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:
- Honesty – It’s crucial to be impartial when doing a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses; you must be honest.
- Journaling – Recording daily events and how you react to them, noting the accompanying emotions. This can help identify reactionary patterns that may need adjusting.
- Mindfulness in communications – Becoming a better listener to yourself and others. This includes body language and any “automatic” responses…without judging.
- New perspectives – The goal is to gain clarity of the relationship you have with yourself and other people.
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.