The theme of all my posts for January is building different types of awareness. Last week, I wrote about building awareness around the way that you talk to yourself. This week, it’s building awareness of your blind spots by recognizing and reflecting on negative emotions that represent areas of growth that you’re avoiding. Next week I’ll be covering building awareness and an understanding of the different types of negative mindsets. Let me know if you like this method of grouping the articles I post each month around a central idea!
The way that you see the world is not the only version of it that there is.
The way that you see yourself is not the only version of you that exists.
Often, it’s not the external world that holds us back in life, it’s our internal world — the fact that we can be incapable of recognizing or acknowledging that our perceived reality is not all that there is.
Any of these gaps between what we wish to be true and what is actually true are our blind spots.
Sometimes we recognize that we have blind spots, we just don’t find it necessary to confront them. Or, we don’t wish to confront them. It’s hard to accept something about ourselves as true if it doesn’t align with what we desire to be true.
Sometimes, we are utterly unaware — having more subconsciously locked details about ourselves as deep down as possible and denying that they exist at all. Ignorance is bliss, as they say.
Whichever reason it may be, our blind spots hold us back.
They keep us from becoming the person we want to be, or from achieving the life we wish to live. They can even be a source of dissatisfaction or contribute to general feelings of unhappiness in our lives, without us so much as being able to point out the cause.
How to recognize your blind spots
If we want to greatly improve our lives as well as our relationships with those we love, it’s super important to become aware of our blind spots. To acknowledge them and work on them, rather than pretending that they don’t exist.
Here are a few recommendations that you can use to build your awareness of your blind spots.
1. Build awareness of your emotions.
Part of the reason we can ignore blind spots is because ignoring them goes hand in hand with ignoring some of our negative emotions.
It’s easy to be afraid to feel certain emotions — sadness, anger, jealousy, overwhelm, purposelessness, inadequacy. They’re uncomfortable and scary. We feel out of control and quite simply they cause us to feel bad about ourselves and our current situation.
So we throw ourselves into activities that help us ignore them. Whether its working long hours, lots of exercise, drinking, shopping, going out with friends, watching endless TV shows, there are a lot distractions that help us cope and subsequently keep our emotions buried.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time building walls. I refused to let the outside world — including people who were close to me — know what emotions I was feeling. Happy on the outside, conflicted on the inside.
I thought for so long that it made the most sense for me to build a tough mindset around ignoring/failing to pay negative emotions any attention. That this was the secret to getting my mind in the right place to set me up for success.
While I still believe in allowing positivity to carry more weight in my mind than negativity, there’s value in acknowledging all emotions, even the bad ones. There’s value in sitting with the discomfort and focusing on what you can learn from them.
If you ignore them, then you ignore potential blind spots and potential areas of improvement in life.
So next time you feel a wave of negativity, pay attention to it. Name the emotion. Ask yourself where it’s coming from and why you’re feeling this way. You don’t have to necessarily do anything about it to fix it immediately. But awareness is the first step.
2. Pay attention to your interactions with others.
In order to be able to build awareness of your own emotions, it’s helpful to look at some of your interactions with other people. This can help provide clarity as to what some of your triggers are — what causes you to begin to experience negative feelings?
The next time you have a conversation or interaction with anyone in your life (partner, sibling, parent, friend, coworker etc.) pay attention to anything that you react strongly to. What upsets you?
- you start to feel negative emotions after someone challenges something you just said during a meeting. What is it about what they said that put you on edge? That they’re questioning your authority, or that you’re afraid of looking like a failure in front of others?
- your partner critiques you for not listening to them. Why does this upset you? Why do you turn defensive? Is it that you think they’re wrong about you or that they’re being unfair?
We can usually do a pretty good job of pinpointing exactly what someone said that made us start to react negatively if we take the time to actually reflect on the interaction rather than avoiding it.
3. Practice regular self reflection.
As I just mentioned, we often have a lot of answers within ourselves (a lot more than we care to admit!), but we push them down. We avoid the uncomfortable feeling rather than sitting with it. Confronting it is scary.
But like anything, practice makes it less scary.
Practice reflecting on what causes you to feel negative emotions. It doesn’t have to be at the exact moment something happens, it can be hours later once you’ve had some time to process.
Some options for self-reflection include: writing/journaling, meditating, reflecting during a solo walk.
You don’t necessarily need to do any of the above for a long period of time, just practice the habit.
Start with reflecting on your day (or even on your week). Focus specifically on anything that made you upset or that felt like you may have been avoiding dealing with a situation.
Think through times where you get emotional. Times where you act defensive, where you feel insecure, where you act out in any way. Try to trace back to which reality you’re trying to protect yourself from.
4. Get feedback from people who know you well.
The hardest (but often most effective) way to gain clarity on your blind spots is to get the perspective of a trusted loved one. They see you in a different way than you see yourself. They view the world differently than you do. Make it your goal to listen no matter what they say.
Even if you don’t directly ask them to tell you, practice listening to regular feedback that they give you throughout your day-to-day interactions, as well as paying attention to their reactions. Chances are, they already tell you a lot about your blind spots, but you choose to block it out because you feel attacked or uncomfortable.
The point of building self awareness is to hear uncomfortable truths. This exercise involves a lot of trust. Trust that they’re being honest and genuinely attempting to help you and your relationship. Trust that they care for you unconditionally and that this criticism doesn’t mean they think less of you as a person.
Don’t get defensive. Don’t jump in and say that they’re being too harsh. Just listen. The point of the exercise is to not take what they say as a judgment. Rather, it’s an opportunity to confront the fact that the way you see things is not the way someone else does.
It can be a tough pill to swallow. But the more you face it, the more comfortable you will get with time. The more likely you are to take it as constructive criticism and less as a judgment. We become more comfortable and confident at anything with regular practice — improving self-awareness is no different.
4. Turn to a more objective, 3rd party source for feedback.
Not everyone will feel comfortable enough to go to a loved one for help.
There are often other ways to get a more objective perspective, depending on what you’re looking to improve. If you want to know whether you look look and sound like a true performer, record yourself singing a song. If you want to know if your deadlift form is as good as you think it feels, record yourself. Want to know if your writing is any good? Find a stranger online who is willing to give you honest feedback.
If you find yourself afraid of feedback, you might have a fixed mindset. Not to worry — it’s nothing you can’t overcome. It just means you have some thought patterns that need re-learning and re-wiring.
5. Practice Empathy.
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
A great way to work on your ability to recognize your own blind spots is to practice viewing the world through someone else’s perspective.
There are a ton of scenarios where you can practice this thought exercise.
The next time you get into a discussion with someone, try to see it from their point of view.
The next time you jump to conclusions about someone’s behavior, think through other plausible scenarios that would need to be true for them to behave the way that they did.
The more you’re able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, the more you’ll be able to point out your blind spots.
Without awareness, there can be no growth. Without growth, well, you’ll remain stuck with the same problems you have now.
With practice, it becomes less scary to continue to build awareness. Treat it like any other habit and practice it regularly.
The more you learn to recognize negative emotions when they arise and the more you’re able to identify what it is that you’re feeling as well as what triggered it, the better understanding you’ll build of your blind spots — the areas for improvement in your life that you tend to avoid out of fear or discomfort.