Self-Awareness, Self-Knowledge: how do you avoid duping yourself and start growing?

some feedback sounds like judgmentI was on a coaching call this morning. The student feels that he could be more, and that is what brought him to my programs. He raised his vibration from 130 to 200 in six days, and continues to come to the coaching calls.

He would like to own his own business. I recommended that he finds out where he is at, what he is like, so he increases his self-awareness… and finds out what is the reality he is in… I asked him to take the blue pill (the Matrix movie) so he can see the reality, whatever that may be.

Then I gave him a homework to do that with: a few questions to ask his friends, co-workers, family.

I learned those questions and the incredible transformative power they have some 20 years ago in Landmark. But I wanted to make sure that I had the wording correctly: Landmark is famous for their funky wordings… so I searched the Internet.

I did find the correct questions, and I found more: this thread on one of the sites.

I want you to read them… very interesting. And for those of you that would like to play along, here are the questions:


How can you make sure that the way you view yourself is not too far removed from how you’re perceived by others?

Once in a while I come to the realization that a friend or family member has an opinion of themselves in a way that is completely opposite the way that I (or sometimes others) perceive them. Recently I have experienced that same jarring dissonance in one or two ways, and want to find ways to make sure I’m not deluding myself about myself.

criticismOne example: An old friend is in his early 40s and has a low-paying government contracting job. He lives with his parents to save money, and as far as I know does not pay rent or contribute to household expenses. He has, in total, perhaps a couple of thousands of dollars in savings to his name. He has no traditional kinds of investments or savings (CDs, an IRA, 401(k), bonds, etc.) Instead, he has put any extra money that he has into a micro loan lending site. If he gets a loan paid off, he lends the funds right back out again. Sometimes he has lost money this way. Anyway, he likes to call himself an “angel investor”. Whenever I hear him say that I just have to roll my eyes. I see that he likes the cachet of this label, but he’s not even living life as a financially independent adult.

A more personal example: As the mom of a young child I like to think that I can provide helpful advice to new moms (when asked!). I find myself weighing in (I’m talking about in real life with acquaintances and friends, not online on sites like AskMeFi) on topics like whether or not children should have TVs in their room to how to deal with a tantrumming toddler at the supermarket. But then I worry that instead of sounding like a wise been-there-done-that resource, I come across as a judgmental know-it-all.

I know it’s not really possible to truly know how you present yourself to the rest of the world, and that if I’m talking to two people at once, they might easily each come away with totally different impressions of me, depending on their own experiences or prejudices. But is there some way of thinking about this that can help me give myself a reality check about my own perceptions of myself vs. how I present myself to the world?

Thank you all in advance for your thoughtful responses.


  1. if you REALLY want to know what your loved ones think of you, how they see you, there is this really great interview you can do. you have to be COMPLETELY OPEN AND WILLING to hear their honest responses. you ask them these 5 questions and let them know they can be totally honest and you won’t freak out or get defensive. you have to listen actively but without reacting. Write down what they say, verbatim, the mind will forget!1. what do you like about me?
    2. what don’t you like about me?
    3. what do you see as my strengths?
    4. what do you see as my weaknesses?
    5. is there anything else you’ve ever wanted to say to me?if you are up for it, it can be a pretty AMAZING experience. very enlightening.
  2. Please try to be more generous in your assessment of your friend. You don’t know all the details of his finances or his arrangement with parents. Living frugally to support others who have even less is admirable. Even if you don’t think he has his overall priorities straight, you can still respect the impulse.
  3. To begin with, there’s the matter of your approach – do you want to be able to see yourself as others see you, or do you want what you imagine yourself to be to be the you that others see?It sounds like you’re going for the former, in which case, there are a few things to keep in mind: Consider the backgrounds of the people around you, the life-shaping events from their pasts, the place where they are in life right now, and where their priorities lay.Try not to speculate, but consider only that which you’re pretty certain about. This gives you an idea of what mindset is shaping the way this person views life to begin with.

    Although you’re bound to at least unconsciously put up blind spots are rose-color different things you said or did, try to see yourself plainly.

    Now shift your point of view from yourself to the people in your life, and look at yourself from where they are.

    Do keep in mind that ultimately, you have to look at yourself in the mirror every day and the way other people are perceiving you should be a limited priority, especially considering who those people are – you’d give more importance to your spouse than your boss, for example. But in the end, if you’re not comfortable in your own skin, you’re not going to be much good to others.

    I understand that feeling of listening to someone who doesn’t “get” how absurd/annoying/rude they really are, and then wondering, “Oh gawd, what if I’m just like that in a different way, to someone else, and I’m just too clueless to notice” but I wouldn’t let it hold that much sway over my life.

    If you listen to people, are able to look at yourself plainly, and can empathize with others, chances are no one that matters will think you’re a jerk. Most of the time.

