Self-Awareness: Do You Know the Color of Your Lens (or Lenses)?


Does your lens distort what you see?

I’d like to begin by asking you to reflect on this famous quote by philosopher and mathematician René Descartes.

  • “I think, therefore I am.”

I expect that most of you have heard this phrase before, but have you stopped to think about what it might mean?  Both what Descartes intended as well as other ways it might be interpreted?  What did this phrase bring to mind for you?  If you would like to read more about René Descartes and the origins of this phrase, click here.

I’d like to now pose another question.

  • What’s the value of self awareness?

For some of you, your first reaction might be “what is self awareness.”  To me, self awareness is simply being aware of yourself – your thought patterns, your motivations, your typical as well as atypical behaviors.  It’s about knowing who you are, what you believe, and how you operate.  

We are always interpreting things.  Always and forever, we cannot help it.  What has come before, the past, influences how we presently see things.  What we are currently thinking about, recent experiences, our current emotional states, as well as our intended outcomes affects how we perceive things in both small and large ways.  Are you conscious or unconscious of this?  

Another way you might think about self-awareness is as the ability to step outside of yourself to observe yourself.  In this manner, you become both the actor and the observer.  The more self-aware you are, the more innately you do this – both consciously and unconsciously. 

Everything we do is viewed through our personal filters and lenses.  I personally prefer to focus on lenses, as this implies that I can both recognize it and have the ability to remove it.  Filters, while useful to notice, are more difficult to impact directly.  As a side note regarding self awareness, my preference for lenses over filters could be considered a filter/lens itself… 

When self awareness is very low, the outcome is frequently a distortion – of events, of emotions, and of statements made by others.  As self awareness goes down, our bias and skewing of information, data, intentions, and people goes up.  Conversely, the more self aware you are, the more you can reduce the filters and/or lenses that you apply and see with clarity. 

As we become more conscious of ourselves and these elements, I believe that we are better able to “remove” what I refer to as the various “lenses that we place over our eyes.”  We gain the ability to question your own thoughts and reactions.  As a result, we are able to become more objective in our evaluations and interpretations.

The more self aware we are, the closer we automatically align our outward behaviors with our inner standards.  We become better able to observe when they are not in sync. 

With this new context, I’d like you to once again think about this question for just a moment.

  • What’s the value of self awareness?

Now let me pose a series of questions to you:

  • What’s the value of your own self awareness? 
  • What’s the value of interacting with another individual who is self aware?
  • What would be the value of higher self awareness in general, in all people?

Now some more questions – none of them trick questions, just reflection questions, I promise.

  • What frame of reference were you using for the initial question?  Yourself, someone else, in general?
  • How did thoughts/reactions to the first question compare to the next three? 
  • Did you have yet another viewpoint than the three I mentioned?  If so, what triggered that viewpoint?

Let’s now take it a step further…

  • What’s the value of a manager who is self-aware?
  • What’s the value of a leader who is self-aware?

I don’t know about you, but those questions give me some serious food for thought.  I can see real changes happening if the level of self awareness went up.

Wondering why I mentioned “Color” in the title?  A “tip of the hat” to the old saying about “wearing rose colored glasses”.  No, I don’t want, nor do I wear rose colored glasses.  That being said, I do believe that a little pink hue is better than the dreary old grey I see too much of these days.  My hope is that we can all find ways to make our lenses a bit more clear.  To remove those various layers of color, one at a time.  To see ourselves and others with better clarity.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to read two prior articles, Stop, Look, and Listen and A Matter of Perspective, Experience, and Imagination.  Why you ask…because they might just help you with your own self-awareness and awareness of the world around you.  And that my reader, is the entire point of this article.   Cheers.

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