Knowing Ourselves is a Process

Ink on a spray painted paper – Words: Ann Landers

I laughed out loud when I read this one! I had both my dogs – Biscuit & Gravy – sitting next to me, admiring me with loving eyes. It is a great reminder that we are not always surrounded by beings that give us a real perspective about ourselves. Dogs are amazing at unconditional love, energy and making us think we are wonderful!

We are wonderful, we are worthy of love, and we deserve to be loved unconditionally. It is important to surround yourself with people who build you up not those who tear you down. It is a vital part of life to be able to maintain a self image that is exactly who you want to be and to be the person you want people to know. Which means being truthful on all fronts about what we are and what we are not. Self reflection, self image, and self knowledge are all built and maintained by honesty, consistency and feedback.

I recently asked someone about the first time they received feedback, and they looked at me funny. After a few moments, they told me they had never received feedback. I clarified, “Never?” And they said, “Never.” They were thanked for their work, never told what they did well, what they could improve, and what talents and skills they had that were appreciated. Never. They were in their mid thirties. We then talked about how to ask for feedback to received something other than “Nice job”. Nice job doesn’t help, it is a pleasantry not a source for growth and encouragement. In no way does it help develop people unless we elaborate on what they did well. For all we know their output was a fluke of luck, never to be repeated. Unless we are willing to dig in, not much comes from the “Good job” accolades.

Once I understood this, I asked open ended questions to solicit feedback that would help me improve. “What could I do better next time?” “Where do you see my work needing improvement?” “What do I need to know more about in order to grow in this area?” Then I had to be quiet, listen to the other person, ask clarifying questions and absorb their words. Not everyone has their thoughts ready when asked for feedback, so I also learned to ask them, give them time to think, then circle back. Yes the feedback is all about me, yet I need to let that other person give it in a way that makes them comfortable.

Know yourself, and we do that by allowing others to know us and asking for feedback. ‘Did I do okay?’ Does not get the same in depth answer as ‘What can I do better next time?’ Knowledge is power and to gain that power we need to find and ask people we respect for their feedback. I love my dogs, yet they are not a great resource for telling me how to improve.

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