Why Self-Awareness Isn’t Always A Good Thing

By August 6, 2016 No Comments

I love self-discovery (surprise!). And I know I’m not the only one. Just today, I went to Buzzfeed and had the chance to “determine what my type is,” check to see if I have “shit taste in men,” and take a ‘color test’ to reveal my worst quality. In case you were wondering, my worst quality is “too chill.”

Outside of silly Buzzfeed quizzes, we also love Strengthfinders, Myers Briggs, Love Languages, and any other tool that facilitates better knowledge of who we are and why we do things.

A church I used to attend in Los Angeles even held a workshop called “Yellow” where they walked through a lot of these tests. They recognized the importance of teaching their community a common language.

Something that’s taught in Strengthfinders is that there is a balcony and a basement to each strength. As I’m sure you can guess, balcony refers to the positive side of a strength while basement refers to the negative side. For example, one of my top 5 strengths is activator. The ‘balcony’ of an activator is ‘fired up, sparks energy of others, bold, courageous’ while the basement ‘can leave others feeling lost (they haven’t caught up), doesn’t think things through.” Make sense?

So here’s my thesis: I think there’s a balcony and a basement to self-discovery.

Most of these assessments are good (well maybe not all the Buzzfeed quizzes- I don’t honesty want to know if I have ‘shit taste in men’). But the personality tests and the leadership style quizzes-they are. Self-awareness is good. It’s good to know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses. It’s good to speak a common language at a company or in a community. It’s good to learn how to interact with different personality types and how to assemble a team based on strengths and weaknesses.

That’s the balcony.

The basement is this: “knowing yourself” or relying too heavily on self-awareness over self-development can be crippling and negatively impacting.

Whether you have utilized one of the tools I mentioned or are just very self-aware, I want you to hear this. Being an “introvert” does not give you permission to be rude or not to be committed to plans. Identifying as an “extrovert” doesn’t give you a free pass to claim center of attention. Being naturally self-assured doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek humility, just as being positive doesn’t mean you can’t empathize with someone feeling down.

We all ‘know’ this cerebrally. But we don’t all practice it. I cringe when people say “that’s just the way I am” whether it’s regarding stubbornness, anxiety, or ‘having shit taste in men.’

That’s not just the way you are. It’s just the way you are right now. It doesn’t mean you have to stay that way.

Self-discovery and self-awareness are only good if they lead to self-development.

Choose not to live in the basement of self-discovery. Choose to use self-discovery as a tool. Development isn’t usually as fun as discovery, but if you want to grow and make real impact, you’ve got to take the next step.

What have you noticed about yourself that people don’t respond well to? What are some areas of weakness in your personality? How can you practically work to improve those things about yourself?


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