If I could give one gift to everyone in the world, it would be the gift of self-awareness. I realize that a lot of troubles, issues or situations we find ourselves in are due to lack of self-awareness. If you are stuck in an unfavorable situation, it will all root back to lack of self-awareness.
My good friend and I were having this conversation recently. I have a friend who we reach out once in a while and talk about deep talking such as things we are struggling with or some of the lessons we have learned. We share our lessons and learning, encourage each other and challenge each other to take an extra step towards bettering ourselves.
We talked about how in the past we lacked self-awareness and we put ourselves in bad situations. These are situations such as the wrong kind of relationships, or chasing the wrong careers simply because we did not know what we wanted.
How lack of self-awareness can hurt you
You make uninformed decisions
I think about when I was growing up and how much I didn’t know any better. My parents brought us up the best way they knew how. They gave us a safe home and all the support we needed. I am grateful, and so are my siblings.
Growing up, and learning more, I realize that despite having come from a comfortable home, lack of self-awareness has led to some decisions in my life that I am not so proud of. For example, after high school, as I was heading towards college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
I realize this is common with many other individuals at that age. Even what’s worse is that in high school, I didn’t work that hard because I didn’t even know what I was working towards.
You lack a clear sense of direction
I am learning about the growth mindset, and one way to create a growth mindset is not to term events in my life as failures, but as opportunities to learn.
All the same, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life led me to spend 3 years on a course that I probably will never need at all. I look back and appreciate this as a lesson.
However, I still think that if I was a tad self-aware, or if I had the right role models to give me a sense of direction, I probably would have spent those three years doing something that was building me towards what I wanted. I, however, have come to learn what I want career-wise much later in life.
You associate with the wrong people
When it comes to relationships as well, I wasn’t self-aware either. I spent time with the wrong people largely because I didn’t know what I wanted. When you don’t know what you want, you tend to fall for anything.
I stayed with people who didn’t treat me well because I didn’t know my self-worth. You can’t have self-worth if you are not self-aware. Now, as a more self-aware person, I know what I want in a relationship.
First, I am content with being alone and know that I am in charge of my own happiness that I don’t need the other party to bring me happiness.
Secondly, I know that I need to involve myself with people who are adding value to my life, not draining it. Coming from this level of self-awareness, I learn that I attract the right kind of people.
Thirdly, I learn that I also have a role to play in relationships. I can’t be the one expecting others to be good to me if I am not good at them. I know the role I have to play to be a good partner in my relationships.
Self-awareness and emotional intelligence let me know that I have to be good to others, and treat them well so that they become happy in the relationship as well.
You carry unnecessary grudges
Lack of self-awareness also led to a lot of unhappiness in different areas. For example, I carried around grudges in the past when I was wronged.
Gaining self-awareness teaches me that what others do to me is not something I can control, but I can control my reaction to it. How I react is what’s important. This level of self-awareness makes me realize that not everything needs my reaction.
I don’t have to react to others’ treatment of me. Also, carrying grudges does not hurt the other person, it hurts me. I’m the one laden with a heavy heart and heavy baggage.
You dwell on the past
It’s also through self-awareness that we get over things in the past. This is how we get past guilt of having wronged others in the past. It is also how we get past the hurt other people may have imposed on us.
If you experienced some form of trauma, such as abuse, separation of parents, and such domestic traumas, they are likely to affect you today. You carry the baggage of shame, guilt, and victim mentality and whether you know it or not, it affects the person you are today.
Through self-awareness, you confront each of these events in your past. It is only through addressing them and dealing with them that you learn to move past them. Shoving them down, ignoring and repressing them does not solve your past hurts.
Actually, this is repression, a defense mechanism and it doesn’t make you feel any better. If anything, you spend a good part of your life repressing and hoping what you are hiding does not come out.
How self-awareness leads to self-acceptance
Self-awareness leads to self-acceptance. Once you become fully aware of who you are, the good and the bad, the strengths and the limitation, you accept yourself. I was talking to a group of schoolgirls about self-acceptance.
