This week’s blog post is once again from our Special Guest – Trishna Patnaik!
❤ Part 2 – Special Guest Post By Trishna Patnaik, BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but Artist by Choice ❤
“To be mindfully engaged is the most natural, creative state we can be in.” — Ellen Langer
Self-awareness is not a special feat that can only be induced by formal practices like meditation. Although some of us meditate every day, we may be curious that we can foster self-awareness through other experiences that everyone has access to.
The exercises to be shared with you are divided into two groups: interactions with people and interactions with nature. Some of these exercises emerged spontaneously as one learns about mindfulness, nature-inspired coaching, and relationships
Interactions with people
The value relationships can add to your self-awareness is that other people see you differently than you see yourself. It goes as far as saying that there are really two kinds of self-awareness: being aware of your internal experiences and being aware of how other people perceive you. None of them is “truer” than the other, and both can provide equally valuable information.
Interacting with others can enrich your understanding of who you are.
Here are three ways to take advantage of that:
- 1. Emotional awareness
The emotions we tend to overlook the most are usually the difficult ones. To become more aware of them, you can start paying more attention to the difficult people in your life.
Difficult is not toxic. Difficult people are those who do not do anything purposefully hurtful, but they “push your buttons” just by the way they are. Think a co-worker whose notorious habits drive you mad or a friend who contradicts your opinions in a way that makes you feel dumb. The reason their innocent behaviour triggers powerful emotions that it forces one to confront something that one is not comfortable with.
How to do this in practice:
Whenever you encounter someone who triggers you, acknowledge to yourself that the arising emotions are likely showing you something. Treat the person as a neutral messenger, instead of blaming them. To do that, you can place your attention on your breath to ground yourself in the present moment. Then, try to focus on the feelings, rather than the mental explanation your mind is producing.
In such situations, your mind is likely to tell you a story to protect your ego. If you believe it, you will not learn. The lesson is usually best transmitted through the feeling aspect of your experience. Recognizing how you feel at the moment will expand your emotional awareness as a competency.
- 2. Accurate self-assessment
When it comes to defining our strengths and weaknesses, we are often biased by the kind of self-image we hold. If you see yourself as shy or insecure, you are likely to underestimate your strengths. On the other hand, it is found that people in high leadership positions tend to underestimate their shortcomings because of their leader-identity.
One great way to counterbalance your self-assessment bias is to get out of your head and simply ask for feedback about your competency and performance. If you ask good questions with an open mind, you can improve the knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your understanding of how other people see you.
How to do this in practice:
Here is a handful of tips to keep in mind when asking for self-assessment feedback:
To avoid vague answers, ask about specific competencies you want to find out about. For example, instead of asking a co-worker “What do you think my strengths are?” say: “What did you think about my public speaking skills based on my last presentation?”
Ensure that people feel safe to give you honest answers. If you are a boss seeking accurate feedback from your employees, you may need to grant them an option to answer anonymously. If you are talking to friends, you may simply add that you’re going to be okay regardless of their answers.
Ask “what” instead of “why.” Asking “why” encourages the human mind to come up with explanations that are not necessarily true. By asking “what,” you immediately direct the conversation into a more productive, solution-oriented direction. Note the difference between these two questions: “Why you did not like the presentation I gave?” versus “What do you think I could do to improve my presentations in the future?”
Ask for feedback unexpectedly. This way, you increase the chances that people will tell you what they really think.
Cross-check surprising feedback with more people. If you hear an unusual remark about yourself, remember that the person providing it may also be biased.
- 3. Self-confidence
Increasing your confidence when interacting with others is very simple, but a lot of people get it wrong. We often assume that the way to feel more confident is by highlighting your achievements, competence, or even superiority. But this does not work nearly as well as focusing on maximizing the other person’s position.
When you seek to maximize the other person’s position, thinking about them, giving them what they need, you suddenly take the seat of power. It is really that simple. When you highlight the other person’s achievements and competencies, you send a message (both to them and yourself) that you feel strong enough about your own position.
How to do this in practice:
One thing to remember is not to force this approach when you are experiencing self-doubt. When you maximize the other person’s position while you are at your lowest, you are likely to get lost in a victim mentality. The dynamics of power will become exaggerated and the effect will be the opposite of what you intended.
Instead, wait for a moment when you are mood is at least neutral and start strengthening your confidence from there.
Interactions with Nature
The impact nature has on our cognitive abilities, mental health, and self-awareness became the subject of intense study in recent years. We already know that immersing ourselves in the natural surroundings can have beneficial effects on attentional capacity, stress levels, creativity and other functions of the brain. Enhanced self-awareness is a natural extension of these.
Part of why our self-awareness is clouded in daily life is an overwhelming number of stimuli and distractions. This is what spending time in nature can relieve you from. Gentler sensory stimulation frees up the attentional capacity to look within.
On top of that, the company of nature is neutral. Unlike people, it does not bring its own conditioning or reactivity into the equation. Therefore, you can be sure that what you experience in nature derives from the content of your own not somebody else’s mind.
Self-Awareness Transforms Your Outlook on Life
As we have seen, self-awareness is one of the basic competencies to live a good life. However, you do not have to meditate or engage in any other formal practice to nurture it. There are many events in your life that can naturally make you more self-aware.
As you cultivate emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence, you are not the only person who feels the difference. Everyone you come in contact with does, too. Working on self-awareness is one of these pursuits that benefit not just you, but your whole environment.
As you become more self-aware, your ability to understand your own experiences skyrockets. On the outside, this translates to better communication, setting healthier boundaries, using your full potential, and many other skilful behaviours. All of these directly impact other people.
At the same time, being self-aware is the most natural thing under the sun. You do not even have to learn it. All you need is to activate it.
Even if, with time, you forget the exercises given above, do not get bogged down by it. Once you practice a little and have the experience of increased self-awareness, you will start spontaneously coming back to it. You will learn to recreate the felt resonance, rather than the mental pathway of how to enter the present moment and look within.
Self-awareness will become something you instinctively look for, rather than something you have to force. When you find it, everything else does start falling into place.
Self-awareness doesn’t stop you from making mistakes, it allows you to learn from them.
About the Author
Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years.
After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest.
She says, “It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to everyday.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.
Trishna is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai.
Trishna fancies the art of creative writing and is dappling her hands in that too, to soak in the experience and have an engagement with readers, wanderers and thinkers.