Turn that critical eye on yourself.
Life hacks are wonderful things.
If you’re not familiar with the term, it means any kind of trick, shortcut, or best practice that you can use to make your life better, faster, or simpler. Often times, they’re uber-practical — like ways to organize your phone charger cords or how to pack your suitcase for ultimate space-efficiency — but life hacks can also be applied to your personal relationships as well.
Even your relationship with yourself. (It’s true!)
In our latest Expert video, Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman proposed a life hack scenario to a group of our psychologists, counselors, and life coaches — how can a person get to know themselves better through their relationships with other people?
It’s the ultimate “Know Thyself” hack. We spend so much time judging and critiquing the other people in our lives, so it begs the question — can we turn those critical insights inward? Can we use what we’ve learned in our analyses of others to give us a better understanding of who we are?
The short answer is “YES.”
You can watch their full comments in the video above, but the team of our Experts — Clara Wisner, T-Ann Pierce, Kathryn Foster, and Helen Fisher — definitely suggested some tangible, insightful, and ingenious methods for learning more about yourself by taking a critical look at the relationships in your life.
Here are 5 of their best suggestions…
1. Think of your relationship as a delivery service.
This might sound a little corny, but try to think of a relationship as an actual SHIP, a cargo ship that makes deliveries.
Because it’s important to realize that relationships should be mutually beneficial. When we interact with someone, we should think about what we’re getting from the relationship. Is it love, companionship, empathy, validation? What is that relationship delivering to us that we need to unpack and make room for in our lives? And what does it say about us that we require those deliveries?
Beyond that, once you can start imagining the ship metaphor, you can turn it around and ask yourself, “Well, what am I delivering to my friends and family in return? Am I delivering to them what they need?” It can be really eye-opening.
2. Pause before your respond.
This is a hard one, particularly when emotions are high.
When we react to the people in our lives, it says a lot about our relationship AND what’s going on with us internally. So, try this exercise. The next time, you’re about to give an emotional response to someone in your life — you’re going to yell at them, argue, mock them, etc. — force yourself to take a moment and try to identify the emotion that wells up inside of you before you respond.
That quick pause can tell you VOLUMES about what’s going on inside of you emotionally at the time.
3. Ask yourself “WWID?” (“What Would I Do?”)
We can’t learn anything about ourselves in a vacuum. Because personal insights don’t just appear out of thin air. The majority of the time they come from comparing and contrasting ourselves to others. We derive greater knowledge of ourselves by placing ourselves in context with the rest of the people in our lives.
If someone frustrates us, we can ask ourselves, “Would I do that? Would I respond that way?” If someone does something we admire, we can ask “What would I need to do in my life to respond in a similar fashion?”
While there are unhealthy ways to compare ourselves to others, it can also be a fantastic way to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and use that internal role-playing to learn more about who we are.
4. Train yourself to see the good in people.
This exercise is particularly important if you’re having conflict with the important people in your life. If you’re having a problem or some drama with someone, every day, force yourself to write down one thing you like or appreciate about them.
The things can be small (and you might have to stretch to find them occasionally), but the act of writing those items down will train your mind to seek out positive qualities in people.
And, hopefully, once you learn how to do that with other people, you can start to use that same skill-set to see the good in yourself.
5. Listen to people.
This step sounds so easy, but it really isn’t.
How can you learn about yourself from the people in your life? Well, pretty often, they try to tell you.
They offer constructive criticism or they pay you a compliment. The problem is — we don’t listen. We either get defensive about anything critical OR we immediately turn self-depreciating and refuse to accept the compliment.
That needs to stop. We need to open ourselves up to all of the insights that people offer us every day. It doesn’t mean that everything they say will be true, but it can speak volumes about how they perceive you.
Do you want to know yourself better? Are you struggling with figuring out your own priorities in life? If so, please visit the websites of our Experts and contact T-Ann, Kathryn, Clara, and Helen directly. They’re here to help.