The art of self-awareness: 4 easy steps to begin your journey
Most people start running for the hills, ducking deeper under the duvets or pretend to not hear anything when the term self-awareness is used. When I have asked people why such evasive tactics or reactions occur, the responses are quite expansive. On the one end, it’s classified on a time basis: “don’t have time to be self-aware, there is too much else going on”, to absolute disdain “there is no point as there is no need, it’s of no benefit to me” or “it’s all about meditating, which is hard and also useless”.
Some valid excuses there. We have all used time, our level of busy-ness and turning up the nose ‘because-we-know-better’ as our go-to to many things we want to procrastinate on. Why is that though?
Perhaps, and dare I say it, the root of it is the f-bomb we don’t like to freely admit – FEAR. Of the unknown, of actually pausing amidst our schedule (because we flounder when we don’t know what to do), of what we may find if we look, side glance or (horror) even study ourselves for just a moment (it’s all a wreck isn’t it, most of the time – or so says the little voice inside our head).
Sounds pretty appalling. Why would we want to put ourselves through that? No, it’s just better to march along, as is. Simpler.
Not actually. It’s far from simple. Every decision we make is as a result of a complex path that navigates our history, our biases, prejudices, pretences, preferences, emotional cognition through time. Our self-perception is rooted in that too. Resulting in habits, good and bad, that play out repeatedly, in different situations, but with the same DNA.
Self-awareness helps you break the pattern. When you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, self-awareness can assist you to unravel the why and why now, to hopefully get you into a state that is remedial as opposed to distressed. When you’re flying high, feeling cocky or overly confident, self-awareness will help you understand what may be warranted or inflated unnecessarily. Again, the why and why now.
Knowing yourself should be a form of catharsis – a freedom to actually drop all the acts you’re playing and just be you…truly you. I challenge you to try it. Here’s a few steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Bring it back down to the simplest building blocks of who you are – your values.
These are the things you treasure the most, often unconsciously, that guide your choices and help you make sense of the world. I could very easily provide you with a list of core values to begin with, but to me, that is pre-emptive and reactive. Take a deep breath and try listing them for yourself. It’s harder, but truer and proactive. And it’s activating conscious pathways – which we should all love!
Step 2: Once you identify your values, very simply ask yourself ‘Why do I value this?’
Do this for each value you have recognised. But…here’s the challenge: answer the question in a single sentence. The shorter the better.
Step 3: Once you’ve done that, just pause and review your response.
Re-read them if you have written them down or say them out aloud again if you’ve verbalised it. Look/listen, paying attention to how you have phrased you answer.
Step 4: Now here is the kicker of a question: why is [insert previous response here] important to me?
Do this for each answer to each value you have questioned.
The answer to this question often brings many up short. My suggestion is not to overthink it, just respond as naturally as possible. You’re not coming up with a perfect answer, but one that resonates or feels true, in your gut.
By doing this exercise, you have begun your path to pattern breaking and consciously discovering who you are. You will typically find you may need to do iterations of this, to find your truth. Once you do, it’s about then assessing how your reactions and behaviours in recent history have either been true to these values, or very far off. That can stimulate growth, or change, or even more reflection. All positive outcomes that will enhance your journey.
You can do this!