Imagine you are driving on a dark and relatively isolated highway. You have a two hour drive to reach your destination and you feel relaxed, perhaps even singing a favorite song. With a random glance at the dashboard you suddenly notice your engine is running hotter than it normally does and the needle seems to be moving up as you watch. You know cell phone reception is sketchy in this area and you are also very aware that you are not mechanically inclined.
Chances are you no longer feel relaxed and the singing has stopped completely. A variety of emotions are surging through your body – uncertainty, worry, confusion, frustration, fear – but other than that, nothing has really changed from a moment before. Your car was already heating up when you weren’t aware, so that has not changed. The only difference is that you now know about it. Although you’d love to go back to your relaxed and happy state and deal with the problem when it actually becomes one, you probably cannot – because you are now aware of this potential cause for concern.
When it comes to self-awareness, we are talking about learning things about yourself that sometimes you wish you didn’t know. It might be how you react to certain foods, how different emotions affect you, or a certain boundary that is a deal breaker when crossed. What’s amazing is that you can go through a good chunk of your life not noticing this tendency until suddenly this detail is brought to your attention in a way that cannot be ignored. Like the slowly moving engine needle, nothing has changed in that moment – except your awareness.
Noticing is the starting phase of self-awareness; the first step to ‘tuning in’. Unfortunately, for many, this is where they put on their blinders.
Unlike the car situation, when it comes to self-awareness it is often easier to ignore the information you have received. Rarely does it indicate an immediate break-down is pending, so pretending nothing critical will happen if you turn a blind eye is relatively easy. Awareness, however, is a funny thing. It does not happen accidentally. When you become aware of something about yourself, even though it might seem trivial or unexciting…it is time to sit up and take notice.
The warning in the car might cause you to keep a closer eye on the needle; begin watching the signal bars on your phone; and keep an eye peeled for gas stations. It might also produce a spontaneous dialogue with your Deity or prompt you to begin planning what you will do should your car break down.
This happens because you notice the warning, accept it as real and prepare to take necessary action. Chances are, even if your car does not completely overheat, you will have it checked out by a mechanic before beginning the drive back home.
In the self-awareness situation, you might notice it, “Gee, as soon as I took a bite of that shrimp my lip started to tingle – that’s never happened before,” perhaps laugh about it with others, “So if I stop breathing and maybe puff all up, call an ambulance and tell them it was the shrimp, okay?” then, when a full blown reaction does not occur, let it go as if it never happened.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Aristotle
When it comes to self-realization, unless you are a consciously making an effort to be self-aware, you are well advised to pay attention to the sign-posts. Recognize that by the time the information surfaces to your conscious mind, the seed has been sitting deep within you germinating, establishing roots and getting ready to blossom. If you ignore these signs now, the next message will be undeniably more uncomfortable.
In many cases, this new awareness will not be life threatening, but connected strongly with happiness in relationships, general health, personal fulfillment and overall life satisfaction. If you try to continue living the way you did prior to knowing this information, you will experience things like; increased stress, greater defensiveness, bigger overreactions and less self-control.
The more you know and understand the person you are today the more you can appreciate who you are becoming. What’s important to understand is that you do not need to wait for the car to break down to pay attention. The seeds are already planted and growing whether you notice them or not.
When you embrace the understanding that self-awareness is an on-going and necessary piece of your life, you open the door to a beautiful new exploration of self. All kinds of wonderful things can come from self-awareness; better communication, enhanced emotional intelligence, less stress, fewer over-reactions, a stronger voice, clearer intuition, improved health, greater self-control and a real love for personal development.
So take off your blinders and begin asking yourself why you do the things you do, notice how emotions surface in your body, make a note of repeated patterns or habits and be willing to explore things that seem to strike a chord deep within. Any one of these things will help you on your self-awareness journey and strengthen you for what lies ahead.
You do not need to know everything about yourself, but you do need to remember that when the needle starts to move it is time to notice, accept and begin looking at how you can embrace it (or at least explore it), rather than burning up your energy pretending you had no idea.