is to be too superficial or fallacious which can lengthen the process as we miss important aspects of ourselves or misrepresent them.
Remember the following:
- This is not a test
- Be as open and objective as you can
- Be as relaxed as you can to start and throughout the exercise
- Try to write the first things that come to mind without editing your words
- Try to notice when you pause before writing or hesitate to write the first thing that comes to mind for any reason (it is wrong, silly, not me at all etc.)
- Wordiness is not a shortcoming, but avoid writing an essay if possible unless you feel it is important or you feel “prompted” to do so
- Try to limit your answers to one page, though if it takes more so be it.
- Try not to get sidetracked
The benefit of this exercise is not just in the doing, it is in the contemplation of what we wrote. After completing the list, we examine it; consider what we wrote and did not write down and why we may have done so. In addition, by looking at our descriptions of ourselves, we can consider whether we were honest or not and perhaps notice that there are aspects of ourselves that are absent, ones we do not want to acknowledge or which we choose to overlook. Yet, what we notice are symptoms of underlying issues, they are not the issues themselves. We get to the issues first by noticing how they manifest in our lives, in this case, in our self-image.
1. Find a place to do the work, one where you will feel comfortable and relaxed
2. Divide a blank page into two columns. The headings of the columns are “I see myself as…” and “Others see me as…”
3. Layout your page as in the following example:
I See Myself As...
Date: [Enter Date Here]
Others See Me As...
4. Relax as best as you can before you start. This way you will be more objective and will reduce the tendency to note points that correspond to moods or to have our moods affect our points. While this can be useful to analyze a particular feeling, at this stage we want to get as broad a view of ourselves as possible. Later exercises will cover topics that will help you get to an objective and neutral space, something very useful when working on particular issues. In the mean time, simply try to be as spontaneous and honest as you can when you are writing down your points under each column.
5. Pick a column to start in, read the title and then write down the first thoughts that come to mind. Try not to scribble out points you do not like, these are some the answers to which you want to pay the closest attention. If you can, note what you felt about that particular point such as it was not the right word, it is was not accurate, you do not think it is right, it made you uncomfortable and so on. You do not need to stick to one column; it is okay to switch between them.
6. The “I see myself” column:
The objective is to get at our personal view of ourselves. If we believe we are, for example, smart, excellent public speakers, short tempered, natural leaders, shy, loud and friendly we would write this down. Again, try to write without editing and if you can note any hesitancy, reluctance or uncertainty and, if you feel so inclined, of any details or circumstances that come to mind related to the point you are noting. While this exercise may not seem to have much value it is important to do this exercise to not only identify aspects of us to work on, but also to develop our objectivity, honesty and self-awareness.
7. The “Others see me” column:
The objective is to get at how we believe others see us. We are not concerned here with how they “really see us” as we likely have no idea. We know what they tell us and show us, but these we interpret for ourselves, in our unique way. We should assume that anything we presume about how others see or think about us could be wrong.
What affects us is not what others actually think about and feel towards of us, rather it is our personal notions of these that we react to. This is what we want to discover about ourselves. For instance, we may believe that people generally see us a particular way, regardless of how they actually do. Being aware of this when we examine ourselves helps us see how our belief in how people see us affects our thoughts, choices and actions. Further, we can learn about particular issues by examining our thoughts around it.
What you write down is for your knowledge and understanding alone. While being as objective as possible helps, this is by nature a subjective exercise. Since part of the purpose is to help us notice how we see ourselves, discovering the subjective nature of our thoughts and our way of viewing the world is all part of the process. Being subjective will not affect the value of this exercise. Doing this set of exercises over time will take you down the path towards better objectivity and improve your powers of observation.
Remember, the goal is to start to notice how we perceive ourselves and not to be too concerned with why we do so or in judging whether this is beneficial or good for us. As you do this exercise over a period, in conjunction with your developing awareness, the focus will naturally shift from merely noting aspects of ourselves to delving into and actually working on them.
Your page should have points such as below:
I See Myself As...
Others See Me As...
-can be short tempered *hesitated
-dislike lazy people *felt a little ticked
-too shy *hesitated…
-handsome *at least I think so
-good at sports
The results you get from any exercise are dependent on what you put into them. The true value of this set of exercises is in developing one’s skills at objectivity, sensitivity and observation. We need to start to notice our lack of objectivity, notably in regards to ourselves. We already observe the world, we do so continually and the skill we seek to develop here is to start to notice how we observe.
Observation is not simply perception; a process divorced from personal valuation or interpretation. Our rational minds process what we observe before we become consciously aware of it. The question is what have we programmed our rational mind it to do for us, how does it affect our perception and why have we done so? We want to become observers that are more neutral, we want to start noticing what we previously did not and to cease processing our experiences based on notions that in many cases are false or outdated.
After the exercise read what you wrote down one column and one line at a time, it does not matter which column you choose. As you read, do the following:
- Do not change what you wrote after the fact.
- Consider what you wrote
- Monitor your feelings and thoughts as you read it
- Note your reaction to it separately so they are not mistaken for your original responses.
- Ask yourself if the point is accurate and pay attention to how you feel as you ask
After reading through all the items in both columns, the next step is to consider our responses as a whole.
- Look to see if you avoided, focused on or glossed over any areas
- If you have already tried the Honesty Table, apply what you learned there to what you noted here.
- In cases where you were not accurate, remember that it is just as important to acknowledge that your answer was not accurate as it is to know what the “correct” answer should have been.
- Look at your answers and ask yourself, “Is this the kind of person I would like to be?”
The efforts you are putting into this exercise will, in conjunction with the other steps you are taking, help you to grow and develop yourself. These exercises and others that follow are part of our process of self-examination. The goal is to expose those aspects of ourselves that we may have overlooked, ones that cause us issues so we can then focus on and resolve them. We cannot fix what we do not see and it is difficult to benefit from the better aspects of ourselves that we do not acknowledge.
You will get as much out of this exercise as you put into it. If you do it haphazardly then your results will reflect this. We do not have hundreds of issues; we have a number of core issues that manifest in hundreds of ways. We fix our issues with honesty, for example, by learning to understand, work through and resolve the reasons why we lie. We get at our reasons by examining and exploring our dishonesty without judging ourselves for what appear to be errors of the past. Be positive even though you may want to judge yourself, for self-judgments will not benefit you. If we could have dealt with an issue when it first arose, we would have. We do not beat up on ourselves for our ignorance as this tends to increases our reluctance and resistance to growth and adds new issues in the process.
When you do your review, pay particular attention to any points you edited, or questioned. Try to understand why you did so, or at least how you justified the point. We are not looking for right or wrong, only our perception.
We should have a dialogue with ourselves by questioning ourselves on our responses. We want to dig into areas that show strong uncertainty, as this is indicative of an emotional reaction to the point. We should ask ourselves why we want to see ourselves or for others to see us a particular way? This will lead us to why it is important and subsequently whether we like this about ourselves or not. By understanding our motivations, we can work towards changing it. We will develop a new awareness of ourselves only through digging deeper into our thinking processes so that we can identify what we our lives are telling us we need to work on.
© 2010 Allan Beveridge