Alright, I’ll admit the title of this article is a bit bold. I promise it wasn’t to click-bait you. I truly think I’m onto something interesting that I’d like to share with you.
For those of you who kept up with my previous blogs, you’ll know that I often liked to take my engineering background and create systems of thinking around the concepts/ideas/experiences/insights in the personal development space. My struggle in the past is that I was dominated by the right/wrong mentality and so when I created and shared these systems, it often came from a place of “this is right! It has to be this way.” As you can imagine, as the natural course of evolution took place, systems became broken/irrelevant and I became embarrassed of potentially being ‘wrong’. For that reason, many of my past posts have regretfully been deleted in an effort to spare a scarred ego.
Thankfully, I’ve matured (questionable at times) over the years and have come to accept that all thinking is subject to further exploration as time goes on. And even though what’s created today may not relate to who I am tomorrow, it will likely be relevant to someone else at the same time.
With this in mind, the following article and system of thinking is not intended to come to any conclusions. Instead, treat it like the beginning of an interesting exploration. It is open to change by you, me and anyone really who sees value in evolving the system for the benefit of their personal development and journey in self-awareness.
Now that we’ve got the preface out of the way, let’s dive into the good stuff..
Yesterday morning a model for self-awareness came to mind in the early morning, and by end of day I was consumed by the thought of it. I have feeling that I ‘received’ the information due to my current desire to create a road map for us to leverage on our journey into self-awareness.
You see, when we talk about self-awareness, what do we really mean?
It’s one thing to use the word and associate it with it ideas of how we perceive ourselves in any given moment, but imagine the power in being able to break it down even further so we can become more familiar with what aspects of ourselves we need to become aware of.
What if we could take the idea of self-awareness and quantify the ‘what’ and ‘how’ in more detail?
I’d like to introduce you to this model (please excuse the amateur google-slide design skills)…
I will go in-depth with each part, but before I do let’s categorize the two main areas of the model like this…
Let’s begin with an explanation of how the model works and from there go into how you can use it on your journey to self-awareness…
In the top part of the model, you will notice a head surrounded by 3 boxes. Imagine that these 3 boxes act as constraints/boundaries for you as an individual and in doing so can be regarded on the pressure you face in any given moment. Since what’s in the 3 boxes is variable, we can say that the pressure can vary as well. Sometimes you may feel ‘a lot’ of pressure, whereas other times not as much. A good way to visualize this is to imagine how you would react if you were in a box in which the walls were closing in on you, compared to one where the walls were stationary (or perhaps even expanding outwards).
Since the pressure is dependant on what’s in each of the 3 boxes, let’s now investigate those further:
Your circumstances are the environmental conditions you are experiencing in any given moment. I don’t just mean the physical environment (i.e. location, living conditions), but the overall environment in which you are experiencing life (i.e. access to resources, amount of resources possessed, type of relationships, impact of relationships).
In terms of its effects on pressure, we could say that when circumstances are ‘good’ relative to the persons expectations of what they should be, the pressure is less. Say someone believes that ‘good’ circumstances means having a steady place to live, a job, and a partner, then we could say someone who doesn’t have their own home, is unemployed and is single would feel a lot of pressure as compared to if all those expectations were met or exceeded.
Patterns are the automatic series of behaviours we hold onto in any given moment (that is related to that moment). They can be either completely unconscious (no idea they exist), or semi-unconscious (we are aware of them but are unsure of their impact or how to change them) or conscious (we are aware of them, understand their impact and actively working on changing them).
We can say the pressure will vary based on where the pattern lies in our consciousness – unconscious patterns create the most pressure, and conscious patterns the least.
For example, if someone stares at you, and an unconscious pattern that perceives that to mean they are judging you, you may have the automatic response of yelling at them – creating high pressure on you in that moment. However, if someone stares at you, and you recognize you have a pattern to usually perceive that and judgement and yell, and therefore choose to do something differently – this creates a much lower pressure on you in that moment.
Identity is the idea you’ve created about who you are in any given moment. It’s basically your self-perception in terms of thoughts, emotions and behaviours.
The pressure is relative to how congruent your perceived identity is with your desired identity.
In other words, if you desired to be a good person and you perceived your thoughts, emotions and behaviours to align with what a ‘good person’ should think, feel and do, then you will experience a lot less pressure. However, if your thoughts, emotions and behaviours are misaligned with your concept of a ‘good person’ you will experience a higher pressure from this in-congruency.
