It occurred to me the other day that I write about “being self-aware” a lot on this blog. I preach about it, I talk about it, but I’ve never really dug into it and explained the importance of it. Seems kind of obvious, right? “Self-awareness,” I mean how difficult can that be?
Self-awareness is the capacity for introspection and the ability to reconcile oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals.
(I got that definition from Wikipedia, but don’t judge me on that page because it’s really poorly researched. All the rest is my own knowledge.)
In my experience, it can be really difficult. Self-awareness is holding a mirror up into your soul, so to speak. It’s not just saying things like, “Oh, I can be really awkward at social gatherings,” but more so. Self-awareness is knowing why we cry, we get angry, or we run away from things that scare us. Sometimes, we’re in the right to run away and sometimes we run away because we learned to run away.
When I first entered my program we were warned. All of our professors gave us a speech with the jist of, “This program can be academically challenging on occasion, but we are more interested in challenging you personally. We’re going to stir up those things inside of you that you need to face before you see your clients. If we don’t do it, your clients will. Better you work through it now than in the middle of a session or in the middle of your life.”
They weren’t joking. I have done more work on myself than I had ever thought possible in the last 2 years. Some of the work was uplifting and some of it was downright scary and unpleasant. I had to look at things about myself I didn’t want to deal with and I had made countless excuses for not addressing. My penchant for burning bridges is a great example. What I once justified as me just rejecting the world’s lot of douchebags became a well-earned look at myself. It became a lesson in learning how to forgive, something I was never particularly good at or happy to do.
So, what is the benefit of self-awareness? Not a whole lot at first. It’s like digging out a stable. Lots of poop until it’s all clean and you can get it ready for something to live in there. Okay, that was a terrible metaphor. You get what I’m saying though. Some of us only have a little to scrub out, some of us have a lot. Some of us think we’re fine until we find ourselves crying over stalks of broccoli in the grocery store without any known reason.
Maybe we hate broccoli. Maybe we have memories of our grandmother cooking us broccoli who just happened to pass away three weeks ago. The point of self-awareness is finding out why we do and feel the things we do.
The point is that we have to be willing to look in the mirror and know ourselves. When we practice self-awareness, we accept and examine our current behavior and try to rectify it with our internal values and standards. We become objective observers of ourselves. We take away our bias when we look in the mirror and we see ourselves in the most accurate light.
Through this objectivity, we can truly change and work towards being self-actualized.
If you’re struggling in this and you’re having a hard time cleaning out your stable, try to stop judging the crap your digging out and look instead at the goal you’ve set for yourself. It’s no good judging what you don’t want to be a part of you anymore, but it is worth looking at what you want to see when you look in the mirror.