Many of us have self-critical voices in our heads that keep us focused on what we perceive is wrong with us. What am I doing wrong? Who am I offending? I should have been more assertive. I should have been less domineering. If only I said this instead of that. Often, we recognize our failings after the event and seemingly just as often, we repeat the same mistakes without being any wiser regarding the reasons.
Whilst it is important to see these obstructive blind spots, what is less appreciated are the blind spots we hold that are preventing us from seeing the good we are doing in the world. The hidden strengths that we unknowingly express which make a positive difference, yet we don’t acknowledge or are unable to see for ourselves.
I have two kids. Both boys (young men actually) and both quite musical. The other night I went to watch one of them perform at a gig. There was a technical glitch, so there was a risk that his vocals would overpower the instrumental backing. To his credit, he adapted his vocals to suit, which added the affect of fragility to an already emotive song about teenage insecurity. This caused me to tear up as I absorbed the lyrics and while I have a complete inability to be objective as his Dad, the crowd clearly loved it also. Despite this, I could tell that as he left the stage, he was feeling down on himself.
On the way home in the car, curious about his reaction, I asked him how he thought he performed. His perspective was that his vocals were pitchy, that he couldn’t get the volume balance right and that effectively he’d duffed it and no one liked it. Being a self-assessed good Dad, I was able to describe to him my experience; my outrageously positive experience that was in stark contrast to his own perceptions. He was grateful and relieved yet perplexed as to how his perceptions were so different.
Underestimating or not seeing our own inherent strengths and aptitudes is a common blind spot. Deep down though, we know what we’re good at. We sometimes simply unconsciously cover it up in order to protect that part of our identity that we believe is the most fragile. We protect what we’re naturally great at as though it were a prized possession and seem to think that if we use it, it will lose its shine.
Imagine trying your hardest at the thing that you’re best at and then failing? That’s risky. Maybe it’s best we forget about it and channel our focus into more pragmatic activities. Or, like my son, have a crack at what we’re good at, but then manage down our expectations of performance to soften the hit to our fragile identities should the world not love what we do.
It is one of my great joys as a coach to help clients’ see their blind spots to their strengths. While understanding your weaknesses is important, knowing your strengths, having them validated by another, then accepting and expressing them brings to life a whole other level of positive experience.