Sam Radford

October 29, 2021

The superficial self-awareness movement

What is your biggest weakness?

I was thinking about this classic interview question today. And we all know the kinds of responses it generates:

“Sometimes I’m too committed for my own good.”

“I’m a perfectionist.”

“I work too hard.”

But have you noticed how no one says:

“I’m insecure and claim other team member’s ideas as my own to feel better about myself.”

Or:

“I’m disorganised.”

In other words, we answer superficially. We project strength under the guise of weakness.

I was thinking about this in the context of the growing self-awareness movement. Many of us are learning the language of self-awareness. We are learning to say all manner of self-aware sounding things. But I’m not convinced there’s an awful lot of actual self-awareness taking place!

True self-awareness cannot be captured in an Instagram quote. It’s not an opportunity to convey strength and growth via phoney vulnerability.

Also, self-awareness is nothing new. It’s been practiced by the mystics for centuries. And here’s the thing: it’s painful! Self-awareness allows us to see ourselves as we truly are. Most of us aren’t ready for that! It’s a journey too; we peel back more layers day by day, week by week, year by year. I know I still have a long way to go on my own journey!

But how many of us are committed to that life-long expedition of true self-discovery about ourselves? Warts and all? There is freedom to be found on this pathway, but it’s not a jolly affair. There’s a weightiness and depth to walking this road. 

My concern is that many of us have settled for a superficial version of self-awareness. It allows us to impress upon others – and perhaps even ourselves – the idea that we’re self-aware, but it doesn’t ever get to the real – and hard! – work of self-awareness.

–Sam

Got some thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you – do hit reply or drop me a note.

@samradford | samradford.com