Funny thing about self-awareness. You need a certain amount of awareness in order to pursue it. A little chicken-and-egg quest for your best self...and a cyclical reminder that being self-aware is a practice, not a destination.
Self-awareness is a component of emotional intelligence. And, like the intelligence we associate with academics, there is no endpoint – only layering and refining.
The more you know, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you know. And ‘round and ‘round we go.
And so it is with being self-aware. A little light cast into a dark corner not only reveals what needs to be cleaned, but inspires the possibilities when light floods the whole room.
The foundation for this ever-emerging quality of self-awareness begins in infancy, when there is little more than physical awareness. An empty stomach signals a wailing to be fed. A loud noise startles a peaceful sleep.
The child is immersed in sensory stimulation. The experience is “objective,” “external,” survival-driven...until the sun rises over the horizon and reveals an inner response to the experience.
A thought, a feeling, a curiosity attaches to the experience. This “outer” life is working its way inside.
And so the “sense of self” is born.
At some point there is not only awareness, but awareness of the awareness. And then awareness of accountability for that awareness.
And therein lies the cornerstone of a building that is never complete.
Here are 5 reasons that being self-aware is a practice and not a destination.
Self-awareness brings you face-to-face with your own core beliefs.
Do you ever wonder how you became the person you are?
When you articulate your beliefs and values, do you hear your parents’ voices coming out of your mouth?
Have you ever challenged those beliefs – religious, political, social, financial?
History is a tough nut to crack. What you inherit during your formative years is as tough to undo as language and feeding yourself.
In that regard, the apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Unless you’re encouraged from a young age to challenge beliefs before owning them, you may have no idea how you got here.
You may stereotype certain people based on race, gender, religion, or income. You may believe one political party has the only answers and refuse to consider another viewpoint.
Then one day you come face-to-face with a person or experience that challenges everything you say you believe. Things aren’t as neatly packaged as you had been led to believe.
And suddenly you must make choices. Do you do the hard work of examining why you believe what you believe? Or do you walk away from the opportunity to expand your life and deepen its meaning?
That nudge, that stopping in your tracks, that discomfort – all are essential to being self-aware.
And the reshaping of your beliefs won’t happen in an instant. Personal enlightenment is a process of choosing better ways one thought, one experience, one challenge at a time.
Self-awareness brings you face-to-face with your strengths.
Self-awareness isn’t all about fessing up to your faults. It is equally about recognizing your strengths and gifts.
Why would anyone need to work on recognizing his or her strengths? you may be asking.
While some people are self-aggrandizing and misguided in terms of their strengths, others don’t acknowledge theirs.
And there could be any number of reasons. Competition. Fear. Parental disparagement during childhood. Disappointments in life. Even the deep-seeded sense of responsibility for using those strengths for a greater good and the resistance to that effort.
Being self-aware will ask you if you are being all you can be. It will ask you to examine how the world responds to you.
Do others trust you, admire you, seek you out for the consistency of specific gifts?
And self-awareness will reawaken the connection between your dreams and the gifts you have been given to manifest them. That alone makes the commitment worthwhile!
Self-awareness brings you face-to-face with your weaknesses.
Every coin has two sides. And any truth serum that brings your strengths to the fore will do the same for your weaknesses.
While it’s far easier to bask in the kudos of all your merits, the fearless examination of your flaws can be life changing.
That uncomfortable look at what begs for improvement is one of the biggest reasons that emotional self-awareness is difficult for some people to attain.
Again, not an overnight process. Looking at the thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and weaknesses that harm your relationships and limit your life takes courage.
And courage, like all virtues and worthy pursuits, is practiced.
Deepening self-awareness requires peace of mind, time, and attention.
Auto-pilot may have its conveniences, but it can also be dangerous.
It can lead to the dismissal of any accountability for where you’re going and how you’re getting there. You get too comfortable. You stop “checking in.” You go from point A to point B with no awareness of how you got there.
The busy-ness and chaos of life in a fast-paced, competitive world force you to choose the pursuit of peacefulness. Time isn’t going to pause. Quiet and calm aren’t going to magically consume you.
And yet, the process of being self-aware and increasing self-awareness requires dedicated time, attention, and mindfulness.
When you’re not necessarily looking forward to what your self-awareness work will reveal and ask of you, going into a contemplative or meditation mode can be difficult.
Again, practice. Today you may last two thoughts, tomorrow two minutes, next month two hours.
Being self-aware means being aware of how others see you.
If you’re going to do all this self-awareness work, surely you want to know How can self-awareness help me?
While the benefits of self-awareness are endless, one of its greatest pay-offs is its effect on relationships.
As a matter of fact, self-awareness is essential to any healthy relationship. It’s at the heart of owning one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without blaming others.
And the avoidance of blame is integral to problem-solving and the development of intimacy.
Knowing how others perceive you, while it shouldn’t define your sense of self, will give you insight into the effectiveness of your self-expression.
Do people feel safe having difficult conversations with you, or do they feel they can’t get a word in edgewise? Are you perceived as kind, just, thoughtful, confident, capable? Or do people avoid you, distrust you, limit their contact with you?
These considerations will give you insight not only into yourself, but into your relationships, as well.
Is there truth to those perceptions, both positive and negative? What do those perceptions say about you?
And what do they say about those who have them? Are you making wise choices about where and with whom you spend your time?
How people see each other speaks volumes about both the observer and the observed.
How do you think the world sees you? How do you think those closest to you see you?
As you get further along in your self-awareness work, you may find the courage to ask...and to reflect upon the answer.
Many things in life are destination-driven. Get the football over the goal line, the golf ball into the hole, the million-dollar deal closed, the kids successfully launched.
And yet, the experience of every destination reached, whether a goal or a tropical island, is influenced by that which has no destination.
Being self-aware affects every aspect of your “being.” And, the more you practice it, the happier you will be...at every destination.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in cultivating greater self-awareness and becoming more you.
Looking for more information about how you can cultivate your self-awareness? You’ll find what you’re looking for in How To Be More Self-Aware.