There’s a popular myth that self-awareness comes from looking inside, introspection or through meditation. Like any myth, it endures because stories circulate that make it plausible. The odds, though, are that you won’t find self awareness any of these ways. Here’s why.
It Always Starts with Terms
One of the most common problems with gaining clarity on any subject is that we don’t pay enough attention to what we mean when we use a word like “self awareness”. Our terms aren’t clear.
Are we talking about being conscious of myself? Or is it awareness of my thoughts and feelings and perhaps being able to name them? Does self awareness mean a practical sense of who I really am, not just my favorite ideas about who I would like myself to be?
For clarity, I’m focused on that last option: the practical kind of self awareness about who I really am without deceiving myself.
You Could Try This
I stepped outside this morning, crossed the street and looked at my house. It’s a different view from over there. So this is what my neighbors see every day!
You can do this too. Cross the street and look at your house or apartment from the other side. Go sit in the passenger’s seat of your car if you have one. Or sit in your colleague’s chair at work. You’ll get a different perspective. It may not give you self awareness…but it might.
You Need Just a Little Distance
I’m preoccupied all day long with my thoughts, my life and looking at my neighbor: evaluating him, wondering why she does that thing, feeling they are just too much at times.
But what do I look like in their eyes? I cross the street and take a peak. It gives me a little more self awareness to see myself through the eyes of the stranger, to listen to myself like my neighbor does, to feel the indifference of the world toward me—not in a cruel way, but factually. The world afterall is bigger than my concerns.
Here’s the Paradox
If you want a little more self awareness, don’t care quite so much. Look at yourself through the eyes of the stranger. Listen to yourself as your neighbor does. The paradox you might discover is that you learn a little more about yourself once you can get over yourself!