I thought I had it all figured out a few months ago…
My ego loved the (false) sense of elitism that came from the (small) amount of wisdom I had accumulated and the personal growth I had achieved.
This sense of egoic comfort allowed my blind spots to subtly suffocate my growth and choke out my compassion towards others. As Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars would say, “It’s a trap!”
Luckily, I realized that my ego had snuck in through the back door. Deep down I knew that, in the grand scheme of things, I had next to nothing figured out, so I decided to shake things up a bit. In a hopscotch of faith, I leapt into innumerable experiences that shattered any sense of “having life figured out” and launched me to unforeseen levels of self-discovery and growth.
These experiences included 5 months of (mostly solo) world travel through 10 countries, meeting hundreds of amazing people, journaling every single day of my travels, having cathartic experiences at the Osho center, attending a few yoga retreats and workshops, getting certified in kinesiology, learning Siddha healing, practicing many different meditation techniques, jumping into new relationships, communing with Ayahuasca in the Peruvian Amazon, struggling to communicate with my weak Spanish speaking skills, hiking Machu Picchu in pouring rain, learning how to surf, going to the Envision Festival alone and embarking on countless other adventures that catapulted me out of my comfort zone. All of this intensely illuminated so many of my blind spots, quantum-jumped my knowledge of self and spurred so much improvement that I still haven’t assimilated it all. And I’m still riding this momentum.
“We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” ~ John Wheeler
The more you know
The more you realize you don’t know
And you don’t know
What it is that you don’t know
Until it’s known
But you do know
That you don’t know everything
So rest in the fact that there’s always more to know
We all have blind spots, forces that we’re completely unaware of that may be holding us back.
The human mind, though it’s an immensely powerful tool, is littered with self-deception and cognitive biases. It’s so easy to trick ourselves, and over time, deepen the groove of a skewed view of reality.
That’s why one of the most important things you can do is take an objective look at yourself and reveal your blind spots.
What if your comfort zones are actually false fortresses of security that are doing you far more harm than good? What if everything you’ve been basing your reality on was a lie? What if every aspect of your life is really based on false assumptions, feebly held together by other false assumptions to rationalize the former false assumptions?
We’ve all seen the extremes of self-denial and glaring personal blind spots… The religious zealot who ignores overwhelming evidence contrary to her rigid, literal interpretation of the bible and believes ridiculous things like the idea of Jesus riding dinosaurs. The corporate guy, whose identity is so wrapped up in materialism, that he goes to great lengths (buying fancy clothes, watches and cars, having beautiful girlfriends just to impress others, exorbitant vacations to show off…etc.) in order to fill that feeling of emptiness inside. The high school friend, who has hesitantly convinced himself that he’s happy still living in the same hometown, working the same job and going to the same bar every Friday night. These epitomic cases may seem sad and even pathetic to us, but we’re all guilty of self-denial to some extent.
In order to become the greatest version of yourself and make the most out of life, you need to be able to observe yourself from an objective perspective. You need to call yourself out on your own bullshit. Everything from your most fundamental beliefs, how you view reality, your sense of what is possible, your identity, your habits, your patterns, your limiting beliefs, your assumptions, your false confidence, your fears, your egoic desires, your intuition, your intrinsic motivations, your reactions to external stimuli, your view of others, your freedom (or lack thereof), how you move your body, your choice of music, your choice of entertainment, your sources of information, your biases, your community, your inhibitions, your different personalities among different people, your dietary habits, your addictions, your vulnerabilities, your childhood pain that you’re still carrying, your biggest fear for the future, your self-judgments , your comfort zones, the excuses you make to yourself, the labels you mindlessly slap on things, the little lies you tell yourself, the secrets you’re hiding in the depths of your psyche, the truths you’re afraid of being true, the reason why you were born…etc.
As you can see, there are a lot of potential blind spots out there (or in there). Here’s how to develop a perspective of increased self-awareness, put yourself in a position of continuous personal evolution and be genuinely YOU-nique.
14 Ways to Discover Your Blind Spots
Meditation cultivates a state in which you can objectively observe your thoughts and emotions. We often go through life completely consumed by our thoughts and emotions, not being able to witness them. This is why meditation is so crucial. With practice, you will create awareness regarding your emotions, thoughts, habits and patterns.
This state of awareness makes change possible. If you go through life oblivious to your patterns, because you’re too engrossed in them to know what’s going on, you’ll never be in a position to make a change. As the old proverb goes, “The fish would be the last to discover water because they’re immersed in it.” Meditation can take you out of the metaphorical water of your assumed reality and help you realize “Wow, I was really IN THERE this whole time?”