  4. People will make their own judgments on you based on their experiences. How they view you is more of a reflection of how they see the world and themselves.Just do what feels right and let them judge.
  5. Some personality types have it much worse than others: quoting from “Whistling in the Dark: Narcissism and the Grandiosity Gap” The disparity between the accomplishments of the narcissist and his grandiose fantasies and inflated self-image – the Grandiosity Gap – is staggering and, in the long run, insupportable. It imposes onerous exigencies on the narcissist’s grasp of reality and social skills. It pushes him either to seclusion or to a frenzy of “acquisitions” – cars, women, wealth, power. […]On the other hand, if someone’s coping mechanism is working (i.e. they’re reasonably happy and not hurting anybody) then who are you to cut them down for it? There’s far too little happiness in this world as it is than to go around laying metaphorical turds in people’s punch bowls.It’s a vicious circle: businessmen think artists are losers for not being financially responsible, and artists think businessmen are losers for not being creative. Who’s right? Both and neither, yet everybody is self-righteous and smug. Personally, I think whatever you have to believe to get yourself through the day shouldn’t affect me or the way I live my life in the slightest. To each his own.

    The fact that you judge people with different values from your own is at the heart of the problem. Either develop your sense of empathy, or “judge and prepare to be judged”, as Ayn Rand once said.

    P.S. when you think of it, that contractor really is an angel to somebody. If that’s the main thing he values in life, then more power to him.

  6. I think for most people, the level of self-awareness, not judging the choices other people can make, those things vary… kinda like in the two examples you provide. Maybe you’re making a subtle point by one example that’s a lot less pleasant than the other? In the first example, your attitude reads ugly. Lots of assumptions about things, about someone’s choices and values that differ from yours and “Whenever I hear him say that I just have to roll my eyes. Like bloody hell you “have to.” You choose to.If I’m in Cameroon or Uzbekistan and this guy’s $40 or $400 has a profound impact on my life, you bet your boots he’s an angel to me, at least a lot closer to one than people who “have to” judge how he speaks of what he does.
  7. The best way, I think, to find out how other people view you is to ask them. How much that is going to be welcome when it hurts is going to be up to you.For example, going by your first example above, I’d say you were quite critical about things that don’t really concern you. The guy has the right to spend his money on what he wants to do. His life experience and choice is very different from your own. He behaves in a different way than you, which is his right.It’s got little to do with you what he does with his money.Your second example makes you sound quite arrogant. You do come across as a judgmental know-it-all. Again, different people and different families = different life plans, choices and experiences.I’m mentioning this to get the point across that what others see of you isn’t what you are. I’m just looking at a few lines of text on a computer screen, and making a snap judgement. It isn’t “true”, as such. It’s an opinion, and one that is quite probably wrong. Maybe you aren’t like that at all. Perhaps you’re quite angelic. But you come across as a bitch. Are you a bitch? If no, my opinion doesn’t matter. How you see yourself is more important.

    But is there some way of thinking about this that can help me give myself a reality check about my own perceptions of myself vs. how I present myself to the world?

    Video tape yourself going through your daily routines, and watch the tapes back. Or you could ask yourself WWJD 1 (or whoever) and filter your thoughts and behaviors through that.

    Or you could just pretend to be something you aren’t, based on who is in the room with you. Been there, done that. And I can assure you that that kind of life gets old very quickly.

  8. Here’s a couple things to help:#1: listen to yourself talk. Feeling like you might be saying less than stellar things? Assume you are, and knock it off. If you weren’t, it won’t make much difference (nobody ever got in trouble for not opening their mouth!) and if you were, you just changed yourself for the better.#2: ask at a low level to figure things out at a high level. Afraid you’re looking scraggly and awful, but nobody will say so to your face? Ask about your hair: “I’m really getting sick of this haircut; do you think I should change it, or am I better off sticking with it?” Ask about your shirt (when wearing a “typical” one for you.) Ask about your makeup. Phrase it so that people have every reason to tell you to change, and have to be pushy to tell you to stay the same. This works for non-physical stuff, too; just make sure you’re asking for validation that you should go through with a change you’ve already decided to make, not asking “should I change?”, to get an honest answer.

    #3: pay attention to people you admire. Do you talk like they do? Do you act like they do? Do you live like they do? Why not? You admire them; you should take steps to emulate the things about them that you admire (and that fit into your worldview) so that you can admire yourself as well.

    #4: don’t sweat it too much. Everyone is loved by someone, and everyone is hated by someone. Most people are indifferent to, or at worst, annoyed by some other people they know. it’s okay, we marry the ones that don’t bother us at all, and all those annoying people are our friends and relatives. They’re not judging you that harshly, just like you’re not judging them harshly. Oh, wait, you ARE? Well, that doesn’t mean THEY are — it just means you should stop.

    Hope that helps.