Our projection is how we translate the cumulative pressure outwards towards others.
You will notice from the model that 2 aspects relate to the projection relative to one’s self (defensive, vulnerable) and 2 aspects are relative to others (empathetic, judgmental). You’ll also recognize that defensive-judgmental are complimentary, just as vulnerable-empathetic are also complimentary (meaning they work in tandem… you judge others as a way to defend yourself or empathize as a way to feel vulnerable). Finally, while negative and positive are both very subjective, for the sake of explanation I’ve identified the commonly perceived negative ones in red and the commonly perceived positive ones in green.
Next, while the model shows 4 distinct ways in which we project ourselves, I don’t believe we are ever able to exist within just one at a time. Instead, I believe we are experiencing all 4 aspects of projection in various degrees, the ones in higher degrees being the ones we project more of to others.
For example, going back to the example above of someone not having a steady home, no job and being single, causing high pressure based on their expectations they have of their environment – while it may cause them to be more defensive/judgemental when interacting with others, it does not mean they are not/unable to project empathy/vulnerability. All it means is that the d/j projection is just stronger to them at that time based on the pressure they are facing in that moment.
This leads me to the next assumption we can make about this model, and that is – lower pressure correlates with higher capacity to consciously choose one’s projection, while higher pressure correlates with lower capacity to consciously choose one’s projection.
To help make morse sense of the model, let me use myself as a personal example.
Just a few months ago the pressure I felt was extremely hight at most times. As I mentioned in previous posts, I felt as though I was in a depression (identity), was living in my sister’s basement (circumstance), had come back from what I considered a failed trip (identity), and continued to struggle with wanting to maintain a good reputation for fear of embarrassment (pattern).
This then translated to a strong degree of defensive/judgemental projection when interacting with others. I wanted to be ‘right’ so would talk to them as though I knew what was ‘right’ for them, and when they disagreed I would judge them as not listening or wanting to work on themselves.
Even though deep down I knew that I too had things I had to work on and was not necessarily ‘right’ in what I was saying, and that they were doing the best they could in improving on their weaknesses based on their capacity and resources, because the pressure was so high I wasn’t really in tune with the vulnerable/empathy side. It was there, but I was either incognizant of it or even when aware of it, didn’t have the capacity to acknowledge it.
During this time I became very attached to someone in a relationship, since I had pulled away from my passions, career and social circles, and began to take these projections out on them.
Using The Model For Your Personal Development & Self-Awareness
Hopefully you’ve been able to follow my explanation of the model.
(I am starting to think it might be best to include a video at some point to help!)
If you are, you might be developing an idea of how to use this model.
The obvious way you can use this is to help you, at any given time, become more aware of the pressure you are facing and the projection you are exemplifying. This is an amazing tool to do just that! At any moment, to propel yourself into a high sense of self-awareness you can ask yourself:
1) What is the magnitude of pressure I’m feeling based on my current circumstances, patterns, and identity?
2) How am I projecting myself to someone/others based on this pressure?
Secondly, what might also be coming to mind is that once you become aware of the pressure you’re under and the projection you’re exemplifying, working to change them. However, I am going to argue something different.
While using self-awareness to change can be a very valuable process, I feel it often adds an unnecessary layer of ‘should/shouldn’t’ to your personal development. In other words, in making an effort to change you’re in a sense saying where you are is not where you should be.
However, what if where you are exactly where you should be?
What if instead of using this model to change, you use it to become more accepting and honest of where you are.
What I’m trying to get at is instead of trying to change any of the aspects of your pressure/projection – learn to accept your current state of being and how to communicate it to others.
For example, I gave an example above on how the model could apply to me just a few months ago. Had I used it at that time, I might have said to myself “How do I reduce the pressure and project myself differently?” In other words, I would have been using the self-awareness gained from the tool to change. However, what I’m arguing in my last few paragraphs is to instead ask “How can I come accept my current pressure and projection for what they are now and how can I effectively communicate this holistic view of myself to others?”
I find in this acceptance we usually create the clarity to change effortlessly.
As they often say, “change is the only constant in life”.
Regardless of what you try or do, you are changing. However, to become self-aware, and learn to acknowledge and accept who you are in every moment and be able to properly communicate that to others – that’s where I believe the real magic to life is.
What do you think?
How would you use this model?
How would you alter this model?