If you’re new to meditation, try starting out with my 21 Breath Salute. It’s so easy and takes less than 5 minutes to do.
2. Intimate Relationships
Intimate relationships are the most powerful tools for showing you your own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Your partner is like a mirror of your own internal state. Your fears, limiting beliefs, doubts, delusions and repressed emotions are reflected in intimate relationships.
One example of this is getting angry at your partner for forgetting something. Chances are that you get angry at yourself for forgetting things, and because this person is so close to you, you do to them whatever you do to yourself. So get to the bottom of why you get angry at yourself for something so asinine. Did your parents do it to you? Do you put pressure on yourself to never make mistakes? (And where does that belief come from?) Share this revelatory process with your partner as you go through it. You’re on the same team, right?
Here’s another example. If you have a fear of abandonment from, let’s say, your father leaving you as a child, you will find yourself desperately clinging to relationships, even when it’s obvious that it’s not to your benefit. But you have to have some degree of self-awareness to be able to see this play out in your life (as well as a self-aware partner who can help you to realize these things as they come up). Otherwise, you’ll just blindly repeat the cycle over and over again.
You need to open to love to be in a relationship. And when your heart is open, you’re also vulnerable. This is why past pain that you thought you had hidden resurfaces. This is why your ego takes many bruises and why certain words penetrate to the core of your fears.
When an intimate relationship is honest, open and transparent, you will see all of each other’s deepest blind spots. Then you have the choice to work through them, or ignore them, letting them forever influence your life from the shadows of your subconsciousness.
3. Close Family and Friends
Family and friends can be similar to intimate relationships, though less of a “mirror” because our focus isn’t on them like it is on an intimate partner. (Although it can be very strong if you have children, because your complete focus is often on them. This is why having children can teach you so much about yourself.)
With family and friends, honest relationships are paramount. Surround yourself with people that love you enough to call you out on your bullshit and wake you up from your self-delusions.
I’m not saying to obey everything that other people say, but pay attention to the words spoken from the heart of someone you care deeply for.
4. Plant Medicine
Plant medicines are some of the most powerful catalysts for self-realization and growth. Some examples of plant medicines are “magic” mushrooms, Ibogaine and Ayahuasca (which I’ve done myself and wrote about here).
Plant medicines will help you see where your blind spots are, reevaluate your life, examine your fundamental beliefs and aid you in breaking out of the patterns that don’t serve you. It’s like a crash course in self-improvement. Before you dismiss plant medicines as drugs, be aware that there’s a growing body of research regarding the healing effects of psychedelics on addiction, depression and mental disorders such as PTSD.
When used in clinical or ceremonial settings, these sacred plant medicines have profound healing properties.
5. Be Aware of Cognitive Biases
A cognitive bias is defined as “a systematic pattern of deviation from norm or rationality in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input.” (Wikipedia)
One prominent cognitive bias is called the backfire effect, which is when you reject evidence that contradicts your viewpoint or conclusion, even if you know that the evidence is true. How many times have you seen people do this? A lot, right? And I bet you’ve done it too. I know I have.
Another notable cognitive bias is the bandwagon effect. This is when the probability of one person adopting a belief increases based on the number of people who hold that belief. The bandwagon effect is a testament to how powerful groupthink or herd mentality can be. Don’t overlook the possibility that your most fundamental beliefs may be based on false premises and they’ve only been collectively accepted, not because they’re true, but because of phenomena like the bandwagon effect.
This article outlines 57 different cognitive biases that us humans can have. And there’s probably more too that we very well be unaware of.
Get familiar with the many variations of cognitive biases and ask yourself the tough questions: On which topics are my views biased? What cognitive biases do I have? Which ones am I most vulnerable to? In what kind of situations do they arise? What viewpoints am I vehemently or even irrationally defending? What am I desperately trying to justify? Maybe there are cognitive biases at play.
6. Build Ego Awareness
The ego is sneaky, cunning and a terrible master. If you become a slave to the ego and let it run your life, you will be engulfed in a world of endless fear, judgment, deception and self-sabotage.
Know when your ego is trying to run the show. Learn to differentiate between your egoic desires and the genuine desires of your heart.
Your ego will wrap its identity in labels (nationality, race, religion, gender…etc.) and constrict you in the process. It will have you stubbornly defending ideas that you’re not quite sure are true. It will have you clinging to comfort, blocking out any exposure to growth.
Read my article “What Does Your Ego Look Like?” for a deeper dive into the ego.
