Anything we want in life has to first come from a healthy internal state. Anything. This applies to relationships, friendships, careers, and parenting. Everything we want in life hinges on our ability to have a healthy relationship with ourselves first. However, that being said, in today’s society, the importance of self-awareness has been reduced to a very basic definition that can be misleading. Let’s dive into five ways to jumpstart self-awareness so that you can cultivate better emotional health.
It’s not uncommon for people to understand things about themselves-likes, dislikes, passions, aversions, etc. and call this self-awareness. However, this is not the kind of self-awareness I am suggesting. Knowing yourself is a start, but it is just scratching the surface of self-awareness.
Today, I want to challenge your current definition of self-awareness to go beyond the experience of your unique reality and begin implementing these five ways to jumpstart your journey to self-awareness.
1. Introspect and Do It Often.
Introspection is the first step in self-awareness and is what most people think of when they think of the term self-awareness.
While it is a simple concept, there are many parts to introspection that, when done correctly, open space for us to change the things we don’t like and begin the journey to create the life we envision for ourselves.
Proper introspection requires that we get clear on what we value, what we want, and who we want in our life. We must look at our passions, aspirations, feelings, and motivations. When we are upset, envious, jealous, or angry, we have to question why by searching for a deeper meaning and challenge ourselves to accept what comes up for us. Acknowledging our feelings is a pivotal part of self-awareness. And yet, many of us don’t even know where to start because we have suppressed our feelings for most of our life.
At least I know I had.
Proper introspection is always done with love and not judgment. The second we begin to attach judgment to the parts of us that we don’t like is the second we lose the ability to change them. We must stay objective and recognize what we like about ourselves and what we’d like to improve.
When we take the time to understand why we feel and behave the way we do and get clear about what we actually want out of life, only then can we identify something good for us when it comes our way. And consequently, we strengthen our ability to recognize things that aren’t a good fit for us.
We must first understand ourselves before we can ever begin to change anything.
I can not express this enough.
Cultivating relationships is one of the sweet gifts that life has given to us, but we have to realize that relationships require a connection. And connection takes energy and effort. Therefore, we must understand ourselves well enough to know what energizes and depletes us.
However, another part of introspection is often missed, which brings us to our second way to jumpstart self-awareness.
2. Accept Feedback with Grace
I have to preface this section by saying that the input or criticism of just the average joe off the street having a lousy day, pointing out your flaws, or calling you names isn’t what I mean by feedback. Feedback should always come from a place of love. That’s not to say it might not sting because it very well may. But a good rule of thumb to follow if you question the validity of feedback is if it is constructive. Any constructive feedback given out of love is worth accepting and taking to heart.
What feedback does is help us to determine if we see ourselves accurately. It also provides a chance to open the door through which we view the world wide enough to accept other worldviews.
When we only practice introspection, we may fall victim to blind spots that can only be unveiled through proper feedback and genuine respect for the views of others. We can also find ourselves easily stuck in our self-righteous ways, believing we alone know best.
Thinking that our reality is the only truth is a deadly sin whenever you have a goal of connection. Genuine connection requires that we honor the delicate balance of differing views. Yes, it is a requirement.
3. Identify the story in your head and stay objective.
Sometimes my husband and I talk to each other openly by saying, “the story in my head is….” That could be something like, “I’m not good enough,” or “you are ignoring me because you are upset with something I did.”
We do this because saying it aloud releases the hold it has on you. It puts to rest the lies our subconscious mind tells us to be true and lets us be objective about what’s ACTUALLY happening instead of letting this narrative run rampant in our heads.
Understanding our conscious and subconscious mind is a great way to jumpstart self-awareness because it helps us to identify the behaviors and emotions taking place beneath our level of awareness so that we can work to bring attention to them and alleviate the hold they have on
More pain in this world is caused by the meaning we attach to things than the actual thing taking place. And the pivotal point here is that the meaning we attach is something we can control.
I stand firm in my belief that this simple practice is a portal to self-awareness in that it calls us out on our own bullshit and allows us to see negative patterns of thinking that skew our perception and tarnish good opportunities for growth.
4. Read about the Enneagram personality types.
If you haven’t heard of the Enneagram, it’s time you learn. It has done more to teach me about my personality and those around me than years of studying psychology. I may be a bit biased, but I love the work of psychotherapist and enneagram expert Ian Morgan Cron. I learned so much by reading his book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, that I now recommend it to everyone, even those a bit interested in personality tests.
Contrary to the many personality tests that focus only on your strengths, the enneagram gives insight into what negative attributes you may be prone to based on your unique personality. I love this so much because it is like a little nudge saying, “hey, be careful about this pattern.” And it is much easier to receive through a book than having your spouse say, “Rebecca, you’re doing it again.”
It spells out how others think, what motivates them, and what they fear. This information is profound in its ability to understand others for better connection.
And this is where it is life-changing. Because there isn’t just one universal truth. No matter how much we want black and white to connect with anyone, especially our partners, we have to be open to the idea that there are many different ways people perceive the world.
I have taken many aptitude and personality tests, trying to understand myself better, and nothing has given me the tough love and wisdom I needed like the enneagram.
Some people meditate; I write. This is my form of meditation. Writing helps give me clarity about what is going on upstairs.
You might be thinking, what do I write?
Here’s the beauty of using writing as a form of meditation; you can write about nothing and anything. I just dump all the baggage from my head onto a sheet of paper. That’s it—no fussing about grammar or whether or not it makes sense. You just need to write whatever is on your mind. I promise this will jumpstart your journey to self-awareness.
Writing is therapeutic, and unfortunately, there’s no substitute for it. It’s a written vomit of what’s going on, and in the middle of writing, you often solve your problems, alleviate your stress, gain clarity where there was confusion, and realize that nothing is as big as you’re making it.
Questions for you to ponder this week to jumpstart self-awareness…
- Are you falling prey to only practicing introspection, or do you also make ample space for feedback to take in what others experience in your presence?
- Can I check when the story in my head starts to play and call bullshit when I see it?
- Are you expanding your sense of self by reading and writing regularly to take in other perspectives and dump what’s not serving you?