How Self-Aware Are You?
A self-awareness exercise by Dr. Carol Mattson
The first step in choosing and/or changing a career is self-awareness. Yet most of us live our lives one day at a time and never bother asking questions like, Who am I? How do I see myself? How do I think others see me? How do I want to see myself? How do I want others to see me? If this is true for you, I encourage you to take just a few minutes to complete this fun and simple exercise to help you become more self-aware. There is no right or wrong response.
Step 1. Get an 8/12 x 11 piece of paper and at least one marker. You can do this exercise using multiple colors if you’d like. Draw an oval to fill up the page.
Now pretend the oval you drew is a mirror. Use your non-dominant hand and draw an image of what you see when you look into the mirror. Draw whatever you see in your mind’s eye.
Using your non-dominant hand is a strategy to help release creativity and help you focus on the exercise while being less concerned about how well you draw. Your drawing is not supposed to be a work of art, but rather of simple and accurate reflection of how you actually see yourself at this moment in time. Don’t take this exercise too seriously and don’t take too long to complete your drawing. Just relax and have fun!
Step 2. Now, turn the paper over, fill up the page by drawing another oval.
In this pretend mirror I want you to use your non-dominant hand again, but this time write what you see using descriptive words.
Use your instincts, without giving it too much thought and quickly fill the page with words that come to mind when describing yourself.
After you complete these two steps, first look at what you drew. Be honest. Is this an accurate reflection of how you see yourself at this point in time? What features stand out to you? What expression is on your face? Is your appearance neat or messy? (This question is not a reference to how you drew the picture) Did you draw something other than or in addition to a face or full-body, such as a building, another person, or symbols like dollar bills or something that represents a hobby or interest of yours like a football for example? Objects or symbols, if present, may reflect values or items of importance to you like making a lot of money or owning a home or having/wanting a family. What matters is not what you drew, but what you learned; the significance of your drawing and what personal meaning it has for you.
If the self-image you depicted is negative, ask yourself why, then consider what steps you can take to move to a more optimistic view of how you want to be. Think about this line written by William Shakespeare and how it applies to you, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Ultimately, you alone decide the role you want to play on this world stage, and if you don’t like what you see, do something about it. Change your hair do, eat healthier, begin a regular exercise routine, smile, relax, try out a new style, learn something to boost your confidence, etc.
Now, take a look at what you wrote. What words did you choose to describe yourself? What words stand out to you? Did you include physical features like brown hair or blue eyes? Did you include roles that you play such as student or sister? What feeling words did you include? Sometimes people include unkind or unflattering words that they may have heard from other people during their lifetime; especially people of influence like a parent or significant other. If this is the case it may be time for you to recognize the impact of their words and then filter out what is negative and hurtful and meaningless to you, especially when it is not true. I once met a beautiful, intelligence young woman who described herself as fat and lazy. She shared with me that her boyfriend’s grandmother had used these words while talking about her. She accepted them when she could have rejected them because they were absolutely untrue. I also heard a young man talk about a time when his father shouted, “You’re worthless” when the young man got drunk one night. What this young man needed was for his dad to provide some love and guidance and teach him healthy boundaries, but this didn’t happen.
Hurtful words can be instilled in your memory and have a direct impact on your self-image, life choices and relationships, so it is very important to heal from early wounds and communicate caringly. Make it a point to surround yourself with people who lift you up. Limit or eliminate, when possible, spending time with people who are critical and bring you down. If, however, you describe yourself as lazy when you know you are acting irresponsibly, don’t use that as an excuse! You have the ability to change. The first thing you do is to quit describing yourself that way, and then transform your behavior. Throw away your excuses!
If you are accustomed to negative self-talk for any reason or when you realize you are doing this, do yourself a favor and say, “stop”! Then rephrase what you are saying with something that is positive. For example, if you say or think “I am so stupid”, stop and say something like “I have potential and need to slow down and think and apply myself. I know I can do this”.
In addition, begin every morning by writing out and speaking aloud positive self-talk, also known as affirmations. This may seem awkward at first, but try it! Affirmations must be spoken in present tense as if what you say is real for you. The more you practice, the more real they feel and the greater impact the words makes. Professional athletes must be confident and envision a perfect dive into a pool or making the catch. Positive self-talk and daily affirmations may not guarantee a specific outcome, but for athletes seeing and believing has been known to enhance their performance. Practicing daily affirmations and envisioning how you want to be can do the same for you.
Here is a quote about affirmations by entrepreneur and space activist Rick Tumlinson. He said, “Life is an affirmation, not a defamation. Life means living. Life means taking that one tiny or giant leap beyond what you know you can do, or simply beyond what you know. It is in these moments that we live”.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/affirmation
Below are a few examples of affirmations. Feel free to use these and also personalize and create your own.
I am grateful for this day and the role I play in it.
I know that I am capable of earning an A in (subject) and I study efficiently to achieve the best grade I can.
I practice to intentionally improve my capabilities.
I see beauty within me and reflect that to others.
I eat to live and to keep my body strong and healthy.
I have abundance and I am a generous and giving person.
I am a child of God and led by his grace and goodness.
I am friendly and kind and therefore attract positive people into my life.
Write your own affirmations. NEVER INCLUDE SHOULD OR MUST because it is your desire; you choose what to say and believe…
I am _________________________________________________
I have ________________________________________________
I can _________________________________________________
I will _________________________________________________