Jo-hari, your whole self-image

Many times, we often hear that when people are fighting with each other, one of them will yell “You don’t understand me at all!”. This may be happening between couples, parents and children, and siblings. In short, this is very common! But here comes the problem. Sometimes we don’t even know ourselves well enough, and it is of course more difficult to ask another person to understand ourselves!

I remember that in a psychology course, the professor asked us to write ten introductions about our personalities. I was always writing diaries and doing self-awareness, so I could quickly write ten characteristics of myself. For example, I like to sing, one of my best friends is a cat, and the thing I fear most is not able to fall asleep after watching a ghost movie, etc. Some are things that everyone who knows me knows, and some are my secrets. But my classmate who sit next to me had difficulty coming up with the ten facts about herself. She could only think of what leisure activities she liked to do. After I share my thoughts with her, she could start to think about what to write eventually.

In short, frequent self-awareness and having dialogues with yourself can help you understand yourself better. Interacting with others and talking with them often, and reflecting on the feedback others give you, can also help you understand yourself better. This is not just my own experience; scholars also have this theory!

Two British psychologists came up with the concept of the Jo-hari window. They believe that people have aspects that they know well about themselves and secrets that are not known to others; there are also things that oneself may not know but others who are not involved understand well. And of course there are unknowns that you don’t know, and others don’t. It can be divided into four aspects, including open self, blind self, hidden self, and unknown self.

  1. Open self: it refers to the things that you and everyone around you know, like Information such as where you work, how many people in your family, your name, etc. Or your own opinions, ideas, experiences, and other things that you can share with others generously are also in this category.
  2. Blind self: something that you don’t notice, but others know. It’s like the mantras that you don’t realize but blurt out, or the facial expressions or reactions you’re used to making and you are even not aware of them. For example, I often say “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!”. But I didn’t know that I had this habit until I was told by a friend once.
  3. Hidden self: It refers to the secrets that you have not let others know. Like, you may have a crush on someone, or you may have broken the law before.
  4. Unknown self: Things that other people and oneself don’t know. For example, the long-forgotten experience that happened in childhood, or the negative experience that was suppressed after oneself being greatly traumatized. The latter is also caused by the repression of Freudians’self-defense mechanism, which shields traumas from consciousness and prevents oneself from being aware of it. The individual must use professional skills such as psychotherapy, so that the individual can turn the things in the subconscious into things that the conscious can perceive, and also allow him/her to control himself/herself according to his/her own consciousness, instead of being dominated deeply affected by things that one doesn’t know well.

No matter what, these four aspects constitute a person’s complete self. The ideal situation is that the blind self and the unknown self should be smaller, and the open self should be larger. Because it means that this person knows himself/herself well. He/she can reflect on his/her own image and behavior through feedback from friends and others, as well as the process of self-growth through counseling, which makes parts of the blind self and the unknown self gradually, shift to the area of ​​open self, and he/she understand himself/herself better. The expansion of the open self means that he/she can easily self-disclose himself/herself to others and express thoughts and feelings, which will boost the individual’s mental health and consolidate his/her interpersonal relationships.

So, this is why we encourage you to write. Only by talking with yourself, you can improve your understanding of yourself. As your open self increases, it will be easier for you to get closer to each other. Otherwise, if you hold a more closed and defensive attitude towards others, your hidden self will also take up your open self, other people will feel that you are indifferent, and it reduces the possibility that you can have further communication and interaction with others.

Who are you, really? Discovering Your Authentic Self-Image

Your self-image is the way you view yourself, and by which you interact with the world.  You might view yourself as a parent, student, friend, high-achiever, slow learner. But you’re more than your grades, weight, gender, and age. You’re more than your parents’ opinion.

You’re a unique person with nuances that are unique to you!

When who you are aligns with what you do, you feel free and able to become the best version of you. But many of us view ourselves as one way and live another, and it’s understandable.  Human being are social creatures.  We want to wear the “cool” sneakers, have the latest hot gadgets. We want the acceptance and recognition of others.  Tweens and teens, especially, are more prone to peer pressure and herd mentality. This Wall Street Journal article exams the reasons.   Act like you matter because you do.    Authentic people act honestly and congruently to their true self.

The benefits of an authentic self-image are enormous: success, self-esteem, respect, and inner peace.

Those who act against their values, beliefs, and attitudes suffer from more anxiety, guilt, and shame. It might seem easier to live up to the expectations of others in the short-term, but the long-term costs are significant.

Follow these steps to discover and live with your authentic self-image:

  1. Identify your core values. An authentic self-image is one that is aligned with your values, and those values often are not immediately obvious. By discovering your values, you’ll gain an understanding of what is important to you. Once you know your values, you can build a self-image and life that are more meaningful and enjoyable.
  • Make a list of your values. Create a long list and include everything that you think applies to you. Then, reduce your list to the ten values that are most important to you. You might struggle to narrow your list to just ten, but ten values are plenty. Follow the two steps below to make discovering your core values easier. In case you need some inspirations, here is a short list of values to get you started, or you may refer to this long list of 200+ values.

        The Good

  • Start with experiences that made you feel good in the moment, and still feel good now.
    • What was going in at the time?
    • What values did you adopt during those experiences?

