Throughout my lifelong quest for self-awareness and self-improvement, one of the most profound realizations I had was that my self-perception is not necessarily accurate or true. After all, I reasoned, no one knows me better than I know myself. You all are not aware of my inner world and so there are limits to how well you know me.
The good news about that belief is that there are wonderful things about myself that I was/am unaware of. In the bad news department, I had (and still have) big gaps in my self awareness, not all of them good.
In other words, self-awareness is always a struggle. We always have blind spots and biases about ourselves and our world, and learning to be more conscious of those assumptions, then challenging them, for me has been a source of wonderful discovery.
Last blog I wrote about fixed versus growth mindset. Mindset is such a basic and fundamental self-belief that we tend to take for granted. I’m not sure if this is generally true, but I think that my mindset tends to have another valence; I view myself as ‘good at’ or ‘bad at’ certain skills. If I’m good at, I tend to believe I can learn and grow those skills (growth mindset). But if I’m bad at, I tend to believe they’re fixed and immutable and my skill can’t change (fixed mindset). Do your self-limiting beliefs tend to fall into domains like mine?
Now, I’m challenging my fixed mindsets, the skills that I believe that I’m bad at which happens to be predominantly in the artistic/creative endeavors. Like any good learner, I signed up for classes. Over the past year, my girlfriend Anne and I explored a jewelry class, a cooking class, and a paint nite. A fairly intoxicated gentleman told me that I had painting talent, but not sure how well he can see after his 3rd cocktail.
Fortified with a small success, I decided to tackle my biggest fears: singing and acting. My dear friend Lisa and I signed up for singing lessons together. Our goal: to sing a duet. We figured that combined with the tap dance classes we once took together, we might be able to do a little Lucy/Ethyl number (I’ll be Lucy…). I also had a personal goal to strengthen my voice, both literally and figuratively. I didn’t have any inebriated observers raving about my talent, but I did learn that I can hear a tone and capture the tone with my voice. Not very well, but with enough practice I can sing a small song hitting most of the notes. A great growth mindset lesson: with enough effort, I can learn to do it! Just don’t ask me to sing for you.
My next task was to take an acting class. Fortunately my fearless friend Anne again joins me in this adventure. We had a quick lesson and then we try it out. The first performance is casual and impromptu, but the second time we get videotaped. Yikes. Despite the fact that part of my job is public speaking, I’ve never wanted to see myself on tape. Video playback was not optional in this case, so we had to watch our performance. Double yikes. Anne and I laughed until we had tears rolling down our face. Our teacher complimented us and made some suggestions about how we can pursue some amateur acting gigs. And he wasn’t even drunk. This, I can also do.
Tackling my two biggest fears/self-limiting beliefs has felt liberating. Those negative beliefs were each a tiny weight on my soul, and they are now lifted. What other beliefs are limiting me and weighing me down? Usually, I don’t question myself when making a statement about “I can’t…” but now I stop and refute it. It’s almost like a challenge now. “I can’t” turns into “I will,” or “I can.”
Now that’s empowerment.