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The limits of self-awareness

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Getting external feedback is key to illuminate your blind spots

Two goldfish in a bowl

Self-awareness is one of the keys to personal and professional growth.


Having said that, I find it fascinating how a lot of people (I’m absolutely including myself here) tend to either overestimate or underestimate themselves. To a point where I’m asking myself: “Can we ever truly know ourselves?”


You're either better than you think, or worse


On one end of the spectrum, we encounter the "Dunning-Kruger effect", causing us to overestimate our capabilities and leading us to believe we are better than we actually are.


On the other end, there's the infamous "Impostor Syndrome", where we underestimate ourselves, feeling that we don't deserve the successes we've achieved.


No matter how high a level of self-awareness we achieve, it seems that we’re not able to accurately understand our abilities and potential. So maybe, self-awareness also means understanding the limits of self-awareness.


Water is to fish as the mind is to humans.

We are like the proverbial fish who can’t see the water because they are surrounded by it. Water is to fish as the mind is to humans. Our entire perception is filtered through the mind, and just as the fish can’t get out of the water, we can’t get out of our minds to observe them from the outside.


BUT… others can.


The power of external feedback


The solution lies in seeking an outside perspective. As a career coach, I have witnessed the power of asking for external feedback many times. Whether it’s through coaching, mentorship, or open conversations with trusted friends and colleagues, gaining insights from those around us can be truly eye-opening.


Getting feedback is the most effective way to shine a light on our blind spots, fostering better self-understanding and thus facilitating personal and professional growth.


So, the next time you find yourself contemplating your skills or doubting your accomplishments, remember to get an external perspective.

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