Lately, I’ve been pondering the question, “What do we sacrifice to conserve our outward image?”
Most people, consciously aware or not, spend a lot of time cultivating an image that is acceptable in the eyes of others.
Our concern with others’ opinions can be an all-consuming fire. It can fully engulf who we are and cause us to lose what we value most.
When taken too far, concern with the opinion of others can destroy our sense of well-being.
This happens because we adopt a false sense of self and place value on what our peers say is important rather than what we personally value.
Our brains are hardwired to place importance on the opinions of others as a survival mechanism. We need to be accepted as part of a group to survive.
I’m not saying we should completely rebel against the need to belong to a group either. Belonging to a community is an important element in our overall health and wellbeing.
I’m arguing against letting the opinions of our peers be the only governing force in our lives.
To foster a sense of well-being, we must evaluate our lives and decide what’s important. Then, we must emphasize these values regardless of their popularity with others.
Furthermore, when a person or group becomes solely focused on their image, they can fall into a trap where they squash ideas or perspectives that can help them move forward.
For example, consider the opposition Galileo faced when proposing the sun as the center of our solar system rather than the Earth. Or Blockbuster’s unwillingness to recognize the convenience of Netflix and the threat it posed to their business.
Group think blocks creativity, innovation, and progress.
In our communities and relationships, we need to create an environment that champions new ideas, vulnerability, and risk taking.
Every new idea will certainly not lead to improvement, but some of them will.
We have to be open to new ideas and perspectives in our personal lives as well.
I often miss ways I am holding myself back.
I believe many people are prone to blind spots because we don’t view ourselves as critically as we view others.
However, it’s important to have people in our lives that will point out potential obstructions that we may miss.
Such relationships must be carefully cultivated because it’s easy to get offended in these scenarios.
For me, it took some time to learn how to receive constructive criticism.
But years in competitive athletics helped lay the groundwork for these situations.
A coach doesn’t point out a flaw in technique because he doesn’t like me. A coach points out a flaw in technique because it will help make me a better player and thereby, help the team perform better.
With this lens, a friend or colleague that is willing to offer constructive feedback has my best interest in my mind.
In these moments, we need to put our guard down and receive what they are offering. It could improve our lives, careers, or relationships in ways we can’t yet imagine.
Constructive feedback is essential in my role as a financial advisor as well.
At some point in my relationship with my clients, I will need to provide constructive feedback about something they could be doing better in their financial life.
My most successful client relationships are built on a willingness to receive and implement feedback.
Of course, I’m taking a risk by offering constructive criticism as I could upset my client. But if I don’t take this risk and offer an idea that could improve my client’s financial life than I am doing them a disservice.
A sole focus on conserving our outward image reduces our impact and potential for growth.
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Alex is a registered representative and investment advisor representative of Securian Financial Services, Inc.