Awareness is a state of having knowledge or consciousness.
Whether it’s being aware of your surroundings or of your own self, it does take mindful effort. Unlike the Zen masters who are trained to be in a perpetual state of awareness, the average person is not.
That’s mainly due to the disciplined instruction those masters undergo and the lifestyles they lead. I doubt that a day in the life of a Zen master looks anything like ours!
However, we’re all capable of learning to be more aware.
Self-awareness means being aware of your own identity, which is unique to each person. Our abilities, thoughts, and experiences make up who we are and how we see ourselves. Our minds store information about past events that condition how we feel and react to similar things in the future.
It’s important to notice these responses and identify any preconceptions or conditioning. Only then can we make the necessary changes to become more self-aware.
“What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” ~Abraham Maslow
Psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of the best-seller Emotional Intelligence (EI), believes that self-awareness is the key to EI. Being able to manage our emotions and thoughts as they occur enable us to act consciously versus reacting passively.
Studies have shown that self-aware people are generally more mindful and self-reflective, as well.
So, how do we become more self-aware? There’s lots of great advice out there, but I found the following items helped me when I was seeking to know myself better:
The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” is a challenge for everyone. We all possess a particular worldview, shaped by societal factors such as: economics, religion, education level, family size and structure.
Changing that worldview isn’t easy and was years in the making. It took a life-altering event to realize that I didn’t truly know or appreciate myself. The choices I made were based on preconceived notions of who I thought I was. Comparable to peeling away layers of wallpaper, it was a joy to finally reach the real “me.” Unencumbered with the old fear and doubt, I was able to grow in wonderful ways.
I bought the framed aphorism above, which states “gnōthi seauton” (know thyself) and placed it in a prominent spot. This is my daily reminder that self-awareness must be ongoing in order to live an authentic life.
And anything less than authentic is phony.
As an exercise in recognizing people who inspire kindness, I decided to write a letter to a role model and immediately thought of you.
Your 4 ft. 8 in. frame belied the giant that you truly were. For the 36 years that we spent together, your spirit of generosity and sacrifice never ceased to amaze me.
As far back as I can remember, you were the happiest when giving to others. Whether it was financial assistance or help of some other kind, you were the first to step up and offer. Your Christian faith and love for God motivated your charitable nature.
I also remember what a hard worker you were. With only a sixth-grade education you had to leave school and go to work as domestic help for more well-to-do households. The money you earned was turned over to your parents to help with expenses for a large, but impoverished German family.
You cleaned, scrubbed, and provided childcare for others and then came home and did some more. You ran errands that involved walking long distances in all kinds of weather. You had to grow up before your time and missed out on the joys of being a kid.
This kind of menial labor continued until you retired at 65.
Your hands were the reflection of this lifetime of hard work. No smooth, soft skin or manicured nails. No jewelry. Just rough-hewn palms and translucent skin, mottled with age spots and a lacework of veins.
I recall these hands clearly. Smallish, yet capable of so much. From kneading floured dough to fixing my broken toys to pointing out the Bible verses as I followed along.
You didn’t earn much money but managed to save most of it. You lived simply and wasted nothing, repurposing long before it became fashionable. Clothes and cars were second-hand, but your treatment of others was first-rate. You had very little in the way of material possessions, yet you wanted for nothing.
Despite the many hardships you never became bitter. It’s easy to show kindness and generosity when life has been good. But, it’s not as simple when life has been harsh. We tend to look at others and wonder why we don’t have the same opportunities.
I never heard you complain about any aspect of your life. Your attitude of gratitude was nothing short of amazing, which is why I consider you a true role model.
I’ve learned to appreciate the basic necessities of life without always wanting something more. You taught me this. I feel sorry for those who define themselves by their material possessions. You explained that they’re trying to fill up the emptiness inside and even the best, most luxurious brands can’t do that.
You always took pride in your work and reminded me that no matter what the job is we should always do our best.
Your advice was to try to help others whenever possible and always with a smile. I may not be able to give in large ways, but I try to give in a lot of small ways.
The lessons in kindness, generosity, and humility that you always taught by example shaped the very best parts of me and I’ll be forever grateful…thankful for your love and all that you gave with such a caring heart.
I miss you a lot and hope that you’re proud of my efforts as a daughter, mother, and friend. I try to give my best to all the people in my life, just as you did in yours.
With much love & gratitude…xoxoxo
Revised & reposted from 2017