The first time I did this exercise was about 10 years ago while job seeking. I was researching common interview questions and one that was giving me anxiety was “Give three adjectives to describe yourself.” I decided to utilize my network and posted a request to my friends on Facebook to give one adjective they would use to describe me. Some of their answers I expected: Loyal, Caring, and Generous. Others blew my mind. Fearless. Creative. Social. These were words I would NEVER have used to describe myself, yet my friends used them over and over. It sparked some interesting conversations and forced me to take a long hard look at how critical I was being of myself.
A life changing shift in my paradigm happened two years ago in Susan Leahy’s Leadership Bootcamp. Susan spoke to how much we all dislike boxes and labels, but how we need to accept responsibility for putting ourselves in the biggest and most confining boxes in which we often sit. BUT, we can change that by throwing out the stories that do not serve us. We have to remember that we are not the stories we tell. We are the stories we CHOOSE to tell.
The powerful lesson I took away was that I needed to move out of the boxes I wasn’t comfortable in and move into boxes I had built. For example, the story I told myself a couple of years ago was I was not good at networking because I am very shy. Yet my friends kept telling me I was “fearless” and “social.” I had to reexamine my reality. The new box I built is that I’m an extroverted introvert. I’m actually pretty good at networking, as long as I remember to schedule downtime to recharge my internal battery.
I ask you to take a look at your boxes. Are you sitting in a box that someone else built for you? Do you believe your perception as gospel? Are you willing to do a little research into how others perceive you? Start by giving your network a little homework. Ask them for two or three adjectives they would use to describe you. Or maybe ask what talent you have they wish they had. Or ask what skills they believe come easily to you. You may be surprised to find how different their perception of you is from your own. I know I was.