Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Are You Like the Emperor Without Clothes?

Cover of "The Emperor's New Clothes"
The Emperor's New Clothes
by Joseph Dabon

Have you read Hans Christian Andersen's book, The Emperor's New Clothes?

It's an old fairy tale of an emperor who loves clothes and paraded them.

If you haven't, or years have buried it deep in your memory, I urge you to be a good sport and read it again. It provides a good lesson in self awareness.

To a certain extent, there is a bit of that emperor in us. We hold on to thoughts and beliefs worthy of kings.

Most of us keep these false self images low while others flaunt them. Whether covert or overt, we don't take kindly to people who tell us otherwise.

Our reactions can range from a cold shoulder, a menacing look, to outright rebuttal which could lose us a friend or sour a relationship. We consider our self-image like a piece of property, enclosed in a fence with signs all around saying, "Trespassers are Not Allowed."

One of the hardest things for adults to accept is to be told by that mirror, mirror on the wall that "You are not as good as you think you are."

Ironically in Mr. Andersen's story, the innocence of the child opened the eyes of the entire village of their emperor's nakedness.

How nice it is to look into ourselves with the innocent eyes of a child. But that child in us is long gone and adults don't like to look childish. So how are we, as adults, to improve our self awareness?

Self-help tips to improve your self awareness

"To say 'I love you,' one must know first how to say the 'I'" - Ayn Rand.

You can improve your self awareness through books. The Internet is full of them. But real change can only happen when you divert your attention from what is out there and look into yourself. Focus inward, not outward.

Ask yourself, "Who am I, really?" Then start making a list of what makes you.

1. Your strong and weak points

Nobody is watching you; nobody is looking over your shoulders. So do this as honestly as possible. Remember you are trying to find out who you really are. The worst thing you can do is lie to yourself. Start from the strongest to the weakest. In the secrecy of your bedroom, you can go naked. Don't be modest or shy. Just be you. Do not overvalue nor undervalue yourself. You are trying to find out where you are good at and where you need some fixing.

2. Your good and bad habits

We all have habits. Though some are good but the word is usually given a bad connotation. Write them all down. Segregate them later as to their purposefulness. Keep them if they help your self awareness and change them if they don't. Blaming yourself if something goes wrong or overly praising yourself if they go well, are examples of habits that need fixing.

3. Things you like and dislike

Consider your current situation. The things you like or dislike are dynamic. They change over time. I used to dislike tomatoes and onions. Now I take them regularly with my meals. Only think of what matters now. Then put in reasons for your like or dislike. This can be revealing. Are your reasons based on health or a simple bias based on past experience? Do you like them because your friends are into it, or is it because it makes you feel good? Are the things you like doing eating up much of your productive time or are they helping you accomplish more?

4. Your motivation

Are you motivated from things other people have or do, or from you most inner desires? Ayn Rand said, "A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." As simple as it is, it is a good gauge of your self awareness.

5. Your core values

These are beliefs and convictions that guide and direct your behavior and support your purpose and vision. Your core values define who you are.

Caution: Are they really yours, coming from deep within you or you just a mimic from a friend or a person you admire?

In our celebrity-driven society, people are prone in keeping to themselves what belongs to others. They are public property anyway, we argue. Honesty in our present day society is so rare that anyone possessing it is viewed weird or a relic of the past. Close yourself off from the outside world when listing down your core values. Don't worry if some of them seem alien to your circle of friends. You are trying to find you, not them.

6. Know what is important to you

Like the things you like and dislike, this will change at any given moment. What is important to you now may no longer be as important tomorrow. Relating this kind of "importance" with your self awareness will be like shooting at a moving target. To find out what is of utmost importance to you right now, go over each item above, 1 to 5, and ask, "Is this important to me now?"

A lot of the things that make up our self-image are things we picked up from the past. Their relevance may have diminished or increased through the years. Knowing which is important so you can address those that are keeping you from improving your self awareness.

In the Emperor's New Clothes story, the emperor ultimately knew that he was wearing nothing. But he kept up with the pretense that he was clothed.

You can easily fall into the same predicament if you don't have someone to tell you how close or far off you are. Call it a sounding board or a confidant. Having someone to tell you how you are doing is not weakness. It is strength. Knowing who or what you are from somebody else's eyes requires strength, it requires trust.

And the moment you openly and willingly trust someone to tell you who you really are, the better off you are in knowing who you really are.

Joseph Dabon

I am a retired engineer who has taken up writing to share with the world my experience in personal improvement during my long years in the corporate world. I am currently writing a book, Chase Your Dreams, and blogging. Visit my site at http://withinyouisyoursuccess.com/ and join me in this exciting journey of searching for that success formula that resides in each one of us.

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