What is your impact on the world?
Do you consider yourself self-aware? What does that mean to you? I think that simply asking the question causes us to look at ourselves…potentially for the first time for some of us. Looking at who we are at our core isn’t for the faint of heart; it’s difficult. We aren’t always going to like what we see. And we might be inclined to ignore those pieces. But if they are part of who we are, shouldn’t we consider them when truly examining ourselves?
I think we can agree that looking inside ourselves is a big part of gaining self-awareness. But that’s not the whole of it. Being truly self-aware requires seeing ourselves for who we are, how we think and feel, what we believe, what we know, how we see the world, and, here’s the kicker, how we impact others.
It turns out, self-awareness isn’t only about knowing ourselves, it’s about understanding how what we do and say affects or influences other people.
None of us is alone in this world; no one acts in isolation, ever. The thoughts we have, the things we do, the words we say – all land in unique ways for people around us, whether we intend for it or not.
And it’s not just the people we know; those we can see. It’s wild to think that how we behave and speak can affect even people we don’t know. Take this blog, for example. I might not know you, but my words are having an effect on you. Whether you like or dislike, agree or disagree with what I say, you are digesting the words I’ve written, as they appear on your screen, and deciding what, if anything, you think about them.
We might even do something in the regular course of our day that unknowingly impacts someone else. I immediately think about how I’m impacted by how someone treats strangers. In the simplest example, when I see a young person opening a door for a stranger, I am impacted. Even though I will never speak with that person, I notice their kind gesture, and I reflect on whether I would have done the same thing in that situation. It wakes me up to realize that we have countless choices every day and choosing to hold the door open for a stranger makes this world a better place, door by door.
On the flip side, when we do something that is less than caring, or without thought, we have an impact on others too. If I’m running to catch the elevator door behind someone already inside, and they look at me but don’t stop the door from closing, I feel a little deflated. That feeling doesn’t dissipate quickly. I might even take it with me as I enter wherever I was headed, and snap at someone who has done nothing to deserve my negative mood.
Isn’t that remarkable? The unknown of how we affect others is exponentially greater than the known. I believe there are endless instances every day for us to have an impact on someone and we don’t even know it.
A friend recently told me that when she resigned from her job, she was deeply touched by the messages she received from those with whom she had worked. Many of the messages were specific, thoughtful, and touching. They weren’t your run-of-the-mill, “Best wishes in your future endeavours” sentiments. They were detailed, describing exactly how she had had an impact on them and why she would be missed. Many of the instances shared were things she had no idea had had an impact on her co-workers. Some of them, she didn’t even remember.
Hearing my friend’s story made me wonder how I impact others without even knowing it – positive and negative. I might not fully appreciate how I show up in others’ views, but I know this for sure – I will be more intentional about what I say and do, and how it might impact others. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend on changing who I am – those of you who know me, know that I am authentically me, always – but I will pay closer attention to opportunities to positively impact those around me.
Yet another flip side – I’m also reflecting on who has had an impact on me. For those who have caused me to smile, to sit up a little taller, to feel good about myself, I’m going to tell them. They deserve to know.
My challenge to you is three-fold:
- Pay attention to how you are showing up in the world, take opportunities to be kind, compassionate, and to build others up. And for those people who you don’t interact with directly, remember, people are watching you.
- Think about who has had a positive impact on you and tell them what you appreciate about them.
- Use the thoughts offered in this blog to practice self-compassion; treating yourself like you would a good friend, especially for those times you may be critical of yourself for your behaviour.
Life is full of opportunities to have an impact and to show appreciation. Today, take the opportunity. You never know who you’re going to make smile.