Mirrors are funny things. How else would you have any sense of your countenance without reflective surfaces? That visual self-awareness, however, is just that — visual (and the reverse of how you appear to others). Answering the question How can self-awareness help me? requires a different (and much more important) kind of mirror.
For all the eye rolls women get for the time they spend in front of mirrors, it turns out men have greater expression of the Narcissus gene. Men look at their reflection an average of 23 times a day, compared to 16 times a day for women.
What is especially interesting about this study’s findings is that men visit their reflection to admire it. Women, on the other hand, approach with a more critical eye.
No matter how easy it is to focus on the exterior, life and relationships are about so much more. There’s nothing like the revolving door of Hollywood marriages to drive home the point that wealth and physical beauty don’t guarantee happiness.
So you ask, How can self-awareness help me? How can it make a positive difference in my life if I don’t even realize I need it?
Self-awareness is a component of emotional intelligence. It’s how you bring your interior, unconscious filters to the level of consciousness so you can make better choices and healthier responses.
And this, in a nutshell, is how self-awareness can affect communication in positive ways and, by doing so, improve your life.
It brings clarity to your personal experiences. Instead of your thoughts and feelings getting confused, they assume their own identities, allowing you to recognize the influences behind your responses.
Think about how often you respond to a stimulus without even thinking first. It’s as if, at some point in your life, you went on autopilot. You didn’t need to learn anymore, listen anymore, think anymore.
You had somehow compiled all the information you needed to respond to any experience and any person. Your unconscious mind had convinced you that it already knew all you needed to know. No need to delve further, dig deeper, explore the unknown (or at least the not-understood).
It’s so easy to make assumptions and have a knee-jerk reaction to them. You may not even know how you get from A to Z, but, by golly, you get there in a heartbeat. Your boss/spouse/family member says or does something that triggers you, and all bets are off.
The next thing you know, you’ve done a split-second psychoanalysis of what the other person was “really” saying, and you’re off to the races. Your pulse quickens, your body language gets defensive, your voice tenses and gets louder, and you become reactive to a script that was written inside yourself.
And therein lies the key to understanding self-awareness. It’s an inside job.
How can self-awareness help me? If being happy is your fundamental goal in life, at some point you’re going to have to embark on the journey inward.
Happiness, like the self-awareness that fuels it, really is an inside job. It stems from the choice to respond to life with acceptance, curiosity, gratitude, and joy.
And there is no way you can make a choice unless you first know your options.
Self-awareness exposes and clarifies those options. It holds a mirror up to those life experiences that have shaped your thoughts, triggered your feelings, and inspired your values.
It connects your sensory experience in the present to its deep-seeded history. And it gives you the opportunity to verify the applicability of that history to the experience at hand.
In other words, self-awareness allows you to stand confidently and authentically in the present. And it does that, in part, by helping you own your past.
Why do I get so angry when he comes home late without calling? Why do I feel so threatened when she buys expensive things without telling me? Why do I feel objectified when he wants sex all the time? Why do I feel so rejected when she never wants sex? Why do I assume he doesn’t love me when he leaves me with all the housework and childcare to go play golf? Why do I feel like shutting down when she nags me about things I’m not doing right?
While there may be valid reasons for these feelings and questions to rise out of your present circumstances, there is likely more to the story.
There is good reason that relationships are likened to mirrors. They are a reflection of what lies unresolved within us, a beckoning to wounds left open or only partially healed.
And, regardless of all the fantasy and flutters that draw us into romantic relationships, we are actually drawn to them for deeper reasons. Relationships have the power to heal – even rewrite – the past.
But they don’t magically do the work alone. They can become a battleground for acting out, allowing old wounds to continue bleeding with a certain fatalistic “I knew this would happen.”
They can also become a healing sanctuary – a haven of safety for the deep, often painful exploration into what holds you back from self-fulfillment.
Can self-awareness improve your relationships? Absolutely.
Can your relationships help your self-awareness? Absolutely.
As with any kind of growth, however, there has to be the willingness to stretch beyond your comfort zone. You can’t be self-aware and emotionally sedentary at the same time.
Self-awareness comes with a honey-do list. It expects you to pay attention – first and foremost to yourself so you can then give your conscious attention to others.
It expects you to be on-purpose with your thoughts, words, and actions and to recognize their influence on the present.
And, most importantly, self-awareness asks you to sign a contract exchanging victimhood for self-accountability.
The reward is self-empowerment and the ability to fearlessly step into and embrace the present, whether to learn, grow, heal…or simply enjoy.
How can self-awareness help me? It’s the first and most essential question in what will become a lifetime of self-learning.
And the answer will be revealed and continue to be revealed in each moment of happiness you experience.
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