7. Investigate Your Resistances
Resistance is the ego at work. If you have great resistance towards something, look into it. It will often be your ego resisting something that is actually beneficial for you.
The classic examples of resistance are politics and religion. People are so emotionally attached to their ideologies (and there are so many cognitive biases involved) that even a mild counterpoint is met with hostility and defensiveness. If you notice this kind of resistance in you, see where it comes from. Are you afraid that what you cling to will be gone? Do you think you won’t have an identity if you step outside of the box of the political/religious ideology you follow? Are you merely following an ideology based on the fear of consequences if you don’t?
If you have extreme resistance towards something, it’s probably something you’re desperately trying to suppress and it’s driving you crazy in the process. Examine everything with an open mind and meet resistance with love.
8. Be a Beginner Again
Try something new where you have to start from square one. If you’re an intellectual, try learning how to surf. If you’re an athlete, try playing chess.
Taking on something completely new and foreign will shake you out of your comfort zones, make you vulnerable (in a good way), uncover weaknesses (or strengths that you never knew about), highlight any stubbornness you have, enable you to connect dots from seemingly unrelated areas and catalyze so much learning in a short period of time.
9. Get Out of the Echo Chamber
This is closely related to trying something new.
An echo chamber is “a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.” (Wikipedia)
Sometimes, we get so caught up in our niche communities (especially online), that we don’t realize that it could be an echo chamber. The extreme version of this is something like Scientology, but I’ve seen various degrees of “echo-chamberism” from spiritual communities to scientific communities and everything in between. It’s cool to connect with like-minded people, but just make sure that you’re not illogically rejecting things to hold up false premises. Question everything and always exercise your critical thinking faculties.
If you’re a floaty spiritual person, switch it up and read some scientific literature. If you’re scientific-minded, read some spiritual stuff. If you’re a hip-hop head, listen to some classical music (the real OG’s). All of this will give you a completely different perspective on things, make you more well-rounded and spur so much new insight it will blow your mind.
10. Find a Group Setting that Facilitates Self-Discovery
Attend a retreat or a workshop. These kinds of events are designed to be learning experiences provide you with new perspectives in a concise package.
Every retreat and every workshop I’ve ever attended has revealed profound insights that were previously blind spots for me.
11. Put Yourself in Other People’s Shoes
See the world from someone else’s perspective. Visualize their perspective in detail. Think about their motivations, point of view, beliefs, fears and how their experiences have shaped who they are. Have empathy and compassion and truly understand their point of view.
This kind of empathetic visualization will greatly expand your perceptions give you a unique perspective on your own life.
Also, studying the behavior of others will create an awareness of those same behaviors within yourself (if you’re willing to look within).
12. Keep a Journal
Journaling is one of the best tools for self-reflection. Deep-seated revelations arise when your thoughts and emotions are externalized.
The process of writing itself also creates objectivity and newfound understanding. Journaling allows you to witness your state of being from a higher perspective. And reading about your past experiences will give you more clarity for the present (hindsight is 20/20).
Travel is the ultimate perspective-expander. You experience new cultures, new ideas and new ways of living. You also meet tons of interesting people, often travelers themselves, who grave great wisdom to share.
Traveling also forces you out of your comfort zone. After any stint of travel, you’ll be able to step back and look at yourself and the world around you with new eyes.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
14. Read Books
Reading is one of the best ways to learn and grow as a person. Every book you read is a rung of your ladder of knowledge, helping you climb above the walls of your own ignorance.
Here’s a tip to spur even more self-discovery and growth: Once in a while, read something that is completely different than normal for you. I stubbornly only read nonfiction for a while, thinking I was being practical and learning a lot (which I was). But once I started reading fiction, I unexpectedly learned so much more, and in ways I never would have expected. My imagination bloomed like a flower in spring, my power of visualization strengthened, my vocabulary greatly expanded and my writing ability reached new heights. Also, because I read fiction before bed, I started falling asleep more easily. Imagination and visualization were blind spots for me, and I probably never would have thought about them if it weren’t for reading fiction.
There you have it. Those are some excellent ways to illuminate the caverns of your psyche and bring awareness to your blind spots.
Don’t just read this and then fall back into the same patterns you know don’t serve your highest interest. Apply! Apply! Apply!
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Life gets excruciatingly stale when you’re held down by the shadowy forces you refuse to face. Release the fear of what you’re afraid of discovering, because it’s all you and, in the grand scheme of things, it’s all love.
Uncover your blind spots, keep learning and keep growing.
Make the most out of your short time here on Earth.
– Stevie P!
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