Turn on the TV or jump online and you’re bombarded with quick fixes on how to get to know yourself, or how to level up in knowing yourself better. These are all fine and dandy, but they’re not enough. And let’s face it, in today’s world we’re challenged more than ever to perform at too-notch with everything. It’s not enough to put in your eight hours at the office. Television throws infomercials at you on how to get in shape. There’s a new book out every week on how to dump the driftwood you’re dating. Social media flaunts idealized lifestyles and reminds you that yours somehow isn’t stacking up.
And the fact is, if you’re stuck in denial or repeating what doesn’t serve you, or caught in a cycle of limiting self-beliefs, then being shown the latest workout or diet trend, or celebrity couple is basically rubbing your nose in your shortcomings. This won’t fix them, it won’t get you off the merry-go-round, and it won’t stop the soundtrack that’s stuck in your head on repeat. And, as a matter of fact, being made aware of what’s keeping you feeling stuck or bored or like you don’t stack up can feel more like a slap in the face than a call to action.
So Why Self-Awareness, Then?
Let’s start with what self-awareness is. First, self-awareness is about self-monitoring. It’s about asking yourself deep questions like, “How am I feeling right now in the present?” or, “Why do I get more stressed out when my (insert annoying family member, friend, coworker, or ex) calls?
Self-awareness is about doing the checks-and-balances in your life on what’s working for you, and what isn’t.
This can range from your daily tasks like grocery shopping to the choices you make such as the job you have, to the habits you keep. And, whether these tasks, choices, and habits are healthy or toxic to your happiness and growth. The easy part is recognizing what’s working well for you. After all, humans are hardwired for happiness and to feel good. Humans aren’t hardwired for feeling like crap or dealing with crappy situations, especially if you are to blame for your own Crapdom, more commonly called Accountability-101.
Let’s say you’re in the habit of ditching one relationship and chasing a new one each time a problem pops up. This may be a good time for one of those deep questions like, “What the hell am I doing here?” Or, if you have a playlist in your head stuck on repeat that rehashes your mental checklist of what you hate about yourself, this may be a good time to ask yourself, “Why?” Self-awareness is one of the first critical steps to lasting change in personal development.
Without knowing the “what’s” of self-awareness, you can’t get to the “why’s”. And without getting to the “why’s” and the “why not’s”, you’re doomed to stay stuck on the merry-go-round.
Why Self-Awareness Isn’t Enough
Now let’s get to why self-awareness isn’t enough. First, just because you’re aware of your problems doesn’t guarantee anything. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to change what’s going sideways in your life. All awareness means it that you now see whether your life is going sideways or if you’re stuck in neutral. Being aware that you’re repeating the same toxic habit you saw your mom or brother doing when you were a kid isn’t going to stop you from doing it. It simply means you see it and are aware you’re doing it.
Second, while having self-awareness is a good thing, it is only one of many steps in self-development. In other words, while having self-awareness can help you in understanding your strengths and weaknesses, it’s still up to you to sharpen your skills and ditch the habits that are holding you back.
Third, having self-awareness doesn’t mean you’re going to stop doing what’s limiting you or what’s trying to distract you from your personal growth. Distractions can be any person, place or thing that distracts you in the moment. Its job is to keep you held under, to sabotage you, to limit your awareness, to keep you in denial, and to keep distracting you until that moment of self-awareness passes. And if you’re choosing distractions over awareness, you’re stuck on the merry-go-round.
Lastly, awareness and denial are opposite sides of the coin. You can’t be aware of something in your life if you’re denying its existence. The good news with awareness? You’re no longer in denial. The bad news with awareness? You’re no longer in denial. So what does this mean? Once you ditch denial, you can move ahead in personal development and personal growth, including honoring all the parts of your own awareness journey.