Self-discovery is the process of peeling away the layers to better understand self. One can go as far and as deep as they want to, or of course not choosing to develop greater self-awareness at all. In effect, self-discovery is all about developing greater self-awareness into the many aspects of self. It can be a life-long journey, and some say a multiple lifetime journey.
I have been working on a model to structure better conversation on this topic. The working draft is as follows followed by a description below. It is an adaptation of a graphic I found on Google images. Let me know what you think. Thanks.
The onion is a great analogy to use for self-discovery. First, there is an outer layer that protects the more fragile interior, just like we each don masks or facades to protect us from our insecurities. Second, there are many layers which is also characteristic of each of us. With each new discovery, we may be driver to further understand why we are this way, which then requires that we go deeper and deeper within. Third, just like peeling an onion, the process of peeling away our layers can result in many tears!
So let’s begin with the outer layer and work inwards. We all wear masks or create facades of some type or another to cover up our insecurities and fears. These are often learned and developed early on in our development to look cool, tough, sexy, successful and help us to fit in with others. This is the exterior that we show to others. It is often superficial in nature. We act in a way to create perceptions and react based on our own perceptions. These perceptions are based on how we see life. We do not know why we act like we do at this level. We simply act and react.
We experience consequences which Positive consequences tend to result in greater levels of feeling good about ourselves. Negative consequences tend to result in greater levels of anxiety and unhappiness. When we become conscious that the balance has shifted to greater levels of anxiety and unhappiness, we choose the fight, flight or grow response. The many forms of addiction are common ways to escape from these terrible feelings. Growth is an option when we simply want to stop the pain and choose to seek help. We break through our facade with this very painful self-awareness. As the saying goes, no pain, no gain.
The next level of self-discovery is understanding what we are doing, our behaviors, that are helping to create these negative consequences. This is where we often need the assistance of trained counselors to help us make this connection. I referred to this process in an earlier post referring to the ABC Model. During this time we come to grips with our past and what happened that may have resulted in forming unhealthy beliefs about who and what we are. These situations may have been buried deep into our subconscious and can be quite painful to resurrect and look at.
Many leadership courses begin by growing our self-awareness about our personality. These help us to understand our preferences along various personality dimensions. This helps us to increase our level of consciousness about what we are doing that is either helping or interfering with those that we are leading or managing.
Our perceptions are challenged and we confront the idea of making personal change. This is scary and challenging. We decide whether to make this step merely an event (one and done) or to pursue further. Those around us have a big influence on our decision because we still primarily care about what others think of us. Or we may be forced to make a change, where we can choose to go through the motions or continue on.
Using the analogy of climbing a mountain, this stage represents leaving the valley where we have lived most of our life. This is where we have been largely operating on automatic, our perceptions. We make a slight detour and experience an event or events that challenge us. The question is whether our perceptions will allow an option to confront our insecurities and fears that have largely run our life. We can react or we can stop and take a deeper look inside. We come to our first fork in the road.
In Part 2 we will continue our discussion as we enter the stage of making Personal Choices. A powerful step is developing the courage to “Be a Victim No More.” It means however, taking responsibility for self. It is indeed easier, at least for the short-term, to blame others for our life being so bad. The question is whether we are ready to break the vicious cycle. To be continued…