At the risk of sounding overly enlightened (which I’m not), I wanted to write about how much I have come to realize the importance of emotional intelligence. This epiphany is significant to me since I went through a good two decades of my life not knowing what it was, and not realizing that my emotional intelligence was abysmal. My snooty high school self, obsessed with getting A’s on all the tests, might have been in denial about this fact. But it was true. In high school and early in college, I had a tendency to prioritize everything over me, when the number one priority should have always been, ME. I let myself succumb to peer pressure, high expectations, and the stress of everyday life. I always walked on eggshells regarding other people’s judgment (I don’t know about you, but my high school classmates were very judgmental), and feared rejection to the point that it was paralyzing.
Developing emotional intelligence is paradigm shifting in my outlook on life – a new outlook which erased a lot of problems. I say developing – not discovering or uncovering – since changing one’s outlook on life happens gradually with conscious effort. In this post, I speak of emotional intelligence in abstract, rather than numerical, terms. Whenever I hear emotional intelligence discussed, it is described as if it is completely separate from general intelligence. In a career advice article, I read a statement that went along the lines of “Emotional intelligence in the workplace is more important than conventional intelligence.”
Um, wait. What is that supposed to mean? That emotional intelligence as nothing to do with intelligence overall? That there is no effect of one on the other?
In my opinion, emotional intelligence is a significant chunk of actual intelligence. Without emotional intelligence, there is a huge block to achieving your intellectual potential, because you then lack a lot of resources within yourself. Resources such as being able to handle stress, dealing with disappointments and setbacks, making emotionally rewarding personal connections, and keeping your self-esteem intact in the face of adversity. No matter your natural intellectual gifts, emotional intelligence is what carries you through challenges to achieve big goals. Also, at the end of the day, emotional intelligence is what optimizes life enjoyment.
Here is what I learned so far in my journey of developing emotional intelligence:
Unconditional self-acceptance: Emphasis on unconditional. I am a goal-oriented person, but I just recently had to make myself realize that my goals are still not as important as me. My health, sanity, and happiness. It is about working to lose those three pounds while still loving my body as it is. It is about not berating myself when I make a dumb mistake, and not loathing myself when I get rejected.
Making myself happy: I recently read in a book (called “Living with our Genes” by Hamer and Copeland) that micro-rewards actually are more likely to contribute to overall happiness than big successes, because even the thrill of big events eventually wears off. I have learned to appreciate the little things: my current favorite song, bubble baths, a cup of tea, the latest Glee episode, and so on.
No longer trying to impress people: I think when I was younger, I pretty much lived to impress other people – my teachers, my boss, my friends. I didn’t realize it, but 99% of my self-satisfaction came from external approval. Only recently did I realize what a steep price this was for self-satisfaction. It meant that I had no control over my own self-esteem. It is so easy to fall into this mindset because we grow up having to listen to authority figures – our teachers, parents, and other supervisors. They always know what is best for us and always tell us what to do. And then comes a time when we need to find a lunch table to eat at, and we learn to conform to our peer’s expectations. In the end, there is barely any room for us and what we like and want.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t respect our parents and teachers. But I think what separated me from other people who were more well-adjusted is that they were more comfortable with themselves, in spite of what happened around them. Do you know who I strive to impress, now? Me.
Improving my people skills: Knowing how to make good friends and then developing those friendships. Knowing how to open myself up to people and treat them as I would like to be treated. Also, knowing how to trim the fat and cut off unrewarding relationships from my life.
So remember, my friends, you deserve to be happy and proud of yourself! What do you do to sharpen your EI everyday?