[Self Discovery] Recognize and Overcome Your Cognitive Biases

In life, we all see the world through our own distinct lens – our lens matures and evolves overtime, shaped by past experiences, but nonetheless it reinforces the framework that we use to interpret the world and others around us. A truth about our human nature is when we approach things that are unknown and new, we use our previous experiences to attempt to shape our future ones. Over time these same lenses that we’ve trusted will lead us to straight into deeply ingrained types of cognitive bias, clouding judgement and becoming a roadblock between “our truth” and “the truth“.

To illustrate the difference, I’m going to reuse a parable told by Scott Adams in his fantastic book God’s Debris – but, in a slightly different tone:

You have a stained glass window in your house, and a handful of bees get inside.  The bees rush towards the stained glass window in hopes of escape.  The first bee rushes towards the frame and finds itself in front of a blue pane of glass, and sees the outside world as blue; the second bee comes, and flies towards a yellow pane - the next comes and sits on a triangle of red, the next on a square of purple, and so on.  Then they start talking, which leads to an argument - all of the bees are correct in how they see their individual pane, but they're also wrong; if they could for a second take a step back, they would see the entire picture and not only their individual interpretation of the picture.

Where Adams uses the analogy to dissect and separate individual religion from the grander experience that religion can illicit, we can simply use it to understand levels of truth. Underneath where we each have our ‘truths’ – are our sorted cognitive biases that led us to our truth. Remove them, and we can distill down to the truth.


The term ‘Cognitive Bias‘ was first introduced by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky in the beginning of the 1970’s. By their definition, a cognitive bias is a persons “systematic but purportedly flawed patterns of responses to judgment and decision problems.” Essentially, it’s saying that our brain fucks up and doesn’t see things as it should, it sees them as we have been taught to interpret them. Cognitive biases cause and reinforce preconceived notions, psychological errors, mental mistakes and missteps – overtime, these ideas can produce prejudice, bigotry, and intolerance. All in all, psychologically speaking, there are upwards of close to 200 types of cognitive bias that get in the way of our universal understanding – though, some are more common than others.

Do any of these sound remotely familiar? If not, maybe you have a status quo bias in preferring your current mode of thought – or a confirmation bias, as you focus on what you know and not what you don’t know (e.g. types of biases) – or a belief bias, that you aren’t biased even though other people are. The true issue with cognitive bias isn’t in having them – hell, we all have them – the trouble is in refusing to acknowledge, understand or change that same behavior that’s an issue. Hopefully the more you dive in, you’ll start the slow process of unpacking implicit types of bias that already exist within your mind.

Project Implicit: Test Your Bias

So, how do we overcome our conditioning and start to uncover where our biases are? Milliseconds away at our fingertips, there’s a overwhelming wealth of information out there and we’re expected to respond to it just as fast as we uncover it. When we search for information and education, the way we choose to seek it out is within the comfort zone of our mind. Stepping outside of ourselves and finding multiple sources for our information is a good start, while discussing your findings with others can lead to a more well rounded understanding.

Acting in a more mindful sense, being present within the moment, can reduce our biases. Adding in yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises are an excellent way to start. When we are mindful and present, we no longer decide to rush to judgement but instead uncover the things in our mind that have been blocking us from getting there.


For more on understanding the different types of cognitive biases, here are a few fantastic articles, videos and books to ingest:

💻:Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet [Buster Benson]

💻:50 Cognitive Biases in the Modern World [Visual Capitalist]

📚:Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias [Pragya Agarwal]

📚: The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias: How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection and Create High-Performing Teams [Pamela Fuller]

📚: Blind Spot: The Hidden Biases of Good People [Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald]

Have you acknowledged where in your life you could be displaying types of cognitive bias? What personal work have you done to move beyond it? Let me know in the comments below!

[Reading is Sexy] Understand Your Emotional Intelligence with ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’

“All virtues have a shadow.”

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For millennia, humans traded information by speech or song – imbuing tradition, history and knowledge with the tone of their voice. It wasn’t until 1440 when German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press; in less than half that time we now have temporal, instant gratification reinforcing social media channels from Facebook and Instagram to Snapchat, TikTok, and the like. Where the world once ebbed and flowed at a nominal rate, it’s now gaining unparalleled speed and momentum. Many of us dance with overwhelmed feelings at one point or another – and the world’s recent stage has only catalyzed these feelings. From COVID and quarantine, to the reckoning of the ‘The Great Resignation’ and job wage inequity, not to mention race relations and the growing chasm of political divide – it really isn’t any wonder that feelings of anxiety and depression have run rampant these last few years (and let’s be honest, my heart rate just went up typing all that!). A society that’s overwhelmed means that we’re living in a constant state of over-arousal, that we’re all sitting on hairpin triggers waiting for the next emotional hurdle to be thrust into our path; it reinforces timid, introverted behavior and takes us out of being our ‘best selves’ while pulling us out of the collective human condition and isolating us within our minds. Continually ingraining ourselves within this hyper-stimulated, instant gratification, ‘go-go-go’ natured world – it’s no surprise that many of us have become, or always have been, highly sensitive individuals.

“Whatever the times, suffering eventually touches every life. How we live with it, and help others to, is one of the great creative and ethical opportunities”

― Elaine N. Aron

As it turns out, the more aware one becomes – the more deeply one feels. I was blessed with a good childhood for the most part, less my parents divorce when I was two, and grew up highly anxious for seemingly “no reason” (…according to therapists, family and friends). I had stomach ulcers in elementary school, and was in therapy from the age of 11 well into my adult life, and understand implicitly what it means to exist within a hypervigilant state and the want to feel “normal”.

“I am deeply moved by things. I’d hate to miss the intense joy of that.”

