Developing self-awareness is a bit like giving yourself therapy.
We know the version of past selves, but it’s often difficult to connect that to the here and now. We arrive at our opinions through our experiences. And then, we have new and different experiences that change how we see ourselves and the world.
Self-awareness involves the study of ourselves from an objective point of view and a willingness to be genuinely honesty about how we move through the world. And like anything else, developing it takes practice.
Think of your self-awareness as a muscle that needs to be strengthened. There are many ways to do this, and you can apply this goal to the various actions you take on a daily basis.
We’ve all become geniuses at creating blocks between ourselves and our awareness. We also won’t stop adding device after device that distracts us from interpersonal connection. Everyday, there’s a new app, updated phone, or revolutionary contraption to rob us of being still and focusing inward.
Self-awareness is understanding your motives, thoughts, feelings, and how they translate into behavior. It’s reading others and observing the truth in their reactions. How many times have you encountered a close-talker? And what do you typically do? You back away, right? What do they do? They come closer. Every. Single. Time. Does this mean zero self-awareness? Of course not, but when people struggle with proprioception, it’s one indicator they could use some practice in the self-awareness department.
In his excellent article on how self-awareness is the path toward habit-change, author and philosopher Paul Jin eloquently asks, “Do we embrace the “ignorance is bliss” adage when a bright light shines on our flaws? Do we simply escape the reality of who are and let the tides of the day carry us adrift? Or we do face ourselves and move onward towards a path that allows us to reinvent ourselves to embrace our best, truest selves, regardless of how painful it may be at times?”
Do we embrace the “ignorance is bliss” adage when a bright light shines on our flaws? Do we simply escape the reality of who are and let the tides of the day carry us adrift? Or we do face ourselves and move onward towards a path that allows us to reinvent ourselves to embrace our best, truest selves, regardless of how painful it may be at times?
Damn good question Paul. The answer is obvious, yet avoided because change is viewed as being hard. Everyone loves talking about how difficult change is. Okay, but is it harder than remaining the same, and unhappy? That looks, tastes, and feels much more laborious. So let’s flip the script. Change is in fact easier than staying stuck inside a sticky, cramped web of ignorance.
Alright, now we’re all hot and bothered to change, and change it up big, correct? How? How do we increase our self-awareness in a palpable, motivating way? Let’s make the beginning stage of this process really simple so we stay the course, and possibly even grow to enjoy it. Below is a list of things we all do regularly, maybe even daily, so there’s no action you need to add, other than the self-study piece of the equation. Here’s a few examples of how you can actively become more self-aware:
- Mentally film yourself moving through the grocery store. You heard me. Pretend there’s a camera on you, and every move you make is being filmed at close range. This is useful because, well, have you ever been to a grocery store? How many times has someone bumped into you because they were so absorbed in what they were doing they literally didn’t see you standing centimeters away from them? Can you remember a time someone raced you to the check-out line with an overflowing cart while you were holding only sushi and a bottle of wine? Ever been behind someone at the salad bar who was choosing each piece of lettuce individually? Conversely, we’ve likely each had the lovely experience of someone moving without being asked because they used their senses and peripheral vision. Also, you’ve hopefully been the recipient of a kind shopper allowing you ahead of them because she glanced back and observed you with just a couple of items to purchase. Watch yourself and mentally take notes. Take the focus off judging others and what they do, and just be the person with whom you’d like to share a shopping experience.
- Examine how you treat a server at a restaurant. I know, right? Everyone bashes the folks who don’t treat servers well. But yet, we’ve all dined with someone, probably several someones, who were straight up uncool and impolite to wait staff. How do you handle it when the server makes a mistake? What about if the joint is hopping, and they are busy as hell? Watch your reactions, and ask yourself, “Would I want me as a customer?
- Who are you behind the wheel? Oh yeah, this one is big. Wow, do we act up when we drive. But today, really study yourself as you move from point A to B. How do you react when you’re running late? Do you let people in if they are trying to merge? Do you tailgate? I’m not talking the fun kind, yo. Everyone loves to bitch about other drivers. But sometimes, that driver is us, and we need to admit that to ourselves. How about parking? This is an easy one to take a magnifying glass to, but what you see might sting a little. That’s okay. It will only hurt for a second, and the outcome will be you turning out to be a much better, friendlier, and safer road buddy.
Change may not be easy, but preaching is. Practicing is always where the real magic happens. By resisting looking within, you deny yourself the opportunity to grow. The activities above are daily, or at least weekly opportunities to really be a witness to how you move about the world. You’ve certainly got nothing to lose by giving it a go.
By Lara Falberg
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