  9. Whose opinion is right? You may be both helpful and annoying at the same time. Your friend is both dependent on his parents and kind and forward-thinking to lend his small amount of money as he does. Judge, or enjoy the view.I’m an eye-roller from way back. There’s almost no one who “deserves” respect or admiration, unless you believe in some kind of divine caste system, or have a morality that’s more inflexible that I’d like. I don’t. But you know what? People’s conceptions of themselves are what keeps them going, and I may go in for a little self-delusion/reframing myself.
  10. You need some friends who you are close enough that they’ll call you on your bullshit and make fun of you when you do something deserving ridicule. That’s how you keep yourself in check.
  11. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  12. Be sensitive to other people’s reactions to whatever you say. They won’t necessarily tell you, “I regard you as the fount of all wisdom, so please continue” or “you’re being a pompous gasbag”. Watch for facial expressions and verbal cues. Try not to interrupt anyone. Make sure you understand where they are coming from when they say something to you. And if in doubt, ask them what they’d like from you in terms of response to them.
  13. What others think is immaterial. What you want is to not be an idiot. Focus on that by asking yourself the attitudes you hold about yourself are true.
  14. For another data point, you might try recording yourself interacting with a group of people. Once you get over how weird your voice sounds (this takes about 20 minutes for most people) you might see some patterns in the group dynamics that you weren’t aware of.
  15. Get to the point where you don’t care what others think – that will free you to be yourself all the time.
    Also, guessing what others think, guessing their motives and neuroses etc. will only lead to disappointment. Find out the truth, or don’t worry about it, instead of speculating and guessing. Just be you, and f*** everyone else!
  16. Re: “What others think is immaterial. Get to the point where you don’t care what others think.” i strongly disagree. if everyone thinks you’re an asshole and you want to be liked, then it does matter what they think. maybe you are acting in a way that offends people without knowing it. i used to be extremely opinionated and judgmental and i never realized it bothered anyone. once i expressed an opinion about my little sister’s taste in music and she got so upset with me, i realized how my opinions and judgements could be belittling to people i cared about. i made a real effort to change my ways because i didn’t want to make people feel bad about themselves.
  17. My opinion of what other people think of me is based on the things they expect me to do, ask me to do, seemed surprised if I claim I couldn’t do… When I was a kid, if the riding instructor said, you go ride Hell Beast, then I believed that the instructor either wanted me dead or thought that I could handle Hell Beast.This would be a clue that you give good advice: If, for instance, you show up at the park, and one of the moms says, “Great, we were hoping you would show up today. We were discussing this other mom’s problem and wondering what advice you would have.”If that kind of thing doesn’t happen, that doesn’t mean no one values your counsel. I’m just saying that’s a strong indication.
  18. The fact that you judge people with different values from your own is at the heart of the problem.Furthermore, why is money so important to you — and other people’s money, at that — that you would let yourself become that kind of judgmental person over it? Money is completely unimportant to some people, and they purposely only pursue as much as is necessary to sustain themselves. You act as if your friend is doing something wrong, but why should he move out and get his own place and put his money in things he clearly doesn’t care about? To make people like you happy? When he moves into his own place, which he may not even want, what is he supposed to get out of it? “Whew, I’m doing what everyone else wants me to do, and maybe now my friend can rest easy that I’m living my life like she wants me to.”It really does seem to be one of those judgments that says more about you than your friend.

    I will say this: in my observations, it is usually judgmental people who worry the most about being judged, because they know how they think about other people and do not wish people to think about them that way. Your question seems to mirror this: you don’t want to be the person that everyone judges and doesn’t realize it, because you know that you judge people who don’t realize it. To everyone else, being judged seems to be more of a nuisance — you have to deal with people telling you what they think when you don’t actually care.

    Being self-aware is one thing, and it’s a commendable thing to strive for, in my opinion. But life is a lot easier, at least in my experience, when you remove yourself from the whole judging arena altogether.

    If you make a conscious effort to be less judgmental, I’m willing to bet you’ll realize how silly it was to begin with. And once you do that, you’ll be able to worry less about being judged: you’ll have been in that mindset before, and you’ll know that their judgment says little about you and more about them.

    If you’re trying to be a better person, you can do better than avoiding things that people will judge you for. That won’t make you a better person so much as a stereotype of what society finds valuable: you might have a decent amount of savings and not live with your parents, for example, but that doesn’t say a whole lot about you as a person.

    What I have found helpful is trying to be more introspective and admit my faults. Knowing that I’ll admit my faults is what gives me the confidence to make decisions and move forward. That way, when other people want to judge me, I either feel too secure about myself to conform to whatever they want me to be, or I’m able to admit when they have a point and learn from it. But any way you put it, your self-esteem has to come from within and can’t be based on what other people think of you. As others have noted, usually judgments say more about the person making them than the person being judged. If you change your behavior because your friends are obsessed with money and having nice things, for example, you’re not becoming a better person. You’re just becoming the person your friends want you to be.

Now, after all this, I’d like you to do the homework I gave to this guy, asking the five questions of people that know you.

Write down their answers, and respect what they say as their experience of you.

feedbackTry to see the difference between judgment and feedback. Most of what you’ll get is feedback… if you ask the questions the right way. If you come across in a threatening way, you’ll get judgments…

Remember the secret attitude, validation… it will help a lot.

Let me know in the comments section how you are doing with this…

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  1. what would Jesus do?

Author: Sophie Benshitta Maven

True empath, award winning architect, magazine publisher, transformational and spiritual coach and teacher, self declared Avatar

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