Seeing Toothpicks

One of the main skills for identity development is having the ability to self-reflect and self-evaluate. I had a conversation with one of my students – about their strengths and talents – and it was a great conversation where you help someone “self-reflect.” It helps you to see who you are. It helps you to see your talents and abilities – and all of your other identity features – when you are able to take a look at yourself.

It is this ability to see yourself as other people see you. It’s easy enough to see ourselves as how we ‘think’ other people see us. There is a difference. It’s taking on the perspective of others – not our perspective of what we might think others see.

You can get pretty good at self-reflection. You can get pretty good taking a step back – from yourself – and seeing yourself from that perspective. You can see yourself, but not really see everything about yourself – because you are you. There is this side of you that you just cannot see.

If you’ve ever seen or studied the Johari Window – you will see that there is a quadrant where people can see and know things about you that you cannot see yourself. Then there’s also this quadrant where there are things that are true of you that neither you or anyone else can see. It might be developmental or a lack of experience of yourself (another great blog post idea btw), but there is just parts of you that you are not able to know or see.

It reminds me of the Bible passage that speaks about how we are actually pretty good at seeing the planks or logs in other people’s eye, but we can’t see the toothpick in our own. Many people talk about the “judging others” part of the passage. We should definitely not be judgmental, but there is an aspect of that passage that is positive – the side that allows us to know about the toothpicks in our eyes because the people around us can see those things. We need people to point out our toothpicks. They eventually make us better. We cannot know how people think about us – without asking people what they think.

If you are interested in identity development – you need people to help you see toothpicks. Your friends work, but they’re your friends. They’ll be nice – I guess depending on what kind of friend they are. Your therapist will help you. Mine does. She points out things and helps me to see things right in front of my eyes. It’s so helpful. So whether it’s your friend, family, or therapist – ask them to show your some toothpicks.


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