I consider myself an utter bat case half of the time. Most days I barely have the same pair of socks on, and even then, when I have a day where I’m feeling good about myself, I more often than not will trip in the middle of a crowded area or dribble coffee down my chin, having it land in a poetically ostracised way on my almost definitely wrinkled blouse.
I mean, as a 24-year-old, I am not sure whether there is a right answer to what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. I think most don’t have it figured out in their 20’s. Heck! I don’t think a lot of people get it figured out by their 40’s (even Instagram models and Judges – I swear to ya!).
But I think there is a beauty to that. My wonderful father always tells me to stop stressing, that I’m not supposed to have it all figured out. I won’t lie, sometimes I wonder if this is meant to make him feel better, you know – knowing his only daughter is perhaps a bit of a bumbling buffoon and all, but hey! C’est la vie am I right!?
No but really, I don’t think there is a real time frame for when we are supposed to have it all worked out.
I do, however, wonder if a critical part of figuring this whole life thing out is being severely neglected or misunderstood.
And what may you ask is that critical part? Our own self-awareness.
And maybe some of you are thinking that this is a bit silly, that knowing yourself is easy and innate to growing up. And hey for some people you are totally right – maybe it is a growing up thing.
But I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to that say they left it too late; that they settled in life, that they didn’t really know who they were or what they wanted in life before it was too late to really go out there and get it. Heck, I’ve known people that will probably never really know themselves.
And I just can’t help but wonder what that means for our lives; what deficit this lends to in our ability to figure life out and know true fulfilment within ourselves.
So today I want to talk about why self-awareness is the real monster under the bed, and what’s more, why it makes sense that we often leave it too late in our lives.
I mean it sounds kind of easy, doesn’t it? Self-awareness, being aware of yourself. Right? My favourite colour is yellow; I like pineapples on my pizza; I laugh when I’m really nervous – yadda yadda – there ya go! Aware of myself! Easy.
But no, I wouldn’t have a damn thing to write about if it were all that easy, now would I?
What makes it so hard then? What is it and why do we run from it?
Self-awareness for me is the process of learning about who I am and what I value in myself and those around me. Self-awareness is more than knowing the surface facts about myself that make me unique; it is about knowing the real passions and drives that make me tick. And what’s more, it has been just as much about the process of discovering those things as it has been about learning how to fully accept and implement those things into who I am today.
Self-awareness is defined as ‘a conscious knowledge of your character and feelings,’ but I wonder whether, like so many things, self-awareness is best defined simply as a state of being that is subjectively different for us all. And perhaps that is one part of what makes it so hard; the inability to define self-awareness by any one standard.
Maybe, but I think there is another set of reasons why it is so hard.
It is scary. I think for me the part of self-awareness that has always been so difficult is accepting that parts of who I am go against the mould I see around me. The more I learned about myself; the more I grew within myself and starting to listen to myself; the more I realised that perhaps I wasn’t the cut and parcel human being that I felt I had to be in order to be accepted by the world around me.
And those words on paper sound mundane. They sound lacklustre, like an ordinary young adult coming into their own – again maybe – but seriously those are difficult hurdles to overcome at any point in your life; to realise that you are different; whether because of your passions, attitudes, whatever – realising that you are different from those around you, those you thought you aspired to be, or just different from what you think is most accepted in society – is just scary.
But WHY? Why is being different so bloody hard?
It is isolating. The more different we become from whatever we think the norm is, the more we feel like there are less people that will accept who we really are.
I think that’s hurdle one in becoming more self-aware; being okay with being a little bit more alone in the world than you perhaps used to be.
And that leads to the second hurdle; recognising that nothing is wrong with you OR the people you become distant from. This is difficult, because we invest a lot in the relationships we have in life, and it can be really disheartening to realise that perhaps, no matter how genuine the relationship may have been, ultimately, it cannot continue because a distance has been created between the waves of your path and theirs. What’s more, it can seem a really lonely journey trying to find people that actually do share your path.
It means change. No matter how inevitable it is, change is scary. It means having to play conscious catch up, and sometimes we simply just don’t want to really understand how change has come about, or even really engage with change. Sometimes we just want change to happen and that to be that. Self-awareness asks us to do more than just accept change. It asks us to engage with it.
It means less tolerance. I think one of the scariest changes that happens as we become more self-aware is that you realise you aren’t tolerant to the things that do not serve, or function in line with, your underlying values and path. Suddenly the things that you used to let drift easily across your consciousness are at once like an overplayed song on the radio. This hurdle means confronting change and departing from what you may deem as accepted.
These are tough hurdles; they are a lot higher than they seem, and I think that is why so many people end up denying their sense of self awareness. There is an innate fear that rises in being different or changing. It is in this fear that I think that we find alternative mechanisms to mute or dull out who we are.
And that to me makes a lot of sense.
