Holding a piece of quartz, I am reminded of the intricacy of our emotional lives. The smooth exterior belies the fragmented nature of what lies within. Turning the quartz reveals cracks and flaws within, but rather than being imperfections it is this that adds to the beauty and makes the stone what it is, unique.
Movement divulges a glittering rainbow of colors as the light refracts though the surfaces not noticeable when we just glance at the quartz as an object in passing. And so, it is with our internal lives. They are so much deeper and more complex than what our exterior image reveals. There are hidden depths in all of us, unknown by the observer and often unknown to ourselves unless we take the time to look within.
By being kind to ourselves and seeing our imperfections as what is unique, as part of how our selves have been created over our lifetime rather than something to be crushed or denied, we are able to come to a better understanding of ourselves. We are able to value the depths of our experience and how it impacts on ourselves and others.
Self-reflection is the basis of accountability and growth. Until we reach an understanding of the ways in which we sabotage ourselves on a daily basis real change at an inner level remains out of reach. As Jung so accurately reflected in the early 20th century, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
Emotional intelligence is a hot topic for leaders today but reading and studying techniques will never allow you to truly develop these abilities unless you are able to reflect on your internal life and gain insight into the issues that are relevant to you as a unique individual. Whether you are the leader of a multinational corporation, or simply of yourself and your own goals, you must be willing to explore the good, bad and ugly aspects of yourself and honestly assess your strengths and weaknesses. Only then can you make progress and take yourself and your organization to the top.
By entering into this process, we also come to understand that we can never truly know the experience of others. That the facets of their internal experiences must differ from our own in the way that each piece of quartz is unique. They do not feel the same, respond the same to a situation or think the same thoughts we do, however logical those thoughts may appear to us. This recognition allows us to acknowledge their difference, their unique experience, and to allow ourselves space to come to understand others and interact with them in different ways.
A lack of emotional self-awareness can be damaging to your self-confidence, effectiveness and your career. This is never more evident than in times of change and transition when the importance of clarity and self-assurance is paramount to the impression and impact you make. Emotions triggering stress are a common stumbling block for us all. Neurologically, stress blocks our ability to think clearly and to make informed choices. It impacts the way in which we react to and interact with others. At times it gives us cause for regrets. Gaining insight into your unique imperfections allows you, not to remove them, but to adapt, to find ways to work with them and accept them so they no longer interfere with your ability to succeed.
Self-awareness is known to be the strongest predictor of overall success. Awareness of one’s own limitations enables leaders to develop and work with others who have differing strengths to them. But accept that self-awareness is an ongoing process that you work at throughout life and that insight can explode your leadership to new levels.
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Dr Kate Price is an Executive Coach and Business Consultant with a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She has 20 years’ experience working with individuals, groups and organizations enabling them to overcome difficulties and develop skills in life and leadership. Contact her at [email protected] or visit the website.