Isn’t it satisfying when someone shows genuine interest in your life?
In today’s time-starved, bustling world, you may long for these connections, now more than ever.
Although nothing will replace an affirming exchange with another person, one more hallmark of a rich and fulfilling life is to show genuine care and interest toward yourself.
What Is Self Awareness?
Socrates said: to know thyself is the beginning of wisdom. But what exactly does it mean to know yourself and to have self-awareness? Here are a few examples.
To know what makes you tick
To know your triggers, so you can support yourself accordingly
To know and honor your unique needs
To know what brings you joy and meaning
To know which people and resources you can count on for strength and inspiration
On the one hand, self-awareness may sound like a helpful idea, leading you to greater clarity, purpose, and resilience. For example, if you’re aware of situations when you’re apt to lose your patience – and this is something you aspire to do better – you can come up with helpful ways to support yourself before and/or during the event.
On the other hand, self-awareness may seem like a silly use of your time or energy given your already full plate.
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To that end, there are common misconceptions about self-awareness that may lead you to believe it’s not worthwhile, maybe even futile, compared to other priorities or responsibilities.
Below, I’ve outlined four specific misunderstandings of self-awareness and encourage you to think outside the box about what self-awareness is.
4 Misconceptions of Self-Awareness
1. Getting to know myself is boring or uninteresting.
Firstly, I’ve yet to meet a boring human! As a species with a highly evolved brain, we’re about as complex and fascinating as they come. Second, on paper, it may seem like getting to know yourself isn’t as exciting as, let’s say, going for a hike or meeting friends for dinner.
But the cool thing is, knowing more about yourself can add ease and enjoyment to your experience of virtually everything you do. For example, if you know you have a tendency to get anxious in certain social situations, you can mindfully reflect on ways to create a feeling of ease or support.
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Maybe you situate yourself next to people who make you feel good and/or plan exit strategies if you wind up next to a person who makes you uncomfortable. In a nutshell, have fun exploring the ways self-awareness can make already meaningful experiences even more meaningful!
2. I’ll be forced to dredge up things about my past that I don’t like or want to deal with
Bringing curiosity to challenging aspects of your life is only one facet of self-awareness. But there’s not a hard and fast rule saying you need to start – or go – here if it’s not interesting or comfortable.
I personally think it’s better to gain insight about yourself by exploring what brings you pleasure and joy, at least as a starting point. As you become more familiar with satisfying experiences, including where to find them and what they feel like, your baseline of happiness and resilience naturally increases.
In other words, knowing how to orient your life around joy is just as beneficial as knowing how to identify or manage problems.
3. Taking time to get to know myself is selfish
I can see why you might think this, but let’s take a closer look. Investing in your health and well-being, whether that means setting aside time to journal about your day or attend a Mindful Daily session, is one of the greatest ways to honor your needs and show respect for yourself.
As you prioritize your needs, everyone around you will benefit. Just think of the last time you were well-nourished and supported, how did it impact the way you looked at – and related to – others? Keep in mind, I’m not suggesting that you focus on yourself all the time! That’s the difference between self-awareness and self-absorption.
It’s crucial to take breaks from an internal focus. Making a point to connect to your environment and the people around you is an awesome counterbalance to building self-awareness.
4. Focusing on myself is the best or only way to create positive change
Contrary to the third misconception, there may be a tendency to think the only way to create positive change is to focus on yourself. In spite of the fact that self-awareness (and self-improvement) begins with the word “self,” neither is purely intended as a solo endeavor.
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Ideally, as you improve your awareness of who you are, including what you need and want, you’ll simultaneously become more aware of others’ values and needs – and make a point to connect on this level. Along the same lines, recognizing your interdependent nature, a deceptively simple task, is more straightforward when you foster awareness of your greatest hopes and fears in relationships.
In the end, I hope you’ll offer yourself the same warmth and curiosity you’d offer a dear friend when it comes to getting to know yourself. It’s important to remember, curiosity isn’t something you have to go out and learn. Just think about the natural disposition of a child, hungry to understand the way the world works and full of wonder about simple things. This innate curiosity is yours to reclaim and leverage in simple, creative ways that support your growth and evolution.
As Lao Tzu said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Which step will you take to further your self-awareness and self-understanding? May it be one that excites you!
Written by eM Life teacher Breon Michel.
Also published on Medium.