What’s your blind spot?

review mirrorHow often do you ask some variation of the question: What's my blind spot?

If 'never' is your answer—Congratulations. You've just discovered your first one.

Of course, most of us get that we have blind spots. Things we don't know about ourselves that get in our way. But because of the nature of this 'out of sight, out of mind' phenomenon, we can forget. Which is where the trouble begins...

To clarify: blind spots are holes in our awareness about what is getting in the way of getting our needs met, connecting well or succeeding in life. They could be buttons, triggers, lack of skill, unchecked assumptions or beliefs, prejudices, passions or overpowering needs (such as the need to be: right...loved...avoid conflict...etc.).

Some examples of blind spots are:

  1. Having really strong beliefs or opinions about something.
  2. Having predetermined expectations or assumptions about how something should go.
  3. Having poor time management skills.
  4. Having poor stress or anger management skills.
  5. Thinking others are responsible for your stress reactions.
  6. Thinking all problems are your fault.
  7. Having big ego needs.
  8. Thinking you are worthless.
  9. Being a perfectionist.
  10. Being haphazard or sloppy with your efforts.
  11. Getting too easily angered...hurt...anxious...offended.
  12. Saying careless, hurtful or baiting comments unchecked.
  13. Not being open to changing.
  14. Not being able to accept yourself as you are.
  15. Being too impulsive.
  16. Being stuck in a rut.
  17. Thinking too simplistic, or in black-and-white terms.
  18. Making assumptions.
  19. Taking things personally.
  20. Acting as if it is your job to point out everyone's blind spots.

You probably know people: friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors or acquaintances who fit each of these blind spots. But this exercise is about looking in your own mirror. Which can be harder. It's also the key to getting beyond the blind spots that have likely been blindsiding you for years. So when you are ready here are the steps to doing just that:

1. Be curious. Find your blind spots by looking at yourself and at how others react to you. Consider what situations, trip you up regularly.

Notice patterns and defensiveness:

  • Whenever I feel like I am being judged, I start second-guessing myself.
  • I get fired from every job I have. Maybe it's not them?
  • When my partner is upset that I am late, I can't own it. I blame it on—my boss, traffic, last minute emergencies—or start an argument or say 'get off my back'.
  • When I don't get a quick response to my call (text, email), I take it personally.
  • There isn't a single person who hasn't hurt me. Am I too sensitive? Are my expectations too high? Am I picking the wrong relationships?

Ask yourself honest questions. And be open to the answers. Are you really funny? Or do you use humor to dig people? Are all those excuses for being late legitimate? Or does your time management stink?

Consider how others experience you. It takes courage but if you want to learn what your issues are see yourself from others' eyes because they often have to deal with any wreckage you leave behind. What might they say? Just consider the right person. Preferably someone with a dab of kindness and not someone who has been dying to tell you just what they think is wrong with you.

Seek out an objective ear. Finding someone without their own agenda can make hearing easier. People go to therapy to discover their blind spots in a safe way. And as long as you are honest and open to hearing, it can be good feedback in learning how you are getting in your own way. And how to get out of it!

 

2. Own it and make changes. Acknowledging your blind spots is half the battle. Investing in change is the other half. Now it's time to take ownership of your own issues so that others don't have to continue to deal with your blind spots and build resentment.

Invest in new skills. At what point do you take responsibility for your work ethic or how you talk to your partner? What do you need to learn to keep this blind spot from getting in your way? Better communication, time management, stress or anger management skills?  When do you allow more time just in case there is traffic?

Challenge your thoughts. One of the biggest blind spots I have is trusting my thoughts when I am hyper upset, hurt, angry or stressed. And while I continue to work on not getting so reactive in the first place, understanding that I need to take my thoughts with a grain of salt has been a huge step toward not being blindsided again and again.

Now I know to say: ah - you're crazy right now Annie. Your hubby isn't trying to ruin your day by being late. Your kids are just trying to learn how to do things on their own. They aren't rejecting you. That email was from someone who was upset. Don't take it personally... Do get so reactive. Don't make it worse. Just give it a little time. This self-talk goes a long way!

Look for the balance. Do you balance your humor with holding others' edges kindly? Your intelligence with humility? Your insights with respect for others' perspectives?

 

3. Remember kindness and acceptance. To be effective, checking your blind spot has to be done with an eye on learning and a dose of kindness. Watch your shame and perfectionism which are their own blind spots. Of course it can get frustrating that you keep getting into the same kinds of 'accidents'. Or lost on the same roads because you aren't paying attention or because you get so easily distracted. But kindness goes a lot farther than self-recrimination.

Don't be so hard on yourself. Because while sometimes we are oblivious to the fact that we really don't know everything, we might also forget that we are pretty damn smart too. It's the Pretty Woman Effect as in: "The bad stuff is easier to believe. You ever notice that?"

You can't change everything and you will never be perfect. Strive to be your best but also practice accepting yourself even if sometimes you...talk too much...judge others...take things personally...think you know everything.... Remember we all have blind spots and it doesn't make us bad people.

 

4. Make it a habit. Just like regularly glancing over your shoulder to know what is around you while driving, it pays to make a regular (not obsessive!) habit of checking in with yourself.

The good news is that it's likely that there won't be anything there. But pay attention to when you get that familiar sensation that you might be missing something. And check in with any variation of the question: What's my blind spot? (What am I missing? How am I getting in my own way?) It's a pretty simple habit (though you still need to practice it).

In the words of Dick Cavett: It is a rare person who wants to hear what they don't want to hear. Be a rare person. Just remember to balance it with kindness.

Here's to new vision and better eye sight.

  • Chris Flood

    I loved the article, especially Dick Cavetts quote. The hardest thing for most people is to listen to what they don't want to. That quote hit home with me.

    • Chris - Thanks for reading the article and for the comment! And I agree. That quote is one that I try really hard to live by. In fact whenever I find myself wanting to not hear something I probably need to, I try to use the mantra: Be a rare person Annie. It is hard though!

  • Here is an excellent, in depth article on the subject! http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/08/27/willful-blindness-margaret-heffernan/