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I was in a change room recently and found myself overhearing a conversation panning out between two people discussing how a third person (not present) really wasn’t pulling her weight in the team, how difficult it was that she didn’t realise her shortcomings and that it was about time the manager quietly took her to one side for some home truths.

Ouch. I was glad it wasn’t me being discussed. But it got me thinking. How often are we unaware of our blind spots, whether it is in sport or life or work? Have you ever experienced a time when you suddenly have that moment of realisation that your own behaviour or thoughts might have contributed to a poor decision, a poor outcome or reduced academic achievement?

It’s not a very comfortable place to be, but developing a greater sense of self-awareness can be very helpful so as to recognise when we might be acting as our own worst enemy.

Recent research has highlighted how the practice of mindfulness can assist us to understand ourselves better: through paying attention to our current experiences of thoughts and feelings and observing them in an accepting and non-judgmental way. Being motivated to look at ourselves in this way might be uncomfortable, so doing it in a non critical way can help to reduce the negative reactivity we might otherwise experience such as feeling inadequate, stupid of or low self worth.

It’s a bit like watching yourself on video, we are often unaware of our facial expressions or fidgettyness. We suddenly start to see ourselves as others see us all the time.

If we are able to know ourselves better, we have a greater chance of recognising our own personality traits and hopefully get to reduce the number of those locker room conversations we otherwise never get to hear about.

E. N. Carlson. Overcoming the Barriers to Self-Knowledge: Mindfulness as a Path to Seeing Yourself as You Really Are. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2013; 8 (2): 173 DOI: 10.1177/1745691612462584

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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