“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”C.G. Jung
Sometimes I “curse” my levels of self awareness – I find myself saying things like “I wish I could go back to not knowing and not seeing because then life would be easier” but that is not entirely true. The only reason it is not easy now is because I am SO aware of my impact on others that I sometimes use my knowledge and understanding to fuel my inner critic and the big stick my ego uses to keep me small and safe.
There are different levels and types of self awareness and we all have our own motivations to want to become more self aware – or to avoid it entirely because it just feels a bit hard and the truth is that things cannot be unseen once bought into conscious awareness.
Initially my motivations for personal development in the realms of self awareness were to be a better manager, a better leader – someone who truly cares about others with empathy and understanding, but I quickly realised that you cannot truly know others until you know yourself, otherwise you are only looking at the world through your filter, a conditioned lens. Also, at around the same time, life kicked me quite hard and I found myself in a low mood fog that despite my best efforts just would not lift.
I started on my quest, an adventure of peaks and puddles that has lead me to explore both the inner most corners of my mind and enhanced my understanding of human behaviour exponentially – the academically accepted route, a four year immersion in coaching and counselling qualifications, entwined with the more unconventional approaches and alternative therapies – a balance education integrating eastern and western modalities approached with a fully open mind and in some instances a dropped jaw and astonished gaping mouth!
What I learned is that there is no right or wrong, but self awareness is definitely the first step in creating the life or business we say we desire the most.
When we see ourselves more clearly we can act with more confidence, creativity and compassion, the antidotes to fear, which leads to being in a state of greater freedom. We make better decisions, have better relationships and have greater bandwidth and capacity in our communications.
I come across many people who believe they are self aware – they have been on a course and now know what is important to them in life, know what their values are and have started to prioritise accordingly and because life got a little better the box is ticked and the self exploration is stopped.
However, self awareness in its truest essence is a very rare quality with only about 10-15% of people actually fitting the “official” criteria.
Guess there is still some work to do!
Let’s face it, very few people choose to “look at themselves” solely from a place of genuine curiosity; most people only look when they get so sick of sitting in their own pain and struggle that they are motivated to seek change – they get to a point where NOTHING can be worse than their current set of circumstances.
When they have exhausted their hunt for reasons in the external environment, they have made all the excuses, justifications, told all the stories and lies and realised that blaming others, society, the economy, (add to list as appropriate) results in temporary alleviation of pain at best, if at all, then they will finally look to their internal landscapes, their own thoughts, feeling and behaviours, to try and excavate the why and find the way they would rather be and live.
I observe that most of those with some degree of awareness have different strengths or points of focus, relative to their motivations for pursuing greater consciousness.
There are those who have an internal focus and can see their own values, passions, aspirations, needs, desires, thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, weaknesses and how they fit into context with great clarity – yet they are blissfully ignorant as to how they are viewed or received by others. They fail to embrace the perceptions of others, will not seek their own blind spots- therefore struggle with empathy and despite their efforts to become “more self aware” they may still find relationships challenging.
There are those who have external focus (which must not be confused with social chameleons or pure people pleasing) who are concerned about how they show up in their environment and sensitive to how they appear and are received by others. They are great at the anticipation of other people’s needs and are amazing to be around because they truly understand and are genuinely interested in understanding but, if they are not careful, they may overlook or confuse their own need fulfilment and make choices that are not in the best interests of all.
There are those who have a great balance of external and internal and know exactly what they want to achieve and who they are and how they want to show up whilst still seeking out constructive feedback from their environment, holding the perceptions, worldviews, opinions and experiences of others in high esteem using information of value to further improve their impact and influence in the world. The rarest of them all!
Finally, there are those who have pseudo-awareness, the slightly misguided who believe that knowledge, power, experience or a combination there of result in self awareness.
Take it from me – people don’t always learn from experience – and this can lead to having a false confidence in perceived self knowledge. Throw in the “power” element and there may also be a tendency to overestimate competence.
I see this quite often to those new to the coaching industry (not all but some), who have been drawn to the profession as a result of their own life experiences, wanting to “help” or “heal” others without accurate self assessment, reflection, emotional awareness and skill, very few coaching courses now require the radical self discovery and mandatory counselling that are common in counselling qualifications. The result can be sessions steeped in transference and often their own vicarious healing, with little to no benefit to the other.
Self awareness is not just knowledge – knowing and living what you know are two different things. In fact knowledge is pretty pointless without real life application. You have to live what you lead if you are wanting to make a true impact on your own life and the lives of others. The accumulation of knowledge alone can be very detrimental – when we think we know more than we do there is the temptation to position ourselves as an authority and an instinct to stop learning, growing and seeking candid feedback.
So, which one are you?
How self aware are you really? Be honest
- Self Awareness is having a clear perception of who you are, warts and all, without self criticism.
- Self Awareness is understanding other people, how they perceive you and your attitude.
- Self Awareness dictates your ability to respond in the moment, rather than being reactionary.
- Self awareness is a lifelong pursuit, not a box to tick or a book to read and put back on the shelf.
- Self awareness is not one truth, it is a balance and an ever-evolving process of discovery.
- Self Awareness is a daily practice.
It is a vital first step in taking ownership of your life, creating what you want, and mastering your future.