One of my biggest queries in life is why people don’t take the time to know themselves. I truly don’t understand how people move through life, showing back to the world what they think others want them to think, believe, dream and want. Those of us with a level of self-awareness know the ones who aren’t – the ones that we’ve thought we’ve engaged in some real way and then, BAM, they either forget the entire conversation or you observe them saying to someone else something completely contradictory. This won’t be a popular statement but I’d much rather talk to a racist bigot who truly believes in themselves and their values than someone who flips on a dime. If you’re not getting this, don’t bother reading further.
To me, knowing yourself is being able to put all the pieces together – all the pieces that contribute to who we are as unique human beings. It’s about knowing how our history, birth order, brain, parental influences, circumstances, other influential influences, etc., etc., have affected us and then, in turn, accepting it and actually appreciating how all these things have helped form who we are. It’s about knowing how all these things have contributed to how we think, how we feel, how we view the world, how we relate to other people. It’s about taking all those pieces and knowing how they form the picture of who we are. It’s about reflecting on a regular basis about who we are today and who we want to be, recognizing that if there’s incongruence, it’s up to us, us only, to do something different. To me, it’s so important to get to acceptance rather than live with blame, anger, regret over what has happened in our pasts, whether it’s self-caused or circumstantial. If you’re living with regret because you’ve said or done something to hurt someone or that goes against who you are, you can’t change it – do your best to repair it. We all make mistakes – every mistake we make and how we handle it helps us to know a little more about ourselves. People who are self aware take this information and adjust as a result. Those changes might be in relationships, behaviour or thoughts. We might always cringe when we think about what we did but the only relief comes from knowing we did something different moving forward.
How do people who don’t have this level of self acceptance, awareness and understanding function in life? I know because I’ve seen it. They say something inappropriate and then deny they said it or justify why. They make the same mistakes over and over and truly don’t understand why they feel the same consequences over and over. They can’t figure out why their friends, partners, children don’t understand them and aren’t engaged. They can’t figure out why they’re lonely when all they’ve done in life is try to please other people. They either tune out when other people are having an engaging conversation or they resent the fact they’re left out. They take credit for other people’s ideas and thoughts, presenting them as their own. They spend their lives trying to impress and be accepted by other people because they only see themselves through someone else’s eyes.
The difference? Self aware people say inappropriate things and justify them, they can’t always figure out why the people closest to them don’t understand them, they’re sometimes lonely and tune out or disengage from conversation. They sometimes resent other people or take credit for ideas that aren’t theirs. The difference? They know why – it might not be immediate but they take the time to reflect, understand, and more importantly, adjust their future actions. They figure out why they reacted or behaved in a negative way and usually do something different as a result. If you don’t take the time to understand why you did it, why would you ever change?
Self reflection is hard. To be honest with yourself about you is probably one of the hardest things to do in life. Self reflection leads to self awareness. Self awareness leads to the realization that you cannot be the same as anyone else. Realizing you are unique can lead to lonely but, at the same time, it can lead to acceptance. Once you accept yourself, you are much more likely to accept other people for who they are, no matter their differences from you. Acceptance of differences leads to the type of world we all say we want – the world where every single human being can be who they are as individuals – with their own values and beliefs – and no one fights about it! It may lead to disagreements and debates but it doesn’t lead to hate. We’d all appreciate the disagreements and debates because they’d help us to readjust our thinking or just gain a new appreciation.
I think about the fighting that’s happening in our world and the horrific acts. I’m old enough to remember that the issue with our Muslim countries wasn’t about their ways of life – it was about the oil. How has it become that we’re now righteous in this war? Wouldn’t we and don’t we fight back if someone challenges our way of life? Whatever gave us the right to go into those countries and tell them they were living wrong? We didn’t expect a reaction? Before anyone reports me to world security, I’m not saying I agree or have any level of tolerance with the terrorist acts. I am horrified and saddened by the violence and the lack of regard for human life. I am also not saying we shouldn’t step in when we know human rights are being violated. I do, however, recognize that there are people living in those countries who aren’t terrorists – they too are opposed to killing other human beings – they just want to live their lives – they want to feel good about their day to day lives, feel wanted and loved by the people in their lives, want to watch their children grow into better human beings than they can ever hope to be, and not live in fear. How does anyone hate a whole culture or religion because of the acts of a few? We learned nothing from Hitler, the Jews and WWII?
My sister made something clear to me (she actually does that a lot) one day. No matter the terrible and unimaginable things people do sometimes, someone loves that person. Someone gave birth to them, maybe raised them, maybe were friends with them. When we know and love a person who does something that is unacceptable and incomprehensible, we may be angry at them for the act but their act doesn’t take the love or history away. Self awareness helps us reconcile those conflicting emotions – if you really know someone, you can sometimes understand their actions even if they are not understandable or acceptable to you. You can also accept why you still love someone who has done something that is completely unacceptable to you.
I’ve gone off on an unintended path but that’s where my thoughts led me! On a lighter note but as my final message on the topic of self awareness: Wear what makes you feel good – not what’s in fashion; talk to people you actually enjoy talking to; share your thoughts because they might be unique but people who care about you want to hear them; stay true to your beliefs and values; accept your past and the impact of those who may have done you wrong – you can’t change it; always share your weirdness. Don’t fret being unique – embrace it – because, guess what, as much as anyone pretends otherwise, we’re all unique. Don’t allow yourself to live in a world where that’s not okay.
P.S. I do know that there are some people who have grown up believing they’ve never mattered to anyone. My heart hurts for children who were born with no one ever wanting them, loving them, or giving them any importance. These kids become adults. I believe it’s these adults who look for belonging elsewhere so become involved in lifestyles and situations that most of us can’t understand. If you encounter a child in your life who you know might be feeling unloved and unwanted, do something about it!