I am not the person I’ve always been. Eight years ago I was bitter, angry, insecure, passive aggressive and purposefully mean. I was trifling. I had allowed my circumstances to dictate my reactions and define me.
Now I’m different. I’ve extended forgiveness, I’m mostly content, still a little insecure, my motives are almost completely pure, and I’m the nicest version of myself I’ve ever been. I can’t definitively say I am where I want to be, but I’m on my way.
I’d love to share my how with you.
Below is the third step in a four-part series to teach you everything you need to know to stand up and start becoming the person you were made to be, rather than what your circumstances say about you. Each article details what made me realize I needed to take another step forward. We will also look at some ways to practically apply each idea.
Part 3: Be Self-Aware
Disclaimer: This has been a very difficult journey for me. It takes a lot of work and humility. It is not a journey to find yourself, rather one to fully love and know others – for that is how we truly find ourselves.
Part 3: Be Self-Aware
Self-awareness is a form of introspective paying attention. The Oxford Living Dictionary defines it as, “Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.”
I would take it one step further and say self-awareness is unbiased understanding of your character, feelings, motives and desires privately and publicly. You must recognize your flaws and strengths impartially and use that recognition to self-correct and progress. Self-awareness allows us to have healthy interactions with others because we start to understand how they are interpreting our actions.
It is very difficult for me to peg down when I started to be self-aware. It went right along with when I started to listen and pay attention, and the reasons were mostly the same. If you haven’t, check out my listening journey and my paying attention journey for more info about what made me realize I needed a change.
Regardless, once I started listening and paying attention, it was easier to become self-aware. If you are a person who never listens or pays attention, your friends are not likely to give you constructive criticism. They know you won’t listen to them anyway. However, when they recognize you are open-minded, they are much more likely to help you out, by telling you ways you can correct your behavior.
I gave others the opportunity to literally tell me my flaws when I couldn’t see them. And I tried my best to actually do something about it and not get offended. This didn’t always work but has become easier with practice.
Ways to Practice Self-Awareness
Examine and Understand Your Narrative Identity
Increasing studies use personal life stories to understand how people orient themselves in the world. Dan P. McAdams describes Narrative Identity as “an individual’s internalized, evolving and integrative story of the self.”
Start by simply writing down your entire life from birth to now. Then examine it. What surprised you? How can you learn about yourself from your story?
Welcome Constructive Criticism
Do not be afraid of criticism. It doesn’t mean you are a hopeless failure. It means someone cared enough about you to approach you with an issue. They may be wrong, but they may be right. And you won’t know if you aren’t listening or if you take it too personally.
Very often, we don’t realize we are doing anything wrong or hurtful. But a coworker, family member or friend can come alongside us and illuminate how our actions are perceived. I’m not where I would like to be, but I know I can get there with other people’s help.
If you don’t know how people perceive you, go to a close friend or coworker and ask them directly. Ask them to be honest. You are trying to recognize your issues, so their transparency is much appreciated.
Practice Openness and Transparency
One way to become more self-aware is to practice openness and transparency. Surround yourself with people who have little difficulty sharing themselves.
We all have shameful aspects of our stories, and talking about those parts openly is mutually beneficial. In sharing our stories and listening to others’, we are able to understand ourselves and them better. When we hide and put on an act, it only pushes people away.
To love is to expose the heart. To know yourself is to know others.
When you recognize an aspect of your story will pull a friend from the trenches of their own, tell them.
Develop Thoughtful Reactions
So often in our interactions, we are either on the giving or receiving side of interruption, jumping to conclusion or assumption. Humans are slow to listen and quick to react. I do it too, and it makes no sense.
Stopping to listen, to digest, to fully understand allows for better awareness and communication. If you find yourself reacting poorly in a situation, pay attention. Ask yourself why you are acting the way you are. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings.
Self-Awareness is a Choice
Self-awareness is an active choice. A learned trait. It is much easier to float through life and ignore ourselves, but you can’t be the person you were made to be if you don’t know yourself. You can’t combat what life as thrown at you if you haven’t taken the time to pay attention to what life has thrown at you.