Have you ever asked yourself “Who am I”, and started to wonder about yourself?

The ability to do this, and to reflect about your life, your habits and personality, and to make any self-improvement would be impossible without a level of self-awareness.

To be unaware would involve some unconsciousness, and an inability to understand our own needs, wants, weak points or bad habits. Some people refer to this as having no insight into oneself.

Most of us have a fair degree of self-awareness which is necessary for getting on in life, especially with other people. We need to know ourselves on an intellectual as well as on an emotional level. It’s helpful to know our values, attitudes and beliefs and what drives our behaviour.

Do you know your values? Most of my clients would look puzzled if I asked them this question. They did not really understand until the meaning of values was explained, and then it was obvious.

But what was not so obvious to them was how values, attitudes, beliefs and prejudices influenced their life and their behaviour.

Many people would hold certain values but actually not act on them. For example they had a value of honesty but had no qualms about cheating someone. Whereas with other people, certain values guided and drove their lives. But we are not even the sum of our attitudes, values and beliefs.

We’ve all been exposed to the facile statement “You are what you eat”, but of course that’s not who you really are.

Our essence is not the fat, or orange juice, chocolate, meat, carbohydrates or any other nutrients that we eat. We are not even the effort that we take to modify what we have eaten.

We are so complex in character that we are not even what we do or what we think, or what we feel. We are so much more than our bodies, our thoughts, our behaviours or the sum of our habits.

And unfortunately even after endless self-analysis we can still have blind spots about ourselves which prevent an accurate assessment of that mysterious person – me.

One way of assessing yourself

A couple of guys in the 1950’s invented something which turned out to be very helpful in self-understanding and awareness. It’s still used and is called the Johari Window after the inventors, Joseph Luff and Harry Ingram.

Imagine a box divided down the middle and across the middle so that you have 4 areas labelled as below:

The Johari Window Model

Known to yourself

Open and public area
Known to you and others

Hidden Area
What you see in yourself but which you hide from others.

Unknown to yourself

Blind spot for you, but others can see this part of you.

Unknown Area
Both you and others are unaware of this part of you.

In the first open box we have information about ourselves which we know about and freely share with others.

If we get feedback about ourselves from others and understand it, then the blind spot may become smaller, and the open box area can become larger with shared information.

In the Hidden Area are things which we prefer to keep hidden from others. These things may include feelings, some of our history, secrets or information we wish to keep private. We are aware of these things but others are not aware. We may choose at some time to reveal information to some trusted people.

The Unknown Area has information, feelings, experiences, and other events which are unknown to the owner, and also to others. The owner of this area may at some time discover some of this information via the observation and feedback of others.

How to use the Johari Window concept to help find out who we really are:

Generate a long list of words to describe the sort of person you think you are. You could get help from others who see different aspects of you. Make sure you have about fifty adjectives to describe yourself.

Words might include –

Happy, hopeful, helpful, idealistic, shy, self-conscious, wise, organised conscientious, extroverted, introverted, intelligent, tense, calm, clever, and so on.

Pick five or six words from the list that you think best describe you.

See if there is an overlap in your choice of adjectives and that of your friends. Also see some of the differences, and note whether you are surprised about some of them, or whether you disagree with some of them.

Sometimes you may discover that others see abilities that you have not noticed. They may see some of your fears, or attitudes that you never knew you had.

You may notice that some of the words that you use to describe yourself are the values that guide your life, for example, dependable, or reliable.

Other ways of discerning who you really are might be to notice your motivations – why you do, or say certain things. Sometimes your motivations are hidden, even to yourself, but they may be just under the surface of your awareness and it’s helpful to know them.

Ask yourself questions like “Why am I really doing this?” (What is my real motivation) or “Why do I behave in this way when I am with him/her?” Or “Why am I feeling nervous/uncomfortable right now?” “Why didn’t I like that feedback I got a few moments ago?”

These are not idle questions but ones which can be used for change. A change in attitude (towards yourself or towards another), to challenge a prejudice, a pet habit, or a negative belief about yourself.

Use the Johari Window with care

Sometimes using the Johari window can be confronting, and some things are best not communicated to others, that is, they are best kept private and within your own defined boundaries. Be aware that people from other cultures may not feel comfortable using this tool, either to give, or to receive feedback.

But used mindfully and with care it can be a very useful way of finding out Who We Really Are. A first step perhaps to self-awareness, which can help with Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Self-awareness helps us to understand how to work better with others, to use responsible self-analysis, and to overcome some of our deficits.

Reflection and Action

After trying a Johari Window exercise you may like to:

Think about whether you would like to modify information in your “Window”. Can you be more open? Do you need more boundaries? What will you do with negative or positive information about yourself given to you by others?

Write down three things you would like to change, what skills you would need to make the change, and how you would go about this.

Decide when you will make the change, and how long you will take to do this. Put a deadline for developing yourself in this way.

Articles 2017 © Kathleen Crawford

For coaching help on a particular topic please leave your name and email below: