The Fulfilling Expression of Self

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Many good things happen during our development from infancy to old age. We learn and accomplish a great deal. A personal identity is born in the mirroring of self by Mom and Dad, family, and by teachers. So, by the time we reach adulthood, most of us are known and know ourselves as someone distinct from others by personality, temperament, experience, interests, talents, and aspirations.

Some of us, due to less fortunate circumstances, enter adulthood less certain of our identity and value as persons. In either case, the opportunity for a fulling development as a person exists. It just may require a different kind of effort and help for those with a less healthy and/or privileged start in life. But I will leave the difference of initial advantage aside for now to address a common theme.

What is Fulfilling Expression of Self

This theme is what I shall call the “fulfilling expression of self.” Rather than being a goal conceived as an end state, we shall characterize it as a way of being. Specifically, it is an authentic way of being. This kind of authenticity consists in acknowledging self as a work in progress. And that progress implies struggling and striving to live in accordance with moral and prudential values that define what is good, right, and proper.

When we live a healthy, adaptive, and morally good quality of life, we do not achieve perfection, but we do live well. We learn to see, feel, and understand ourselves, our situated existence and experience. We learn that there is often more there than what we notice matter-of-factly in everyday life. We recognize that our habitual ways of functioning – perhaps 50% or more of our actions in life – are not always enough.

And we learn to notice when our habitual modes of living are not sufficient. It’s felt before it’s cognitively or intellectually known. And insofar as we cultivate practices for suspending habit and invoking a reflective pause, we’re able to regard our experience mindfully. A troubled feeling awakens a curious mind. And the curious mind seeks to see and then to understand. It suspends judgment.

A Special Window of Opportunity

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Now that we’ve gained the advantage of this mindful attitude, what can we do with it that would assert our authenticity and lead to sound moral and prudential judgment? That is, after all, the way of being I have characterized as fulfilling self-expression. Alas, we have available for use in conceptualizing this way of being a powerful tool. It’s a somewhat modified version of the Johari Window.

I have elsewhere written about the Johari Window elsewhere, so I won’t discuss it in a comprehensive way here. My present aim is to call your attention to the green arrow labeled “relational coaching” that indicates action toward the “Unknown” quadrant of this model. Why emphasis on the arrow and a focus on the lower right quadrant? Because it represents an especially powerful way fulfilling self-expression.

Fulfilling expression of self is represented by actions that enlarge the “Public” quadrant. It’s a quality of interaction between self and others, which, through acts of self-disclosure and feedback, enlarges the Public area. It promotes greater mutual openness and reduces our Blind Spots. It also involves showing more of ourselves to others, sharing what we might otherwise keep Private.

The content of the Unknown region consists of fears, inhibitions, and constraints that operate outside our conscious awareness. To access these dynamics forces of mind, we usually need an expert guide or coach. It is through this kind of psychologically-informed helping relationship that we find the right mix of expertise, trust, and skilled interaction required to make the Unknown known, at least to us, the client.  

Back to Differences in Starting Point

The forces originating within the Unknown quadrant constrain our capacities for fulfilling self-expression. And they operate with greater power on those whose early life experiences did less to promote trust, more to foster fear. So, while a coaching relationship will be helpful for anyone who seeks to break through to the next level of authentic living, it’s particularly important for those coming from a less healthy, adaptive family of origin.

Just as mindfulness practices function as an anti-anxiety agent for any of us, the relational coaching that helps us explore and “detoxify” the Unknown region alleviates the barriers that limits our growth. The good news is that this kind of coaching has holistic benefits for all areas of life, at home, at work, and in all important relationship. It is truly business-relevant personal growth. It’s not to be feared or avoided; it’s to be welcomed and seized as an opportunity!