It took me a long time to understand why, in the beginning, I struggled so much with growth and achieving goals. A young girl raised in low income housing, on public assistance who struggled with her identity and had a baby at age 17!? My life was a recipe for a tough adulthood. Which was challenging to overcome (but not impossible). It took me an even longer period of time to overcome the numbing poor mentality and ability to over-estimate and over-analyze literally everything. Yet, I did it. And I shared a lot of it on this blog.
Looking back, I feel I’ve been being a bit misleading with sharing my experiences with building a life and a business I am happy with and proud of. Inspiring others to believe and work hard towards living the life they imagine. I wouldn’t change any of the experiences I’ve had or advices I’ve shared as a result (task lists, brand identity and marketing plans are absolutely necessities on your road towards success), but I would add a part that I didn’t realize, until recently, matters the most.
The clearer self concept. A journey through a clearer self is what truly helped me persevere until I succeeded. And became someone who is fearless, feeling doubt yet choosing not to allow myself to be delayed or reduced by it.
I spent a significant part of my collegiate studies reading studies about the self. Many of the studies measured people’s beliefs about themselves to see whether having a clearer self-concept is related to other positive experiences. I can say first hand through research results and personal experiences, they do. And as I’ve mentioned, growth though self development has opened amazing doors.
People with a clearer sense of themselves tend to have higher self-esteem. Having a clearer sense of self is related to lower levels of depression and rumination, reduced general and social anxiety, better relationships with others, less aggressive and hostile toward other people. And in romantic relationships, this can mean greater satisfaction with the relationship and commitment to it.
Growth through becoming clear about who you are can also begin the journey towards overcoming a major area of struggle and stagnation, overvaluing the opinions of others.
In another study I learned there was evidence that people overestimate the extent to which their actions and appearance are noted by others, a phenomenon coined the spotlight effect.
In this particular study undergraduate students were asked to wear an embarrassing t-shirt to class, then share how many people they thought noticed and as a result, judged them. Turns out they overestimated the how many people by a large amount, and did the same when asked to wear a t-shirt with a positive image on it, like Bob Marley or Martin Luther King Jr. In study after study, experimental subjects thought that other people would notice them much more than they actually did. Much like many of us in our businesses, personal lives, careers and even when we’re amongst our friends.
We are naturally conscious of ourselves, what we are thinking, how we look, and what we are doing. There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute center of. And so it’s hard to block the inference that others share this focus. If I’m wearing a ridiculous t-shirt, I’m thinking about it and so I assume that you are too.
Or consider the ups and downs of everyday life. I said something insensitive at a happy hour last week, and I’m still a bit mortified. Yesterday, I led a great meeting; today is a real bad hair day (I’m heading to the hair salon immediately). Because such contrasts are so dominant in our minds, we think others are sensitive to them as well; we think they notice. But research finds that they don’t, at least not to the extent we think they do.
Other experiments explore the illusion of transparency. When asked to lie or hide information, people overestimate how well others can guess what’s happening in their minds. Again, the spotlight of consciousness is at fault. If I stole the money and put it in my purse, and then lie and say that I don’t know where it went, I am exceedingly conscious that the money is in my purse. This intensity of consciousness makes me think that the truth is plain to others. It usually isn’t; we are better liars than we think we are.
We often regret our failures to act, and one reason for these failures is our worry about embarrassment, what others will think of us.
We can combat the spotlight effect by putting ourselves in circumstances that turn down the dial of self-consciousness. One essential circumstance being focusing on self development.
This can aide in growth which can positively impact who we are, how we show up, what we commit to, how we deliver, what we love and what we spend our time on.