Self awareness and Self management: keys to trust and confidence

I had three questions that at first read-through, seemed to be about three different issues.  However, when I re-read them looking to choose one to answer – I see some commonality across the three.

First let me summarise the questions:

  1. My own impatience or human issues are causing me to push my horse through his own thresholds, leading to rides that are more challenging than they need to be
  2. I don’t have the trust I want to even think about hacking my horse out….
  3. I now have a horse with no issues and who should be easy to school – but now I can’t make my usual excuses (it’s because she’s having a bad day, it’s because she’s spooky) I find *I* am the one with confidence issues……

As I said, we could look at each of these as a separate issue – -however, if we think about it – there is one thing they all share – and that is the humans’ confidence in themselves and their ability to trust their horse.

In the first one,  Sandra’s eagerness to make progress means she misses the moments when her horse hesitates, so he ends up pushing himself through his own concerns and then reacting badly later when another stress point of threshold is crossed – in other words Sandra is not seeing the stamps her horse is collecting…..

In the second,  Enya is not sure how to handle the “what if’s” that keep crowding into her mind, which is making it hard to relax and trust her horse

And in the third case, now all the excuses have been removed,  Rachel has discovered that the real issue is she doesn’t trust herself!

Each of these is about how we manage ourselves, and our mind, thoughts and behaviour – particularly with respect to our horses.

A classical teacher I respect recently  wrote:

Fundamental to correct training of the horse:
1. Acceptance of the horse’s basic goodness
2. Acceptance of your complete ignorance
3. Relationship is first
4. Relationships are founded in harmony.
5. Fear is the enemy (in both the horse and human)
6. Understanding that compassion and kindness lead to harmony.
7. Harmony leads to access to the horse’s wisdom
8. Listen to the horse’s wisdom
9. Time and ambition are human
10. What is correct is not in a book or any instructor’s teachings… it is in a horse’s heart, which can only be read when your love is true…to know if your love is true is to know yourself.

So for this post I am referring to classical thought – to master a horse, you first have to master yourself;  To be qualified to be a partner to your horse, you have to be a partner to yourself;  Before you can trust your horse – you first have to trust yourself.

In this post there are no techniques, or tools or tricks – just the realisation that in order to become a horseman or horsewoman, becoming self aware and self managing are key.

What do I mean by this?

The good thing about all three of these questions is that their posters are AWARE they have an issue:  self awareness is a pre-requisite for self management so the first steps have been taken.

Until you know there is a problem , how can you even begin to look for solutions?

The path to self awareness can be challenging:  for Rachel, realising that it is about her has been a shock;  For Sandra, acknowledging that it is her own impatience putting her and her horse at risk is a scary thing.  And to accept that you don’t trust your horse because of your own mind’s patterns can also be difficult.

This is why a coach or objective friend can be so helpful:  they can reflect what they see, and you can compare it with what you THINK you are doing – and this helps you become aware of where the images don’t match.

The Johari Window is a tool used in management training that has some bearing here:

Johari window

There are aspects of ourselves that we are aware of – some of which we choose to share with others (the Public self)  and some of which we don’t (the Private self)  — and then there are aspects of ourselves that we are not aware of:  things we don’t know and others don’t know either ( the Invisible self)  and things that others are aware of, but we are not – the Blind Spot.

Self awareness in general will move that central dividing line to the right – increasing the private and public self and reducing the invisible self and blind spot – and the more awareness we have, the more choices we have – and more choices usually means more control.

And more control leads to more confidence……

And it all starts with self awareness.

How can you increase your self awareness?  The obvious one is to tackle the blind spot – talk to people (or rather, listen to them)  hear what they say and see how that can help you become more aware of yourself.

As a specific example, I posted on an online forum recently and triggered a rather strong negative response.  I could take that a few different ways: I could ignore it and say “they don’t know what they are talking about!”; I could take it very personally and get angry and defensive – OR I could stop for a moment and reflect on what might be leading to that response, and see what I can learn from it which could increase my awareness, choices and control in the future.

That’s why even coaches use coaches:  by having someone else observe and feed back, we can make that blind spot smaller and smaller…….

There IS another way to increase self awareness – we CAN change the size of that “invisible self” too:  psychological inventories can highlight aspects of ourselves that even our closest friends don’t know about – especially those that focus on the values underlying our behaviour choices, as values are often deeply hidden.  I have run a workshop using the Strengths Deployment inventory where in almost every case, even working with groups of family members or very close friends, more of the invisible self is revealed.

There are some things that BLOCK self awareness that if we know about them, make it easier to move past them.

I am sure we have all heard of denial, but what lies behind that?

One concept that is particularly useful here is that of “secondary gain”:

Secondary gain is the positive benefit the mind perceives as a result of a behaviour or action – and is often unconscious. So if I “feel happier” thinking I AM confident – then I might be in denial about any indicators to the contrary.  Secondary gain can also be about avoiding a negative – so if admitting I was unconfident would have too horrific an impact on me (if I train horses and say I am unconfident what on earth could happen to my life?) then I will stay in denial to avoid that emotional trauma.

In Sandra’s case, it is possible that IF she did take the time to recognise her horse’s thresholds, she would discover how MANY he has, how MANY she has been pushing him through, which would be unbearably upsetting for her to realise – so thinking “he will be ok” is much easier in the moment.

It could also be that part of her identity is currently of being an impulsive extrovert – and to slow down enough to take the time it takes is something that threatens this identity.

In both these cases, some horseless work with a coach could work through this and get to the secondary gain – -and help Sandra decide how to manage this for herself.   Some people manage to coach themselves through this – and I hope that sharing the information in this blog post will help some of you do exactly that.  Once you have identified the “parts” of you that are not congruent, or working together – you can use the process described in the “Confidence Kidnappers” blog post to bring the two elements together so instead of fighting yourself, you are using all your parts to move forward in the same direction.

When I hear someone speak and think that they are in denial, I ask myself “what is that denial doing FOR them? What is the positive intent of that denial?” and that helps me understand their world, and how to work WITH that world rather than against it.

By doing this I know that any results of a coaching session will fit with their overall ecology – and be sustainable over the long term…..

I also aim in this blog to share stories and tales that will resonate with you enough to help increase awareness – some of you have already said you have had moments of “recognition” when reading a particular post – that is your self awareness increasing!

And of course, many of us go on courses and clinics specifically to get that feedback that wil help us improve ourselves…

So if all of this is  about self awareness – what about the self management?

I hope this blog will help with that too – and plan to share some tools and techniques that have proved useful to various students  — however, as this post is already over 1600 words I think I should take a break for now – –

In the meantime, if you have found any good ways to increase your self awareness, please share them here – I would love to learn new ways of doing this – not just for my students but for myself too!!!

yours, in confidence


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