How well do we really know ourselves? What do other people see when they look at us? Who are we, really? These questions all focus on the issue of our self-awareness. But why should we want to be more self-aware? After all, we might find some unpleasant truths if we examine ourselves too closely. Well, think positive. The more we know ourselves, the more we understand ourselves and the more our behaviour is a result of our choices rather than our unconscious drives and experiences.

When someone says that they are “disillusioned”, they usually mean it in a negative way. Yet for self-awareness, the less illusions we have about ourselves, the better. Illusions may be comforting to believe in but they are not real. If we want to know ourselves then we should see “disillusionment” as a positive thing.

One model which can help our self-awareness is called the Johari Window, devised by psychologists Joe Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, following research into group dynamics at the University of California, Los Angeles. The model depends on two factors: what you know about yourself and what others know about you. It is referred to as the “Window” because the combination of these two factors give rise to four categories of information about the self, which are represented in a window-like grid with four ‘panes’:

Known to Self Not known to Self
Known to Others Open Blind
Not known to Others Hidden Mystery

(The names of the panes have varied over the years; the names used here are taken from a paper produced by Joe Luft in 1982.)

The OPEN pane contains things about us of which we are aware and that others can see also.

The BLIND pane contains things which others know but that we do not.

The HIDDEN pane contains things that we know but do not show to others.

The MYSTERY pane contains things about us of which neither we nor others are aware (we can assume that such things do exist because every now and then in life we find out something new about ourselves – perhaps we experience a new situation, such as a life-threatening emergency – about which nobody knew; including ourselves.)

In order to fully know yourself (and therefore to be better able to know what you want from life) it is important to explore the contents of all four panes. So, if you seek feedback from others, you potentially reduce the size of the BLIND pane and increase the OPEN. You may also choose to share some information from the HIDDEN pane; both to increase the common ground between you and the other person and also because trusting other people with information about you will encourage them to share information with you in turn. Finally, to see into the MYSTERY pane you can: put yourself in new situations; develop new skills and talents; and generally explore and follow your dreams.

Think positive and explore your window because ‘you’ are always worth getting to know better.