Self-awareness is a term we hear a lot.
The label is as descriptive as it is subjective and often open to extreme self-manipulation.
It is complex for several reasons. The depth of each individual as well as the range of emotions will vary from person to person. Some people are content and happy at a surface level, whereas others really need to do some digging to find peace.
There are also two states of self-awareness: the public state where we are aware of how we appear to the external world and the private one where we can identify and understand our own inner state.
Both are never natural bedfellows.
Having spent a few years looking deeply within myself, I’ve found that these internal shifts didn’t automatically manifest into my external world and that maybe awareness on its own wasn’t enough.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we take this knowledge of ourselves, both the positive and negative aspects, and bring it to fruition in our external world.
Tip 1: take responsibility.
The journey of self-discovery is layered. It takes us all over the place—childhood trauma, mistakes, achievements, embarrassment, guilt, pain, pride, love, hate, and fear. And that’s just a typical morning. It’s also never-ending and by no means a linear process.
We will find the reasons why we are the way we are, and within those reasons as we try to let go, we will make a lot of judgements.
I opened a lot of paths within me, and this changed the perception I had of myself. I expected this to manifest into my external world, and whilst some of it did if I’m honest, I felt a little changed.
So as the patterns repeated, I watched closely, and I saw that the person I felt I was wasn’t being represented to my outer world; instead, it was the judgements I had made during my discovery of myself, and they translated into blame placed on others and some on older versions of me.
I realised that whilst I took responsibility for the part I had played in making me who I am, I wasn’t taking reasonability for who I was in the present moment. My mindset was in a place of reason or even excuses rather than in a place of acceptance, awareness, and readiness in the present moment.
Tip 2: be truthful with yourself.
Our minds are deceptive, little buggers. Well, actually when it comes to being self-aware, they are downright lying little f*ckers, sending virtue signals all over the place.
I’ve noticed many times over the years the label of self-awareness being used as a tool for narcissists. Statements like: “I can at times be a little selfish” are not confessions, but they are made to save you the trouble of confirming that those people are truly being selfish.
It’s completely surface level. Ask them how that manifests or why they are that way and watch them run for the hills.
As we become more self-aware, it is key that we try and express ourselves authentically, but this is so tricky as it leaves us maskless and vulnerable. I’ve certainly experienced a really weird paradox where I’ve been so keen to show my authenticity that I’ve planned the whole interaction in my mind, and thus when delivered, it comes across as completely inauthentic.
I also noticed that, more often than not, I don’t respond as well as I feel I could have in key situations. The person I am internally isn’t always available in real time.
So, I started to analyse my role in these interactions, going through the usual dance of “why didn’t I say that.”
Doing this was fruitless. The thing that really gave me insight was when I was brutally honest with myself about my intentions within these situations, and often, they weren’t in the best interests of all involved or what I considered morally acceptable.
And that’s not always easy to swallow—my hidden agenda. But it is important that I identify it. It’s a big part of self-awareness, but it also signals to me when my behaviour isn’t aligning with my inner being, and this is where my potential for growth lies.
It’s a negotiation between what we can change and what we can accept. I have no ideals about becoming Mother Teresa, but equally, I don’t want to be full of hypocrisy, and this compromise must be based on an honest exchange with ourselves.
Tip 3: get out of your way.
“Just do it” is a lot easier said than done, but sometimes, we need to just get on with it and make things happen, and often, this means pushing yourself to one side for a moment.
For me, as much as I feel like a new person, actualizing this came with a massive fear of failure and a touch of imposter syndrome.
This is where we really face off with ourselves, and it can feel like a constant battle. Fear of failure has a million ways to stop you taking just one action. During one of these conflicts, I realised that this fear stopped me every time, but taking that specific action only has to happen once.
And facing a fear, any fear, has a juggernaut effect. It just needs you to start the process, and then, a lot of the heavy lifting is taken from you. There’s a flow to it.
I suspect that being fully actualized in our true state takes a lot of practice and a huge amount of trust in ourselves.
It really is crazy sh*t, but every journey has to start somewhere.