At a certain age, we are very aware of our appearances and touchy about some of our physical attributes. Some of these can interfere with our confidence. For example, I had severe acne well into my twenties. While it didn’t bother me much, I know for many it is one confidence killer.
Can you do something about it?
The thing about self-acceptance is that you have to ask yourself if you can do something about your insecurities. If you can do something about it, then do something about it.
I don’t mean changing everything about yourself that you don’t like, especially when it is harmful, but if it can be reasonably improved, then you can do it.
For example, I was touchy about my dental formula I made a decision to wear braces for 2 years in my late twenties. This was something I realized I could do something about it, and went ahead and just did that.
On the other hand, if you can’t do something about it, then accept it. If I think I am too tall, what can I do about it? I can’t alter my height. I choose acceptance about my height and there is nothing anyone can say about it that will hurt me because I have accepted it.
Acceptance does not just come about on physical attributes. There are other things we could accept. For example, if you had a difficult past, as much as it wasn’t pleasant, there is really not much you can do about it. What do you do? Accept it and work on healing yourself from it.
Self-acceptance gives you peace
Self-acceptance will help you create an internal peace within yourself. This contentment will lead to happiness, and it cannot be easily taken away from you. I will say again, you accept yourself after knowing understanding yourself.
I have discussed before that well into my twenties, I didn’t know I was an introvert. Somehow I got this information a bit too late. I made a lot of effort to fit into the extroverted world. I made efforts to go out and socialize, and once I was out there all I wanted was to go back home.
The moment I read this book that introduced me to introversion and made me understand why I behave the way I do, I accepted and became content with who I was. I don’t force myself to go out if I don’t want to. I am content in my own company and don’t feel weird about it if others point it out.
One of my friends, an extrovert, told me a similar story after I asked her to take the Myers-Briggs test. She discovered that she is an ENFJ. She is extroverted, and feeling is dominant for her.
She says she usually wondered why she wanted so much to go out and make friends, why she just be content staying in. Since she travels a lot, she says when she went to a new city, her colleagues would come asking her to go places with them.
They were happy when they saw her on their flight since they knew that would be a fun trip. “Why can’t I be as calm and collected like others?” She wondered. This had much to do with her extroverted temperament.
Similarly, she was so concerned about the welfare of others. She always takes it upon herself to solve problems and she beat herself later for caring too much.
Learning her ENFJ personality, and reading so much about it, she learned that this temperament meant that they cared for the people. They always compelled to improve others. This self-understanding led to so much acceptance that she is content with herself these days.
Believing in yourself
Believing in ourselves is also much of a challenge. Fear and self-doubt are our biggest challenges. It is as if we want someone to sit next to us and assure us all the time that we are good enough and we can achieve whatever we put our minds to.
Often, we don’t know how much power we hold. We don’t know what is within us and we often let our doubts get ahead of us so much that we don’t work on what we believe in.
We need to believe in ourselves some more. Not only should we believe in our abilities, but we also need to believe that we put effort into something, we will find the results we want. I wish I believed in myself more, and I know I am not alone in these.
There are times I wake up with resolve and I feel that I can conquer everything. There are also times when I feel so inadequate that I don’t want to try anything at all for the fear of failing at it.
It teaches us that there is no failure, just a different outcome and an indication that we are not there yet. It teaches us not to be ashamed when we fail but to take failures as lessons to see a different angle through which we could have approached our current challenge.
A growth mindset makes us curious to accept challenges, without thinking of winning or losing, but taking up a challenge because it is fun and it is an opportunity to learn.
When we take on a growth mindset, we start to believe in ourselves more because we accept that we are on a growth curve and surely, the more we learn, the better we get. We will not be at the same place we were yesterday. Today we will be better and tomorrow we will even get better.
I hope, like me, you are working on self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-belief. I hope you are working on knowing yourself better, so you can accept yourself, so you can believe in yourself more and believe you can do more.
I hope as you learn self-awareness you become less critical of your past failures, but accept them as part of your learning process. I hope that you will take action towards what you want, in spite of fear and doubt. That you will believe in yourself some more.