“Know Thyself”: Self-Awareness–What It Is and Why It Matters

Self-awareness has become quite a buzz word these days. I love that more and more people are connecting to themselves and their intuition/higher power on a deeper level through mindfulness and meditation practices. But I also think as commonplace as these terms are becoming, there are still many standing on the water’s edge, unsure of whether or not they want to wade into the deep. After all, with knowledge comes responsibility. And sacrificing ignorance for accountability requires a certain level of maturity some are not ready to fully step into. Once you see your reflection fully in the mirror, you can never un-see it.

Every person is on their own journey and each has his/her own process of self-discovery and growth into maturity and greater awareness. I think for the most part we are all trying to do the best that we can with what we know. Myself included. But to absolutely close oneself off to the experience of change and growth and broader understanding of the self and ways of the world leaves us all in a worse place. Truly. Our inner reality will always determine our external reality. And if we take one look at the news, it’s not too hard to see that we’ve got a lot of work to do.

But I’m not writing this to shame anyone into a forced journey of self-development. I simply want to share my experience and express why these personal tools and skills are so necessary in this day and age in the hopes that it will inspire you to remain open to learning and understanding more than you already think you know.

Bottom line, no one has all the answers. And the moment we begin acting as if we do is the moment we begin a very steep descent into deception. However, having enough awareness to recognize one’s own personal beliefs and values while also remaining open to the possibility of those beliefs and values changing is what creates a more healthy environment for us all to flourish. Being able to see important issues from another person’s perspective helps to diminish divisive speech and violent actions, but that can only happen when we let go of the need to protect our own egos.

What has got me pondering all of this is my recent return to the US after another extended period of living overseas. Having spent so much time away from my home country, I’m now more aware of certain beliefs and practices and values that are specifically American. And I know from living in other countries, that each nation has specific qualities unique to its own country as well. Every country also has its own downfalls, and as much as we can hate on our leaders for making poor decisions, no matter where you go in the world you will always find policies and people you don’t agree with.

So what does this all have to do with self-awareness? According to the Oxford definition, self-awareness is “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” To me, that means knowing your motivation for why you do the things you do and understanding your thoughts and feelings behind your actions. It’s not about identifying yourself as a certain type of person, whether that be your race, gender, nationality or class, but about identifying your why, and understanding how it determines the way you live.

I think when we aren’t prone to exposing ourselves to different people and places and ways of life, it can be easy to assume that everyone should naturally think and act like we do. But humanity is not that singularly faceted. It’s so expansive and colorful and diverse. Yes, we all have the same basic needs and wants, but there is so much variety in how we strive to attain those things. One isn’t necessarily more right or better than another. They are just different.

Knowing what makes you you and following your own path is important because we’re not all meant to live the same expression of life as each other. I’m not talking about being different just to be different. I’m talking about really getting to the core of who you are and tapping into the creative life force inside of you that wants to manifest in a bright and colorful way that is only unique to you. No one has the same expression of life just as no two fingerprints are the same. We’re not robots, nor will we ever be.

When a person is self-aware, they not only notice their own feelings and motivations behind their actions and reactions but they also notice how those actions affect others. I think once you begin to understand how and why you yourself are triggered by other people’s words and actions towards you, you begin to understand that how you see others isn’t always an accurate representation of what’s going on underneath the surface. And you begin to have more grace for yourself and for those around you, whether others are conscious of their behavior or not.

If you want to learn how to develop your self-awareness skills, start by simply noticing your thoughts and emotions throughout the day. Become the watcher of your own mind, observing yourself as if you are a separate entity from your mind and body. This is the basis of mindfulness practices. But to really understand yourself and become “self-aware,” you must take it one step further and begin to ask yourself why? When you notice certain thought patterns and emotional triggers, ask yourself why those things surface? Why do you feel_____, when _____ happens? Or why do you do ______(negative behavior), when ______ happens? What’s the underlying issue?

The most introspective people are either one of two things: self-conscious or self-aware. While the questions they ask themselves may be the same, the result is different based on how a person sees his/herself after they’ve got their answer. Developing self-awareness is not about looking for all the ways you fail and giving yourself a guilt-trip. It’s about learning more about yourself and why you are the way you are so that you can make positive changes in your life that help you grow and become a better person. If noticing your thought and behavioral patterns make you feel like a shitty person, again, ask yourself why that is. Do you feel like you have to be perfect? Where does that feeling come from? Getting to the root of the cause is what self-awareness is really about. If you only stop long enough to notice your thoughts and behaviors without taking it that step further to ask why, then you’re not really understanding yourself any better. You’re just becoming more self-conscious.

In my own life, I sometimes feel irresponsible for living the way I do, being a nomad with no real plans of where I want my life to go or what I’m going to build with it. But I’m starting to see the value in it. A friend recently asked me what I love most about traveling and living around the world, and now that I’ve spent some time back in the USA reflecting on the ways I’ve changed and grown, I think what I love most about it is that I’m constantly exposed to new people and ways of life.

“Normal” can look like so many different things. And I love that through experiencing different cultures, I feel the freedom to express life in whatever way it wants to manifest itself through me. I don’t define myself by any labels society wants to place on me because I don’t think they can ever truly capture the essence that is me. I don’t mean that in a cocky way. Just in the way that words can often fail to describe our experiences and emotions. So too am I undescribable.

And knowing that, knowing my motivation to keep living the way I do is because I want to continually grow and expand and learn, it’s easier to stay on my path and stop questioning when my life doesn’t look the same as those around me. I’m not fueled by money or fame or wanting to escape reality, or a need to be a mother or a teacher or whatever else is good and worthy of pursuit. I simply long to see the world in all its fullness, to understand the whys of humanity that have created our present reality, and to be a channel of light that brings hope, peace, love, and joy anywhere and everywhere it shines. But none of that is possible without self-awareness.

So what about you? What is your why? And what are you willing to do, to give up, to change, in order to live your unique expression?

I encourage you to listen. To go within and see what you find. And once you have your answer, live your truth wholeheartedly.

As always, thanks for reading along. I know today’s post is a bit more informational than usual, but self-awareness is super important to me and it’s something I think we could all learn to be better at practicing. If you have any questions or thoughts on the subject, please leave your feedback in the comments below!

Take care and see ya next time 😉

XOXO

Jackie

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