       The Bad

  • Reverse gear now and think of times when you felt very frustrated, sad or angry.
  • What values got violated or suppressed in those times?
  1. Determine if you have any conflicts. For example, you might say that adventure and freedom are two of your most important values, but what if you also strongly favor responsibility and security? Those values could be in conflict and create cognitive dissonance, which builds stress and decrease your performance.
  • When you’re faced with an inner conflict, you’re likely to shut down and do nothing. If you’ve ever been paralyzed while making a decision, it’s possible your values were in conflict.
  • Do you have any values listed that aren’t really priorities for you? We often carry around perspectives instilled by our parents, communities, friends. Take the time to determine your values for yourself. Carefully examine what society says you should value and compare them against what truly matters to you.
  1. Create an action plan for each value. Your action plan doesn’t need to the be all end all. Starting with small steps is fine if you’re consistent.  As you progress, you can always add to or modify your action plan.
  2. Make a list of activities you enjoy that are in alignment with your values. For example, if generosity is a priority, you could find an enjoyable way to spend your time helping others. If health is a value you cherish, you could join a soccer team or start a jogging routine. Find your favorite sport and participate.
  3. Reflect at the end of each day.  Take some time to remember when you were able to live according to your values and self-image, and don’t skip those moments when doing so was challenging.

Authenticity improves our self-esteem and overall happiness, but it takes practice, and isn’t without deliberate effort.  Be bold enough to choose the person you want to become and live accordingly. The benefits are enormous. What are your values?

What old story about yourself are you still believing? Here’s how to find it and change it

Raúl Soria

Raúl Soria

Many of us hold deeply ingrained beliefs about ourselves that are simply not true. You can start to free yourself from them by editing your narrative, says psychiatrist John Sharp.

There are many things in our lives that we have little control over — the news, the weather, the traffic, the soup of the day at our local café. But among the things that we can control, there’s a big one: our story.

This narrative is not the one that contains the objective facts of our lives; instead, it’s “the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are and how everything always plays out,” says psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor John Sharp.

And he adds, “If you want to change your life, it needs a re-edit.”

The problem with this story is that too often, it’s not accurate — writer Marilynne Robinson calls it “a mean little myth.”

Sharp, the author of The Insight Cure: Change Your Story, Transform Your Life, explains, “Some emotionally difficult scenes are way over-included — just think of all the things you can’t let go of — and other scenes are deleted, such as times when things did go well. The worst part about the false truth … is that it becomes our self-fulfilling prophecy, the basis of what we expect from ourselves in the future.”

To begin revising your narrative, Sharp recommends doing the following:

1. Identify where your narrative diverges from reality.

For Sharp, his parents divorced when he was young, and he says, “the false truth that I held to so dearly was that just … as I couldn’t be effective in keeping my parents together, I probably couldn’t be effective at much of anything else, and this left me feeling very insecure.”

Since you’ve long accepted your false story as the official account, it may not be super-obvious to you. If you’re not sure what it is, try filling in these blanks, says Sharp:
“If I break a promise to myself, I feel ___________.”
“When someone ignores me, I feel _____________.”
“When my partner or best friend and I have a big fight, I feel _____________.”

Why these prompts? Our inaccurate narrative tends to be one that we default to when we’re faced with difficulty or disappointment.

Another way to help you identify your old story is to listen to your self-talk and notice when it includes statements that begin with “I always ______,” “I’m always ______,” or “I never ______.”

After you find your ingrained story, think back to your childhood and try to look for the experiences that helped feed it. And if you end up identifying multiple false stories, choose the one that’s had the most impact on your life. Sharp says, “While I know there are many stories and many possible revisions for all of us, I truly believe that there’s one underlying story that you deserve to identify and rework first.”

2. Question your beliefs.

Let’s say your deep belief is no matter what you do, it’s not enough; perhaps your parents were rarely satisfied with your achievements, even when they were stellar, and fixated on your next report card, exam or accomplishment. So, ask yourself: While that might have been the case when you were younger, is it really true now that what you do is never enough?

“When you view it from an adult perspective, you can see that it’s not fair or just to ourselves,” says Sharp.

Your story doesn’t have to have been caused by your parents, but it’s typically the result of a relationship we had when we were young. Explains Sharp, “It happens at a time before we know the difference between a healthy and and unhealthy reaction to something that really scares us, so we hold on to the wrong conclusion.”

3. Don’t beat yourself up.

It’s normal to feel a bit discouraged when you realize how long you’ve been telling yourself a false narrative. But know you’re far from alone — many of us walk around with these stories, says Sharp. “We need to be compassionate with ourselves about how this came into being.” Most people come up with them for what he calls “understandable reasons” — the need to maintain a sense of control and the tendency for kids to take specific circumstances and generalize broadly.

4. Introduce positives into your narrative.

Think about all your strengths and talents, and appreciate them. While the situations that led to the false story have made you into who you are today, they’ve probably affected you in positive ways as well. Maybe they’ve made you more resourceful, more responsible, more empathic, or more ambitious. These positives, whether they’re big or small, deserve a place in your story, too.

5. Leave behind the old story.

“Cut away what no longer serves you,” says Sharp. “Identify and gather up all the many exceptions … and accept that it’s safe now to move on. You no longer have to hold on to that false security.”

One of Sharp’s patients was a woman who avoided all challenges and adversity. Upon reflecting about her past, she realized “she suffered from the false truth that when she fell, she couldn’t pick herself up,” says Sharp. “Now she knows she can, and her future looks entirely different and better.”

Sharp is a fervent believer in the power of editing one’s story. “If I hadn’t cut away from my ‘mean little myth,’ then I’m confident now that I wouldn’t be here with you today,” he says in his TEDx talk. “In my 20 years of clinical practice, I’ve seen this kind of transformation over and over again.”


Mary Halton is Assistant Ideas Editor at TED, and a science journalist based in the Pacific Northwest.

This post was originally published on TED Ideas. It’s part of the “How to Be a Better Human” series, each of which contains a piece of helpful advice from someone in the TED community; browse through all the posts here.