But what can we learn from being more self-aware? What makes it all so gosh darn worth it?
Well, here’s a little bit of what I have learned;
Accepted standards are none of my concern. All the things that I perceived as ‘accepted’ had, and have, nothing to do with me. My concern is not with what anyone else is doing, and most definitely not with what I think is socially acceptable; my concern is with me and who I am, and what is acceptable to me. What is acceptable to others, to an individual, whoever, is simply none of my damn concern.
You don’t need a million and one friends who share your values and your path; you only need a couple. And yes – I think it is completely acceptable if your parents are included in the count of that small group.
It is okay to be an anti-social socialite. It is what it is, I’ll talk to just about anyone, and I’ll give anyone my time, but once I become aware that our values or our path is not in sync, I have no problem removing myself from social situations just as easily as I’ll put myself in them.
It made me a better friend. These feelings of isolation really emphasised the value of finding good friends and people in my life. In recognising that not everyone is going to share my values, it made me feel so much more grateful for the ones that did.
I liked myself a lot more. Understanding and growing into who I was and the values that I had, as well as implementing the changes that allowed me to be more myself and more selective with those I surrounded myself with, really enhanced the relationship I had with myself and those around me. This brought out the best in me, and I soon caught myself smiling at little old me, simply for being me.
I stopped second guessing myself so much and started trusting my gut. When I really started implementing changes into my life, I stopped listening so much to the nagging voice in my head that kept me second guessing my decisions and perceptions. This is because I very quickly realised that the changes were making feel so much better. I realised that that nagging voice was wrong; that it did not know what was best for me at all; but hey, I was starting to.
I became more compassionate and understanding to those around me. When I started to evolve into my awareness, I started to understand the mechanisms for how change occurs. You start to understand that just because you might be higher up on the mountain of learning, doesn’t mean that you have a right to cast judgement on people at other spots on the mountain. I have no idea the challenges facing another individual on their climb up the self-awareness mountain; and it isn’t my job to critique that person’s pace, or place, on this metaphorical mountain. Doing so does not elevate my status, nor serve my own path – it simply deters me – and that is counter intuitive to the path of self-awareness. Recognising the importance of the journey itself, not the position of greater or lesser that myself or anyone else is at, made me a lot more understanding and compassionate to others who may be struggling along the same hurdles that I had been through.
I felt more content. Not listening to the little voice in your head that tells you that you don’t like something; the voice that says, ‘hey, I don’t want to be around this’, or ‘I don’t like what’s happening here’, or ‘I don’t like how they behave’, or ‘I don’t like how I am behaving’; that voice that questions whether you are really in the place and position that is best for you in life; yeah, not listening to that voice is bloody deafening. It is like a constant reminder that you are failing yourself. And there is undoubtedly an element of cowardliness to that too. We are innately scared to be set apart, and through that fear we allow ourselves to be in situations that disgrace who we are. By neglecting that voice in our head, we think we are silencing it, but in reality, we are turning the volume on it up. And if we continue not to listen to who we are, we find other ways to cope; more mechanisms for escaping the knowledge that we aren’t fulfilled; more ways of escaping our awareness of ourselves. And contentment doesn’t foster in that environment. Once I stopped muting my own voice, and instead started listening to it, I finally felt like I could breath again.
My smile became more genuine – because I became more genuine.
I became more confident. I think this is the natural consequence of being content within yourself. The more whole and you that you feel within, the more confidence you will feel and exhume.
I became more successful. Breaking down the barriers to my inner self meant simultaneously breaking down the barriers in other areas of my life. Allowing myself to know every part of myself; my values, my dislikes, my likes, my passions; allowed me to know my goals and dreams. And once I knew those, I was able to attack them with full confidence that no matter whether I failed or succeeded, I would go out being 100% myself.
I learned the value of learning. By engaging with myself I learned the importance of constant growth and change. I learned that I am not a static being, and that who I am may change over time. All of my values and likes and dislikes are all subject to change, but despite this, as long as I am in a constant state of growth and awareness, I am always going to be on the path to a better me.
Perhaps it becomes easy at this point to see why the path of self-awareness is crucial; these changes have positive affects on figuring out how to do life.
Nevertheless, I would be extremely weary to say that because the amount of positive results outweighs the amount of sacrifice, the decision, and indeed the path, ought to be easier. Isolation and change are undeniably crippling sensations for us as humans. So, I think part of the journey is in fully recognising the depth of sacrifice that exists in becoming self-aware. Moreover, I think we owe it to ourselves to fully engage in the process and give ourselves time to get there. Rome didn’t fall in a day, and self-awareness won’t happen over-night – it takes time.
But I promise that the journey is time well spent in the end.
I have never been more me; never been more happy being me, in entire my life. And if you ask me, it is one of life’s greatest blessings to be able to say that.