Self-awareness is a funny thing. It molds us, shapes us, teaches us, and impacts us. Without self-awareness, we cannot learn about ourselves. Without learning about ourselves, we cannot grow. Without growth, we remain stagnant and unfulfilled.
The thing about self-awareness is that it is not always pleasant. Sometimes we notice things about ourselves that we would rather push back under the rug. Sometimes we discover things that make us say, “Aha!” and revelation breaks through pain. Other times, self-awareness is uncomfortable. We become aware, maybe reluctantly...maybe even accidentally...and then we must face ourselves. We must look in that figurative mirror and ascertain what to do with what we see there.
I will not be so bold as to say that I have mastered self-awareness, but in the last several years I have become adept at seeing myself, knowing myself, and using what I see and know to live a life that feels right for me. I have also learned that self-awareness and writing go hand in hand most of the time, at least for me. I am able to process through feelings, observations, and discoveries – and by the time pages have been filled up with words, I feel I have learned a lesson or come to terms with whatever is at hand.
In a way, self-awareness is like telling yourself your own story – but without the flowery language, the sugar-coated details, and the rose-colored glasses. “Sit down right here, Arielle, and let me tell you the story of you today. Let me explain to you how this affects you, why this affects you, and what it all might mean.” That’s sort of how my mind works through whatever is present on a given day. Sometimes it’s a matter of using all my strength to push away a boulder that’s in my way so I can see the light behind it. Sometimes it’s like unraveling knots in otherwise smooth yarn. Sometimes I must open a door I would rather keep closed.
But self-awareness makes for a better person, and I’ve come to see self-awareness as an adventure. Sometimes you like it and sometimes you don’t. But you’re taking the journey with yourself. Sometimes it’s a bumpy ride. Sometimes it’s a smooth one. You are both the driver AND the passenger.
Though I am of course learning lessons every day, I feel that I have a keen and sharp sense of self. Why? Self-awareness. If I can be an expert of nothing else, I want to be an expert of ME.
Allow me to go back to the door analogy. “Sometimes I must open a door I would rather keep closed.” We are complex individuals – each and every one of us - and it is perfectly natural for even the most put-together, happy-go-lucky, and self-assured people to shy away from self-awareness at times. The smallest things in every day life factor into self-awareness. Self-awareness doesn’t have to be about life-altering, game-changing instances. It doesn’t even have to be about problems. At the core, self-awareness is simply about emotions. That’s it. Emotions.
Emotions fuel reactions.
Emotions fuel actions.
Emotions determine mood.
Emotions guide decisions.
Emotions, it turns out, are incredibly important.
But sometimes they feel larger than we are. Sometimes we don’t want to believe them. Sometimes we pretend they don’t exist. Sometimes we embrace them in order to escape other, scarier ones. There are as many scenarios as there are emotions.
But as a pioneer of your own self, you go forward. So, you open that door you would rather keep closed. And you back away, off to the side, not quite ready to deal with what may be behind it. You might stand aloof, listening while pretending not to listen. Or maybe it’s the other way around – perhaps you pretend to listen to what’s behind that door, all the while still not yet invested. You keep your distance, but you still opened the door, so it’s not like you’re not paying attention, right? It’s not like you’re not being self-aware, right?
But then, something calls to you. You don’t want to face it, but you’re ready to listen. So you stand tentatively, your ear pressed to the open door.
And now you’ve been drawn into the journey. You wait, listening, maybe even arguing with yourself. “Do I really feel that way?” “Of course I don’t feel that way.” “Or do I?” “That’s not how I operate!” “Can it be true?” “That’s not why I act the way I do!” You’re so close to whipping your head around to the other side of the open door, to give what’s waiting there a piece of your mind... but that would mean you have to face it... and not all the things we learn about ourselves feel good.
And then, eventually, with a little gasp, you let yourself not only hear it, but recognize it, whatever it is. “I guess I AM jealous of that person.” “Maybe that IS why I get so angry about that.” “I wish I hadn’t done that. I guess I really DO regret it.” “Wow – I wanted to think I was, but I’m NOT okay with it.” Then wide-eyed and nodding, you’ve stopped the denial/defiant ego/self-pity/awkwardness.
And you know what you must do. You began this self-awareness thing. You opened that door. Now you’ve got to face whatever is back there.
And even though it might not make you jump for joy or grin ear to ear, it’s usually never as bad as it felt at first. And by staring through that door into whatever is there with 1) a little confidence, 2) the reminder that you’re human, and 3) the desire to learn about yourself, you’re one step closer to being a master of self-awareness.
The intricate workings of ourselves deserve time, attention, appreciation, and care. You can’t give any those things to yourself if you’re working behind a closed door. Open it. And even if it takes a while, don’t be afraid to look inside.