Why We Think We See Ourselves Clearly (And Why We Are Wrong)

20140522_121704This week, I participated in the Women in Technology (WITI) Summit  in San Jose. And just like last year, it was energizing and inspiring to see so many women come together to learn and make new connections.

One of the Coaching Circles I led at the conference was “How to Find Your Ideal Career”, where I worked with a group of women to help them figure out what potential careers may be a great fit for them. For one of the exercises, they shared their answers with a partner to get feedback and to hear what patterns they saw. When I asked everyone whether they had any new insights, almost everyone had found out something new they didn’t realize before.

Now it’s such a simple thing to do – asking someone else for some feedback on what they see in us – yet how come we don’t do this regularly in our lives?

Independence is valued pretty highly in our culture, so many of us have learned that in order to get ahead, we have to be able to do things on your own. We may think that if we can’t figure it out ourselves, others may think we are not that smart. Or maybe we don’t want to impose on others. Or we are afraid to hear something negative about ourselves.

I see this problem over and over again: We think we should be able to see ourselves clearly, but we can’t. It seems so easy to see what is going on with someone else, but when it comes to ourselves, things get muddled. It has nothing to do with intelligence or ability. We are all “blind” to or biased about certain aspects of ourselves.

You may have seen the Dove ad several years ago where an artist sketched women based on the way they described themselves and then as others described them. The difference in the drawings was dramatic. But our self-image is not just distorted in the way we see ourselves physically. Even when it comes to our strengths, talents, personality, etc. some things may come to us so naturally that we don’t even think about it as anything “special.” Yet to someone else, those very same attributes stand out clearly.

The solution is actually quite easy: Just ask someone else to get some perspective and feedback. You can get feedback on just certain aspects (for example: What do you see as my strengths?) You could also offer to trade feedback to them in return.

This is useful in other situations as well: I sometimes ask for feedback if I notice that I am reacting strongly to something and want to see if my reaction seems unreasonable given the situation (which probably means I got triggered and it’s a good idea to calm down first and figure out the trigger.)

What areas could you use some feedback on?


Manuela loves helping professional women feel more confident and fulfilled and bring more happiness into their careers and lives!  You can visit Manuela’s Website for Success Life and Career Coaching.


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