Todd Dewett | July 22, 2020
(an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Live Hard)
Self-improvement isn’t difficult to understand. You just have to ask the right questions and seek answers honestly. You must be genuinely open to feedback – a terribly useful and sometimes painful catalyst for change. Feedback comes from many sources: self-reflection, observation, task performance, comments from others, opportunities won or lost, etc.
Some feedback, say a promotion or moment of praise, is joyous and easy to accept. However, many times, feedback is more difficult or ambiguous. Be careful. Simple positive affirmations feel good, but don’t always help you move forward. It’s the difficult bits of feedback that usually contain the insights required to move forward.
That’s where your journey begins: embracing one of the most challenging sources of feedback you’ll ever encounter: yourself. It’s time to learn how to look in the mirror.
You have to look deeply – without flinching, without looking away, without distorting, without making excuses, and without shattering it by throwing it to the ground. I need you to acknowledge that growth often requires pain. Accept this and wear it like a badge of honor. Ready?
Let me help you test whether or not you’re ready. I want you to know how comfortable you are with the real you. Here is a simple test. The next time you’re with a friend, colleague, or loved one, give them your phone. Do this quickly. Don’t overthink it – just do it. Give them the phone and instruct them to take a picture of you, head to toe. Tell them to do it right where you’re standing. Just one picture, no more, no less.
Now tell them to post it immediately to all of their social channels with no filters, no editing, and with whatever caption they’d care to add, and to be sure to tag you. You’re not allowed to look at it. It’s theirs, not yours, and it’s to be shared with the world immediately. For the next twenty-four hours, you are not allowed to look at the picture, or who likes it, or who comments, etc.
If you find this easy to do this, you’re ahead of most people. That suggests you have a lot of self-confidence, very little worry about what others think, or both. Looking in the mirror might be a bit easier for you. Not necessarily easy, but easier.
If doing this was difficult, but you did it – congratulations. This is your wake-up call. It’s time to start caring a bit less about posturing to maximize how you look in the eyes of others. You need to know that looking in the mirror will feel a lot like you feel while taking that test: worried, shaken, unsure. Fine. Accept it. This is required before real growth can begin.
If you could not do it, that is fairly normal, and, well, you have a lot of work to do. In fact, you may be lost. You are focused on things that basically don’t matter and allow them to distract you. It’s imperative that you face this issue now, before you become stuck on a journey bereft of meaning.
The point is simple, but powerful. We get lost acting, managing impressions, and resisting or avoiding real feedback. Instead of life-enriching soul searching, we passionately cling to identities that don’t accurately reflect who we are. Who we really are fades into the background, shamed into being quiet. Social media is fun, but it’s not the feedback you’re looking for. What you need is a good mirror.
When you look into the mirror, you can’t lie. It’s the opposite of online forums and many face-to-face conversations. No posturing, just real data. You see something closer to the truth about yourself. Or, I should say, that opportunity is there, if you engage the task sincerely.