Something I’ve been tossing around and chewing on for quite some time now is the concept of self-awareness and its role in the psychology of change, healing and wellness. My slight obsession with it came as the result of my search for meaning and understanding around the elusive, hard-to-grasp topic of self-love. Something I speak often about, and also something, I would argue, we all want to feel, but aren’t entirely sure how to go about accomplishing.
To me, then, it became apparent that before self-love, before self-compassion, and absolutely before self-understanding, there must be something else. Something more substantial and foundational. Something that would catch you as you fall and provide a landing net of sorts to direct you through your darkest and most pivotal moments, and what I’ve found is that it is self-awareness.
As I’ve become more enamored with this idea, I’ve come to believe that self-awareness is one of the most important traits a human being can embody, because without it, we will never really know ourselves, and therefore anyone else – essentially, leaving us devoid of the connection we’re hardwired to seek. Without it, we also become destined to continue loops of mistakes, behaviors and habits in perpetuity, equaling ourselves to a mouse on a hamster wheel (laughably of course). Whether its diets we start and fail endlessly, relationship arguments we rinse and repeat or an inability to find a meaningful career we enjoy, all of it points back to the same thing: the lack of self-awareness to change it.
But why does this matter? Why should we want, or need, to change the parts of our lives that don’t appear to be working in our favor? Well:
A. Because they aren’t working (obviously)
B. Because generally, we aren’t always the ones doing the “choosing” of these patterns, habits and beliefs, meaning the software we’re operating on is somewhat outdated, un-useful and un-applicable to who we are, what we want and where we’re going.
Sometimes this software comes from our parents, sometimes the culture we live in, sometimes its just an amalgamation of all our life experiences, but nonetheless, it’s often not directly chosen, and therefore, not directly applicable, leaving us stuck in a weird, self-perpetuating cycle we rarely stop to question, let alone change.
The key to any kind of lasting change then is simply awareness. Awareness of self and the ability to introspectively mine your inner landscape for information you can then use to move forward, both incrementally and insightfully. To understand your feelings, emotions, thoughts and motivations and then act accordingly. In other words, to “know thyself,” as was subscribed in Ancient Greece, written with conviction on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, is to understand the world around you, as the world around you is a reality of your own making.
However, it is here that I find it equally important to throw in a word of caution. Because, for all that I speak of self-awareness, I do find that it can easily become pathological in nature, and therefore, occasionally, negates its own purpose. Let me explain…
Often times, as we become more aware of ourselves (perhaps through counseling, prayer, meditation, or something else entirely), we get a bit obsessive with viewing our life through this new lens. When I, as a newly self-aware person, start to notice all the ways my behavior, beliefs and habits of thought affect my daily experience, it’s easy to myopically zoom in on all that is ME and forget that the reason I wanted to become aware in the first place was so that I could more easily interact with the world around me. I see this evidenced time and time again as clients, friends and family (including myself at one point) become ever-obsessed with finding the next level of ascension, the next layer to peel back or the next roadblock to uncover. And while I clearly promote and agree with knowing oneself, I think it’s worth mentioning that the reason to know oneself IS to be more happy. More free. More content. So, if awareness is leading you away from those states of being, it’s perhaps time to reconsider your approach.
So, how to cultivate awareness without simultaneously getting caught in self-absorption? More awareness. And I say that laughing, with a smile on my face, yet entirely serious. That’s it. Simply to know that this could possibly, potentially be a problem is enough. Simply to know that you are eating handfuls of chips straight from the bag because you are stressed is enough. Simply to know that you’re over-reacting to something your husband or boyfriend said because it triggered your abandonment issues is enough. Simply to know that your feeling irritable and snappy because you’re scared is enough. Its enough just to know. Because once you know, you can’t unknow. And one of those times, after you’ve known it long enough, you’ll make a new choice that IS directly applicable, and you will have started the process of change so organically, you’ll hardly notice it’s presence.
Start by asking questions. Who am I? What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Where am I going? Why am I feeling this way? What happens when I feel this way? Who would I like to be instead? Is there a reason for this behavior? Do the way I see myself and the way others see me match? Do I care? Who is doing the thinking here? Do my thoughts matter? What are my habits around X? What are my patterns around Y?
Ask. Ask. Ask. Get curious, then sit back and watch the answers unfold. They will. They do every time. And eventually, if you ask enough questions, you’ll get a really good answer.
THIS is why I self-awareness is key to change. Key to self-love, key to transformation. It is a powerful, foundational, absolutely necessary and vital component to obtaining all that you seek. And the best part is, you can start right here, right now, today – for free.
Until next time,