I’m fascinated by the concept of self-actualization, the concept of reaching one’s own full potential. A related concept is self-awareness, or seeing yourself as other people do.
These are fascinating concepts to me because of how easy it often is for someone else to see exactly why you aren’t achieving your goals, and so hard to see this yourself.
I get the chance to talk to entrepreneurs-in-the-making every week. Almost every one of them has something specific holding them back, that seems obvious to me and other outsiders, but is invisible or insignificant to the entrepreneur in question.
I’ve noticed a pattern in these conversations, and I think I know why it’s so hard to see things about ourselves or our situation that other people easily identify.
We’re simply lying to ourselves.
We actually know about what’s holding us back, but we choose to believe something else is to blame.
For example, let’s say you’re a freelancer who’s looking for clients. You have a website, a target market, a service offering, a blog, and a small email list, but you can’t find enough clients.
The lie you might tell yourself is that your foundation is solid. You studied branding and know your audience. You built a solid website and offering. Something isn’t clicking, but you feel like it’s close to coming together. If the right person discovers you, or if you could just find the right coach, you’ll be off to the races.
In reality, you’re glossing over a very important detail: you don’t have a shred of evidence that people want what you’re selling. Sure, you get nods of approval in conversations, but nobody is convinced enough to hit the “buy” button.
Why would you lie to yourself about this important detail? Ego perhaps. Maybe you don’t want to admit that you’re more of a beginner than you thought. All the work you’ve done felt important, and admitting that you have to take several steps back is scary.
Or, maybe you know deep down that you have to rebuild, but you don’t want to put in the work necessary. Or, perhaps you’re afraid of putting in your best effort because you still might not find customers… and then what? You aren’t ready for judgement about your idea, because you’ve tied your self worth to whether this thing succeeds.
Whatever the reason, telling yourself this lie is sabotaging your success. If you could instead see yourself and your business like other people see it, you’d make progress instead of being stuck.
If self-awareness is so important to our success, we should pursue self-awareness as a primary goal in life. But like I explained, what’s obvious to other people isn’t going to be so obvious to you.
The solution then, is to live for feedback from people you trust, and people you’re targeting. Maybe you’ve gotten some feedback already, but have you really listened? If you’re lying to yourself to protect your ego or in hopes that you’re closer than you really are, there’s a good chance you’re selectively listening to feedback, and tragically missing the important stuff.
When you get feedback next, record the conversation so you can listen again and again. Have someone else listen to the feedback as well, and summarize how they hear it.
You’re too close to the problem to see things clearly. The only way to stop lying to yourself is to involve others. Eventually, you’ll get closer and closer to self-awareness, and from self-awareness comes self-actualization.