The single most important thing holding you back- ‘self-awareness’
May 4, 2021
What are you doing this very moment while you read this article? Can you feel your posterior touching the chair? Can you feel yourself breathing? Have you noticed the time? Stop and take a deep breath!
It’s these little things we take for granted that is simply defined as being ‘aware’.
It took me years to understand this simple trick, chew your food 32 times, said my dad, or don’t watch tv while you eat. What did I learn? I learnt to pause, pause all my thoughts in that very moment, and come back to the present. When I started working, I adopted the mantra ‘listen more and talk less’. I learnt that when I paused and listened- I understood people better and my responses were uniquely theirs. Then I started to think, what would happen if I gave myself this much attention and importance.
So, what is self-awareness?
Self-awareness is the ability to see ourselves clearly. To identify and acknowledge traits such as our triggers, motivators, strengths, and weaknesses. Being aware creates an opportunity to make changes in our behavior and belief. The greater our awareness, the greater our possibility to be free, and to expand our awareness is to increase our capacity to live fully.
How does self-awareness set me free?
Over years of being immersed in school, family, jobs, social situations, and friends, we absorb prevailing ideas from our environment, and some of these get buried in our subconscious, where they often don’t get examined until we accidentally blurt them out, at times to our own embarrassment. And if not inspected regularly, we could become a mere sponge for the societal mindsets and lose our uniqueness.
- It allows us to recognize the baggage we may be carrying, of our past, of our parents, other relationships, our failures, walls keeping us from living a freer life
- Self-awareness improves self-esteem because once we have recognized and made peace with our strengths and weaknesses it empowers and boots confidence enabling us to reach our truest potential
- While we develop self-awareness, our personal thoughts and interpretations begin to evolve. What we once believed- a notion, a method, opinions, begin to evolve opening doors to newer thoughts. This change in mental state alters our emotions thus increasing our emotional intelligence
- New ideas are refreshing and stimulating, introducing our minds to new directions. A newer way of dealing with a situation that once would not have even been an option, the freedom to interpret a scenario and find promising solutions
How exactly can one become self-aware?
Most-times self-awareness is confused with knowledge. Just because one might know their likes or dislikes, or is well informed on topics surrounding them, that does not mean that they know themselves. The process is not a destination, nor are the answers written in a book. Reading multiple self-help books or having a few ‘self-love’ moments is not enough. The truth is that at every new level of awareness, you will uncover more from your subconscious which will need work at that stage. And no one can make us aware, no amount of guidance, or lectures- it has to come from within. The willingness to liberate your thoughts and the ability to see something you couldn’t earlier. The process is a continuous discovery of yourself- raveling and unraveling at different stages, situations, and circumstances that life throws your way.
Self-reflection does not mean that one has to go into a deep lengthy process of self-study, nor should it be confused with overthinking. However, over-thinking need not be a negative trait. We all do it- some more than others, but we can turn this habit into a constructive one. The next time you are caught in this loop- physically displace yourself and once distracted- finish the thought and don’t allow it to start again. Ask yourself- what is this trying to teach me? Why did it happen in this specific way? Is this actually about me? Did the situation need my attention or response? What can I learn from this experience? This is the moment you’ll uncover something new about yourself.
Another method is practicing mindfulness. While you meditate it is normal for your mind to wonder- listen to the traffic outside each time you get unfocused, and this will help you snap back. Sitting quietly for a few minutes a day will help you answer these questions. Another way of introspection may come from practices you carry out on a daily basis like cooking, washing dishes, or going for a run- listen carefully.
The systematic method of penning down your thoughts into words takes effort and time, it allows you to put sense into your feelings helping you decipher what you are thinking. Expressive writing can help deep self-reflection, it becomes an outlet, a way of organizing thoughts, training your mind to stay in control, relieving stress, boosting confidence. Here, elaborate on your current situation, or answer your questions by writing out your perceptions of it. These may be things that you think you are good at, or places you need to improve. Things that make you tick, moments that make you smile, or situations that leave you confused. Think about the moments you are proud of, or any accomplishments that really stand out, face the downfalls, and highlight the key takeaways.
Ask for feedback (and take it well)
A little advanced way of becoming aware of oneself can come from an external source. Good feedback is one of the fastest and most effective ways to grow and improve ourselves. While there may be many aspects of ourselves that we can see need improvement, it’s the parts of ourselves we cannot see- our blind spots. Here is where the work begins. Asking trusted family and friends for constructive criticism and not taking it to heart can help you reach your goal faster. You can convey to your friends that you are looking for honest, critical, and objective perspectives.
Self-awareness is not just all about self-love and positive feelings. During the process, many fears or negative thoughts may surface from you looking inwards. You may encounter criticism, shame, guilt, the unraveling of this persona that you have constructed, and maybe even a deconstruction of the life that you have created. This happens because the more you become true to yourself, you start to notice that many ideas, principles, even people no more serve you. Once you see the truth, you cannot unsee it. So, the next time you’re in the shower, experience the water on your skin, smell the shampoo and remind yourself to stay in the present.
Prerna Chowdhary Siroya
An activist for change, trying to be a worthy member of the human race taking one baby step at a time. Passionate about everything psychology and currently studying to be a psychologist. Adrenaline and coffee addict, I love exploring, trying anything and everything new and scary!
*People only meet you as deeply as they’ve met themselves*