It’s often said in Western culture that you are what you do, and in the new technology era, what you do has a personal brand. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms paved the way so that we can not only have our own brand, but we can market it, sell it, and pack everything we are into a 150-character bio. I’ve often looked at people’s careers as described on their social media platforms, and thought, “It must feel so nice and simple to just do one thing really well.”
The truth is, we aren’t just one thing and our ever-shifting self-concept is not nice and simple. The “personal brand” phenomenon can become even more confusing in the middle of a career or job change, when the way you view yourself and the way others view you profoundly shifts. The introductory, “and what do you do,” conversation or the, “what project are you working on now,” can launch a fresh episode of internal panic.
So what is there to do? How do we get to know ourselves again in the midst of major life transitions? It starts with an honest look at ourselves and honest feedback from friends.
The Johari Window
In 1955, an American Psychologist by the name of Johari created the concept now termed, “the Johari window.” This four windows technique can help you better understand your relationship to yourself and your relationship with others at any time in your life, but especially during transitions. We will explore these four windows of the self below.
Step one: How do you see yourself?
Using a set of adjectives, list out your opinion about yourself.
Ex. Creative, kind, energetic, fashionable
Step two: How do others see you?
Send this same list of adjectives to a few trusted friends, family members, or colleagues, and ask them to list out their perception of you.
Ex. Creative, kind, confident, funny
Step three: Place the adjectives from both you and others in the 4 quadrants.
Quadrant 1 (The Arena): These are the adjectives and qualities about you that are known to both you and others. This is where most communication takes place, leading to open, connected relationships with yourself and others. Unsurprisingly, this is the quadrant you want to work toward expanding the most.
Quadrant 2 (The Blind Spot): These are qualities about you that are obvious to others, but that you can’t see in yourself. For example, others might see you as confident, even though you don’t feel confident on the inside. You reduce the blind spot by seeking feedback from others.
Quadrant 3 (The Façade): These are traits that feel obvious to you, but that others don’t see.
This might be a deliberate attempt to hide parts of ourselves we don’t trust with others, such as fears, feelings, past failures, and secrets . Or it might just be inadvertent. Whether the “hidden area” is on purpose or inadvertently, this quadrant is for traits you are hiding from others.
Quadrant 4 (The Unknown): These are attributes/traits that neither you nor anyone else selected for you.
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
In the midst of transitions (job or otherwise), it’s easy for our true identity to get lost in the 150-character world—both who we are to ourselves and who we are to others. This exercise takes a little bit of forethought to send around to a few trusted friends, but the payoff is the gift that keeps on giving. You ’ll notice a change in your relationships, communication, self-awareness in personal and professional settings, and a renewed sense of identity in the midst of a career transition.
And just a reminder, you are not your job. You’re a person.
If you are reading this and feeling lost inside yourself or stuck in the midst of a transition, I’d love to connect with you and support you on your journey to identity development, self-awareness, and clarity of purpose. Give a call today to ask questions, inquire on availability, or schedule an appointment.
Written by therapist Sarah Heinss