― Elaine N. Aron

I’ve discovered myself to be dichotomous: I enjoy moments of extroversion and love feeling like part of a large group, I equally find disdain fitting into a societal mold. I cry, easily; I laugh easily, too. I’m reactive, to a fault. I have a lot of feelings, not recognize that not all of them feel like my own – almost as if they’re at the heart of human nature’s cosmic collective, and it’s my emotional duty to experience all of them. It’s easy to become trapped in that feedback cycle, and I give a lot of credit to my family, friends and many, many therapists over the years for always being there for me to pull me out of it. But truth be told, it’s never easy to ask for help – and there have been times where I haven’t been as lucky; times when I haven’t wanted to ‘burden’ others with my thoughts, felt that I wasn’t important enough to find solutions to my feelings, or have existed outside of myself in a prolonged moment of dissociation, eventually discovering that I’m severely out of touch with my authentic nature. It’s these type of emotions that seem to reinforce the feelings of isolation, of introversion, of withdrawl – and within those feelings, very rarely does one choose to reach back out to the world for help. So thank goodness I stumbled across esteemed author Dr. Elaine N Aron and her book ‘The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When The World Overwhelms You’.

Part retrospective on an emotionally intelligent life, and part explorative into the nature of Highly Sensitive People – this book put me directly in touch with my true self, and made me understand that though I have felt burdened by my feelings – it’s beautiful to feel the world so deeply, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I found a lot of myself within Aron’s anecdotes, and felt an odd sense of calm wash away cobwebs of mental chaos and calamity. As it turns out, one in five people fits in the category of being ‘Highly Sensitive’ – so even if it doesn’t describe you, having this knowledge in your back pocket will enhance your connections with others – in addition to parts of yourself. From reframing childhood events, understanding close relationships and bringing your emotional ‘A Game’ to the table – ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’ takes us on an emotional adventure to uncover our true nature, and give it a healthier spin. Plus, each chapter features a ‘self help’ section at the end so you, too, can do the work.

Want to connect with others like you? There’s a Facebook Group that I think you’ll love!

Are you curious if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person? Sure, maybe you’re absolutely aware of yourself – but in case you’re unsure, Aron has a self test on her website so you can understand more. Additionally, Aron has penned several other books on the topic – including a book for children and a workbook to go along with ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’.

Here are a few other tangentially related reads worth adding to your book list if Aron’s ‘The Highly Sensitive Person‘ piqued your interest,:

For more on the author and her series of books, check out…

Website | GoodReads

Oh, Snap: Comfort Food

How many times have you heard the following from friends, family and your partner: the way to my heart is through my stomach.  But did you know that their statement actually holds weight? One thing that I didn’t know until I read a fascinating book on Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman is that not only are there a significant amount of serotonin receptors in our stomach, but most of the serotonin we posses is manufactured there!  Lining the walls of both the intestines and digestive track are loads of enterochromaffin cells and these little guys are responsible for creating a whopping 90% of it.

I’ve always landed firmly on the taller side of life.  When I was born I was 19″ and a tad under 6lbs – leaving me pretty tall and lean on the BMI chart.  Growing up, not a whole hell of a lot changed – by 4th grade, I was taller than all my gymnastics instructors and realized that was definitely not my calling.  By 6th grade, I was 6’0 and had stopped growing – but when it came to filling out, I didn’t. My metabolism is somehow quicker than my mouth and no matter what I ate, or how (in)frequently I seemed to hit the gym – gaining weight has never been my strong suit, especially after I stopped playing competitive sports.

I never intended to be a foodie. In fact, I know a considerable amount of people – including my family – who  consider my love of cooking, nomgasms or food porn absolutely ludicrous.  It’s not that I’ve found food repulsive or I hate eating – it’s merely the fact that ever since I can remember – food and I have had a fairly indifferent relationship with each other.  I used to find myself going throughout the majority of the day without a meal; granted, I was grumpy, fatigued and not exactly pleasant to be around but at the time I attributed that to having high anxiety or being diagnosed with depression.

Thankfully, I have a support system that both lifts me up and fills my stomach –  they’ve taught me that comfort food has a purpose and a nourished stomach is a nourished soul.  I’ve found that one of the most important things about food, fitness and nutrition is to have both a routine and a goal; one without the other is slightly pointless.  I’ve gone from bypassing lunch to scouring the dessert bar, from breakfast on the go to breakfast in the apt – and it’s really made all the difference.  For the first time in my adult life, I can honestly say that I love food and thanks to living in Los Angeles, I’ve had the chance to experience so many different restaurants, as well as almost any type of food you can imagine!  I’ve slowly but surely been collecting a list of my favorite noms and I’m stoked to be able to share this with everyone =)

 

Loaded Mac & Cheese from Elephant Bar

Bacon wrapped asparagus from Sushi USA

Uni – my ultimate.

Basil, tomato and mozzarella skewers; made fresh by yours truly!

Shrimp, avocado, tangello, cucumber and tomato salad. Also known as veggies that are really fruits.

Drumstick ice cream cones; omnom!

If you’ve never had Calypso Lemonade you’re in for a real treat =D

Only the best for my sweet tooth – Sour Patch Berry Kids and Mike & Ike Tropical Typhoon!

Macadamia, raspberry pancakes – proof the best recipes are still in your head =)

Mango & Sticky Rice!

Potstickers: I could survive off these.

Mango & Vanilla Creme Puffs from Beard Papas; only the best!

Can’t go wrong with a Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup!

Steak, medium rare. Always.

I ❤ Sushi.

BTA Benedict from Tart – my breakfast standard.

Waffles Versaille from the French Crepe Company at the Grove

Dim Sum @ Bao

My Step-Mom’s Pumpkin Pie