One of the most valuable aspects of working with someone else is their ability to see what you can’t yet (ever) see about yourself – your blind spots.
This is true in relationships, or at least the kind of relationship where each of you is open to exploring and challenging your own default behaviours and reactions to grow together, instead of being trapped in a dysfunctional, co-dependent, “I need you, you need me” dynamic where personal growth is a deadly threat to the relationship.
A HUGE clue to a blind spot hiding in plain sight, for each of you, is that recurring argument you have on repeat which never seems to get resolved or go away. Dig a little deeper and the blind spot you can’t/won’t see is staring you in the face.
This is true in your career, whether you work for someone else or for yourself. Nowhere is the saying “we don’t know what we don’t know” more true than when it comes to our professional selves; the self we want to be seen as competent, confident and eminently capable to anyone who is looking.
To have it pointed out that we don’t know or can’t see something is, for many of us, akin to being told we’re stupid, incompetent, incapable.
(There’s a blind spot right there – can you see it? How do you react to critical feedback? Why do you have that reaction? What’s the story you’re telling yourself when someone gives you that kind of feedback?).
This is true about your own personal growth…
One of the most fundamental lessons I’ve learned, both from seeing a therapist and being in my relationship as I explore my adoption, is that who I thought I was is not who I am.
Confused? Bear with me!
There are certain traits and aspects of my personality I’ve always been aware of…I’m a control freak, I’m a (recovering) perfectionist, I’m impatient (though at times I can be incredibly patient; this dichotomy has always confused me), I like to be useful and this has served me well in my time. Most of these I simply accepted as ‘just the way I am’, with zero clue about how I got this way. Cue exploring my adoption.
It’s become patently obvious that…
I’m a control freak because the huge trauma that happened to me at 0-7 days old – of being abandoned by my birth mother and, literally, from one moment to the next having everything I ever knew suddenly disappear – was one utterly beyond my control. Who wouldn’t then want to spend the rest of their lives trying to control whatever they could so that this kind of unanticipated, unexpected, unforeseen trauma doesn’t ever happen again?
I’m a perfectionist because somewhere in my unconscious mind not being perfect was my fault and lead to me being abandoned. Who wouldn’t then want to spend the rest of their lives trying to be as perfect as possible so this never happens again?
I’m impatient but typically only with myself because I’m a perfectionist (see above); I can be infinitely patient with anyone else because it’s ok for them not to be perfect; I can accept their shadow side and right not to have to be perfect but not my own, because my fear is that it won’t be accepted by others and I’ll be abandoned.
I like to be useful because if I’m useful then people will want to keep me around. Who wouldn’t want to remain useful so they’re kept around versus risk not being useful and being abandoned?
Each of the above were my blind spots; behaviours I accepted as ‘just me’, nothing I could change and they’ve served me well. Except now, they don’t.
Frankly, it’s exhausting trying to control everything and everyone around me – having children has been one of the best enforced lessons here! And pushing for that level of control only serves to push away those closest to me…therefore resulting in the very thing I’m trying to avoid (them leaving!).
It’s exhausting trying to be perfect all the time; never allowing myself to fail or not get it 100% right, and again having children, what kind of role model am I if I won’t allow myself to get something wrong? If making mistakes isn’t ok?
And being useful? On the deepest level, we each want to be loved for just being. Not for anything we do. And so do I – it’s liberating, freeing, and a relief to be in relationships where I’m loved for being me, not just because I’m useful or handy to have around. And yet again, the unconditional love of children here is one of the most valuable lessons I’ve experienced – I’m loved for being me, for being their mother no matter how good/bad I am at that.
In business, we have all sorts of blind spots we just can’t see too.
The stories you tell yourself about making money that are keeping you poor…
“Money’s not ok to want. I’m being greedy to want more. Money doesn’t grow on trees. I have to work hard to earn money. Money’s the root of all evil. Money = stress. I’m not good with money.”
The many ways you discourage yourself from marketing (telling people about) what you do that are fundamentally stopping you from ever growing your business…
“It’s not cool to show off. People will think I’m bragging. Who am I to think I can do this? I don’t want anyone to see me fail. I don’t know what marketing is. Marketing = selling = vile!”
The reluctance to sell yourself and the beneficial impact of what you do that’s keeping you stuck at the same level..
“I’m not that special. Surely everyone’s good at that? I need to re-train. I’m too old to get started in that. No-one will hire someone like me. I don’t have the right experience. I don’t have enough experience. I don’t have any experience.”
The many beliefs you have about how things ‘should’ be done that are stopping you from doing anything…
“I have no idea how to ‘properly’ do marketing/finances/strategic planning. That’s not how X does it. What if people laugh/think I’m stupid if I do it like that.”
Many of these beliefs are deeply buried in your psyche, often internalised from your parents’ own beliefs and the prevailing energy you were exposed to as you grew up…
For me, there are parts of my money narrative that are currently blind spots for me; I am aware of a repeating pattern in my life that when I get to a certain level of earning, I’m clever at subtly self sabotaging what I’m doing. I’m aware that this *may* be related to some adoption stuff – some guilt that I’m the ‘fortunate’ child who was ‘given’ a path with more opportunities while my birth family live in relative poverty in a shack somewhere in the Philippines. Yeah, that’s not great and I can see the many, many holes in the narrative I may have unconsciously created (it’s such a blind spot that I can’t currently ‘see’ whether this is indeed the narrative I’ve created!). Still a work in progress…
We can’t see them because we are spectacularly unaware they’re there, and yet they drive large parts of our behaviour, reactions and decision-making.
So how on earth do you know what your blind spots are if you can’t even see them?
There are clues, if you pay close attention, and they include:
- Repeating patterns that may feel out of your control and that they just seem to keep happening to you. Like constantly finding yourself on the receiving end of unfair accusations, or finding yourself in situations which quickly spiral out of control into some drama-fuelled crisis, or finding yourself the victim at the mercy of ‘bullies’ who pick on you for ‘no reason’.
- Repeating arguments that go on and on, and never reach a conclusion or resolution. Like who’s responsible for making sure X happens, when you’re both busy with work/careers/kids, or that one of you wants to spend more time together doing ‘couple-y’ things but the other is happier doing things apart or with their mates, or that you want more sex than you currently have but your partner just never seems interested or bothered about it.
- Reactions that feel out of proportion to the event that happened. Like the reaction your boyfriend/girlfriend has when you want to go watch a movie with a friend on your one free night of the week, or the reaction you have when your partner turns over and goes to sleep because they’ve had a long day and clearly hasn’t noticed you’ve made an effort to look as alluring and sexy as possible for them, or the reaction you have when your partner/parent/friend tells you you shouldn’t wear something you like because it makes you look frumpy/tarty/too old/too fat.
These behaviours and reactions are your current conditioning…and the good news is that they can be ‘unconditioned’ or ‘reconditioned’.
This conditioning – many of these behaviours, reactions, responses, thought patterns, beliefs – are the things you’re currently doing, beliefs you’re currently believing, ways you’re currently being that aren’t serving you and are keeping you stuck. These are your blind spots. Can you see them?
P.S. And how do you feel about others seeing them while you still can’t?