07 Jul How developing self-awareness became my #1 tool to living my truth
I can’t remember exactly when I embarked on the journey of self-awareness but I can say that there were a few defining moments that catapulted the journey. Moving across the globe and diving straight into motherhood were pretty significant. Deciding I’m not exactly cut up for the 9 to 5 j-o-b scene and wanting instead to be my own boss and help others was another defining moment. But I didn’t really know how I wanted to help when I felt like I needed the help myself.
I never was trained or accustomed to take a good look at my shortcomings and I would often brush them under the rug in the small instance that I attempted to journal about them. More than I care to admit, so many of my days were spent in a state of self-delusion, a never-ending internal monologue of justifying my actions, both good and bad. Coupled with the deep-seated limiting belief of never being enough, it’s a surefire recipe to emotional self-decline. And I was headed that way.
Until I finally decided to take a hard look at myself from within. I sought the help of a psychologist and went under the pretense that I am chronically stressed. She told me: “define chronic stress”. I told her well I’m always snapping at people and I’m not too kind to myself and I have so many projects I want to accomplish but never have the time to and I feel like I’ve amounted to nothing so far in my life.
Chronically stressed right? Apparently not.
She was kind enough not to laugh in my face at my notion of “chronically stressed” and she proceeded to explain how these sessions can help and that I need to keep in mind that it’s not a quick-fix but that if I’m in for the long-haul, I’ll surely reap the benefits. I could say that is when I consciously and energetically began developing my self-awareness skills.
Our evolutionary instincts kick in when we do something wrong or act out of character and we do anything to claim that it’s not our fault. How many times did you try to deny your inefficiency or rolled your eyes at some helpful feedback from a boss or peer only to secretly tell yourself that you are in fact silly for making that mistake. Few people like to admit they’re wrong or foolish. Instead of treating our inefficiencies, instead we chug the symptoms down with any one of the trifecta of doom: sugar, salt or fat (that’s a whole other journey I’ve been on too: my emotional relationship with food, but that’s a story for another day).
Over time, we resort to these routines and mannerisms as our default reaction. We fail to stop and think about what we’re doing. I call it being zombie-like. You can call it whatever you like.
To make matters worse, some of us don’t have the luxury of having someone be accountable for us, helping us recognise the turmoil within and what we want to change (in my case, I was lucky to have a highly competent and compassionate psycho-dynamic therapist for over 2 years).
So what was once a huge challenge for me – not to resort to default reactions – became easier and easier as I developed self-awareness. Focused moments of inner reflection and discipline helped me become more mindful in the way I interacted with others and with myself. What was hard was that as I developed my self-awareness, I began to see how much it lacked in others. We all have minds that are hardwired to protect us at all times. It’s human nature to resort to adaptive and evolutionary behaviours and fruitless actions for the sake of a damaged ego. It’s not that easy to pause, reflect and do what’s best for you instead of what’s best for your ego. Yet, taking that pause, allowing that moment of reflection to gain clarity and realise one’s foolishness is probably the most important thing you can ever do to get closer at living as close to your truth as possible.
Because living your truth means you are self-aware.
The best thing leaders can do to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making -- Anthony K. Tjan, Harvard Business Review
That self-awareness is being conscious of yourself, it’s a reinvention of yourself resulting in wiser decisions. You learn to tune out your thoughts and your emotions. But we don’t want to stomp out the emotions, we just want to become aware of them. Being self-aware is when you don’t blame the external circumstances because it’s the easiest thing to do, it’s about persevering on trying to understand different perspectives and to learn from our mistakes. A Roman philosopher once said: “A person who is not aware that he is doing anything wrong has no desire to be put right”.
There isn’t a single way to practice self-awareness, and everyone can do it differently but here are the ways I developed my own self-awareness over the last 3 years or so:
I dedicated myself to becoming conscious of who I am every single day.
Here’s a great quote from one of my favourite authors Steven Pressfield (author of The War of Art and Turning Pro): “The force that can save the amateur is awareness, particularly self-awareness. But the amateur understands, however dimly, that if she truly achieved this knowledge, she would be compelled to act upon it. To act upon this self-awareness would mean differentiating herself from the tribe and thus making herself vulnerable to rejection, expulsion, and all the other fears that self-definition elicits.”
I realised that I needed to begin paying attention to my every thought, action, behaviour and emotion. I had to sit with those emotions and summon up the courage to own them and then using that awareness to facilitate changes in my behaviour. Definitely not easy. It’s a daily inner struggle but to consciously work on our mind and behaviour is what life is all about. It’s what we’re here for. It’s the shunning of the old adage “ignorance is bliss” and instead embodying the message of reinventing our self at every opportunity, every second of the day.
I practiced mindfulness and followed the Slight Edge principle of doing what’s easy not to do.
Being mindful takes practice. This is achieved by quieting the mind through activities like prayer and meditation. Spending 10 to 20 minutes reflecting on the day that just passed and playing the events in your head and pinpointing where things went awry – that takes conscious effort. It’s way easier to just plop your head on your pillow and just sleep for heaven’s sake but to force your mind to ask questions and digest your day: that requires discipline. And to quote my other favourite author from the book The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson: “Here’s the problem: every action that is easy to do, is also easy not to do.” Sure it won’t kill you to practice more mindfulness every day, but compounded over time, yes it might kill you inside. Doing this practice helped me approach the next day with more clarity and a better mindset.
You can practice being mindful any way you like: you can sit quietly, close your eyes and just ponder. You can pace around the room and talk to yourself out loud (yes, I do that!). You can scribble on a piece of white paper (I call that taking a brain dump). Or you can call a close non-judgemental friend and ask them for their honest point of view. Mindfulness can take place anytime, anywhere, that’s the beauty of it. I love to make use of high grade essential oils when reflecting and I just have an oil that helps with being mindful diffusing in the background.
I made sure I had a solid philosophy or doctrine to fall back on as my foundation.
Oftentimes when trying to be more self-aware or mindful, we can lose our focus. It’s important to have teachers and mentors around you to instill a proper moral code and nudge us back into place. For me, that would be my chosen set of spiritual beliefs, religious scriptures and experienced mentors that guide me through foundational teachings and practical wisdom. It’s true, we all need a sense of belonging to some form of philosophy. It’s not so much about embracing that philosophy or school of thought, but more about we need that sense of direction, that sense of moral wisdom and “do this, not that” influence.
Once you start deep diving in the waters of self-awareness, you are in a position to start living your truth and embracing you. This is the path and message I’ve chosen to help and serve others in. In hindsight, I’ve always had that sense of self-awareness, I just hadn’t cultivated or let self-expression guide me through life.
Now I’m ready for that. As a mother of a gorgeous 5 year-old girl that I am proud to call my teacher and my guide. As a wife that is trying to understand the subtleties of surrendering without relinquishing my feminine power and how to let go and become more attractive through my vulnerability. As a business entrepreneur that is seeking to help and serve those who are out there trying to find their truths and share it loud and clear and be of service to others.