Improve Self-Awareness And Get to Know Yourself
Self-awareness was first acknowledged by Socrates when he said: ‘Know yourself’. What a powerful statement! Well, he may not have lived in a period where information of the psyche was just one Google click away. But he was sufficiently self-aware to understand the supreme importance to improve self-awareness and sharing its benefits with the world.
Know yourself. There are several assumptions inherent in this phrase:
What Is Self-Awareness?
1. First, there is such a thing as a self, an identity.
2. Second, it is possible to drill down into this self, to get to know it, and to recognize the automatic patterns that manage our decision-making, emotional regulation, and behavior.
3. Third, this self is definable – we can choose the needs, words, and symbols that define our identity.
Self-awareness is a deep and complex topic. It goes beyond simply being aware of having something stuck between your teeth after you eat, sipping your coffee too fast, or yawning with your mouth wide open.
How many times were you attracted to people who you knew were wrong for you? Have you ever asked yourself why you prefer to work alone (for example as a bookkeeper or lab worker)?
Have you ever explored why you avoid conflicts at all costs? Why do you fear commitment, or the opposite – being overly anxious about your romantic relationships?
Have you ever asked yourself why certain behaviors that are supposed to bother you don’t affect you at all, and why you can continue interacting with toxic people who drain or exploit you?
When you develop self-awareness, you can find all the answers to these questions and improve your results to a greater extent.
You may think all the choices you’ve made throughout your life were logical, but that’s just an illusion. Your subconscious dictates your choices.
We are all slaves to our programming. And as you become more aware of your internal state, you can, by that alone, influence a massive change in your life, because you know exactly what you need to work on.
Become Aware of Your Unmet Childhood Needs
These imprinted patterns I mentioned above, for the most part, reflect unmet childhood needs.
These needs are ever-present: when you interact with others, when you make choices when you feel things, and at the root of all your behaviors.
The list of needs is pretty wide and includes the need for safety, security, support, consistency, comfort, shared reality, to be heard and seen and so much more.
Usually, when these needs are not fulfilled by our main caregivers, we will subconsciously seek connections that resemble the unhealthy model we had in childhood.
We will sort of try to “fix” our childhood experiences through our relationships with romantic partners or friends that share similar patterns of our past experiences.
In other words, as long as we lack self-awareness, we will continue to repeat the same emotional pain with different people that enter our circle.
One of my clients, Jack, grew up in a home where his mother was only available to him part of the time.
The rest of the time Jack felt completely abandoned and rejected. His mother would send him and his brother to bed early, about an hour before his father would get home from work so that she could devote herself fully to her alcoholic, controlling husband.
She did that to protect her children from the angry outbursts of their father.
As a child, Jack did not understand his mother’s motivation. All he knew was that he needed her presence and she wasn’t there consistently. He needed her affection, her love, a listening ear. But as a result of the inconsistency, his brain perceives mixed messages to be the norm for how love should be.
He was jealous of his father, who stole all of his mother’s love. As the years went by, his needs were never properly met, so he suppressed them.
This does not mean that his needs have vanished, they have merely been suppressed.
Jack’s subconscious has always led him toward needy women who craved constant attention because that was his own hidden need. He met Michelle and together they had two children.
When Jack’s children demanded attention at night, or with daily homework, he could not understand why they acted this way. He thought their need was exaggerated. He wasn’t there for them.
When Michelle didn’t get enough attention from Jack, she turned her codependency tendencies towards the children – which made Jack jealous because it reminded his the rejection he experienced early on in life.
Self-Observation Is The Key To Improve Self-Awareness
Look, as someone who went through, and is still going through, the process of improving self-awareness, I will be the first to admit that reflecting on who we are and why we do what we do, is not that simple.
It requires authenticity, focus, time, self-exploration, curiosity, and a real desire to break the destructive cycle of childhood pain.
Self-awareness exercises become even more complex when you deliberately and rationally go against your automated feelings of avoidance, blaming others, or consciously choosing to behave differently.
Let’s take a look at Jack from the example above. He felt trapped by his kids’ demands.
His immediate emotional and behavioral reaction was to withdraw, isolate himself and avoid the needs of his children – the same needs that went unfulfilled when he was a child.
However, if Jack were to undertake a process of self-search and self-awareness, he might have said to himself: “Oh, I prefer to withdraw because I never got what I needed from my mother, never mind from my father.
As a child, I learned that having needs is a bad thing because I haven’t been seen. Now, instead of leaving the house or repressing my emotional difficulties with a bottle of Whiskey, I will listen to my children, I will be available to them, and I will try to understand them.”
This is just one example. I am sure you have your own baggage of emotional pain that you still carry until this day, and it’s your responsibility to improve your self-awareness and figure out what’s holding you back.
You must go on a journey of self-study if you want to evolve and heal. Think of yourself as a detective, investigating your Self.
Add the puzzle pieces one by one until you have a whole picture (or, at least, a large percentage of it).
Don’t rush this process of self-awareness. Take all the time you need to become more self-aware. If needed, get help from a professional to help you notice all those blind spots.
Look For The Symbols
As I said earlier, your subconscious will always look for people and situations through which to continue the struggle to fulfill those unmet needs.
These people and situations are symbols that represent a never-ending hunger to fix your childhood experiences.
But this is a struggle you cannot win.
And when these people do not fulfill your emotional needs, it is important to have the self-awareness that the pain you are experiencing is not the pain of the present.
You essentially go back to being a child. It is your childhood pain, felt all over again.
In my opinion, the people we are attracted to and fall in love with are the clearest symbols of our desire to fulfill our childhood needs. Be aware of all the things these people have in common.
I am not necessarily talking about the way they look. But every time you find yourself drawn to people who are unavailable; or those who have an anxious attachment style; people who are rigid or inflexible; controlling, angry, or cold people; uber-proactive people; jealous people; distant people, and so on.
Increase your self-awareness of these symbols. Don’t feel guilty about inviting such people into your life. Simply pay attention to the common threads of your reactivity to such people and situations.
Have the self-awareness of your tendencies when you are in a relationship – do you tend to be a drama queen, or angry over the small stuff, losing your gound quickly, and demanding to have it your way, dismissing your partner’s wants and preferences? Do you withdraw, prefer to avoid communicating, find yourself suffocated when your heart feels too attached?
To Sum It Up
This attention to the repeated patterns that control you – that is what self-awareness is all about.
Self-awareness is the ability to reflect on how you conduct yourself, analyze your actions, your triggers, and the thoughts that guide you.
Self-awareness means paying close attention to the emotional pain, your mental habits, where you feel the experience or sensation in your body, and exploring all these in an utterly rational, curious, nonjudgmental manner.
Here’s a special meditation that is designed to help you become more self-aware. Make sure to check it out.
You might also want to listen to this recording – expose your deepest limiting beliefs.
Self-awareness is your ability to get to know yourself. And getting to know yourself is the beginning of your journey to change the brain templates and cycle of suffering that surrounds your life.