Can you imagine a life where you are completely honest with yourself about who you are? I am talking total transparency with oneself while feeling good about it no matter what you discover.
It is a question I shied away from for most of my life since it scared me and intimidated me.
Did I want to admit to myself that I use anger as a way to dominate people? No. Or that I used the silent treatment to punish those who didn’t get me what I want? Another no. Or that I tend to stay in toxic relationships to experience pain and subconsciously punish myself as a result of my childhood trauma? I let you guess.
We don’t want to admit that we manipulate, control or self-sabotage ourselves. No one does because it doesn’t provide instant gratification, and it doesn’t tell us that we are amazing and we can be anything that we dream about.
No. Self-awareness is a disservice to our ego because often, it’s about brutal truth and intimidating self-discoveries. And that’s where the opportunity lies for all of us.
Why do we shy away from the truth?
There is a thin line between self-awareness and self-judgment. For many of us, guilt becomes a way of life. Whether as a result of childhood trauma, negative self-talk, or someone who constantly criticizes us, we struggle with self-judgment. Therefore acknowledging our shortcomings, manipulative or controlling behavior, or toxic traits becomes almost impossible to face.
Let me make something clear. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you manipulate people or situations, that you procrastinate as a result of self-doubt, that you have toxic traits or that you take excessively long showers.
Understand that any unwanted trait you possess is often a result of what happened to you, not what’s wrong with you. If you find yourself being toxic as I have, It doesn’t mean you are a bad person, it doesn’t make you less valuable, it doesn’t decrease your worth, it simply makes you aware.
Is the “truth” really true?
To offer you a different perspective, let me use a statistical example. Based on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website, 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.
That’s 90% of children who have experienced trauma of some sort that impacts their healthy development, self-esteem, and overall mental health.
Considering that these children never deal with their past, how do you think they will act like adults? The majority of them will take lots of unhealthy habits and beliefs into their adulthood.
With this information in mind, let me ask you this: Do these experiences shape them or define them?
They definitely shape them. They shape their behavior, attitude, and even their personality. But they don’t define them in terms of who they are in their core. And this is an important distinction I want you to consider.
If who you are today is a result of your upbringing, how you grew up, and who impacted you the most, how can you feel guilty for what you have accumulated over the years? It’s not yours. It’s something that’s been given to you. That’s why I said that these experiences may shape you but don’t define you. Through self-awareness, you have an opportunity to see what you can transform and find your way back to yourself.
“The most important conversations you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself.” — David Goggins
Finding the courage to wake up
I came to the conclusion that the majority of people don’t change because they have no idea what needs to change. Since becoming aware may be intimidating, we often opt out and live in denial while feeling exhausted from pretending to others and ourselves.
So how do we overcome this fear of knowing ourselves and aim for a real, lasting transformation? Let’s break it down into three simple steps:
Once you start acknowledging the truth, you want to surround yourself with people who are on the same or similar mission of transformation as yourself. It is for two reasons. First, you will cause a “me too” effect, where the person feels understood just by knowing they are not alone and also inspired to do the same. Second, you will experience the freedom of expression.
Since facing our shadows triggers us, brings feelings of guilt or shame, or it simply doesn’t feel like a trip to Disneyland, it’s imperative to create a safe space. The more you practice sharing yourself with the right people, the easier it will become to master the skill of self-awareness. You’ll discover that those traits or behaviors you may be afraid to look at are the same traits and behaviors many of us deal with daily.
Step #2 Opt-in for a judgment-free zone
I am sure that at this point, you understand how important it is to stay away from judgment when practicing self-awareness.
Some of the most significant moments of transformation happened when I got fed up with my own bullshit and acknowledged the negative mindset I maintained. However, it wasn’t easy at the beginning. Since I was programmed to constantly judge myself, I tend to slip from awareness to self-judgment and spiral into one of my guilt-driven behaviors. Luckily, I was able to become aware of it. Talk about the silver lining.
Your journey to self-awareness must be judgment-free. Guilt is overbearing, toxic, and discouraging, especially if it’s repeated over and over. What we are aiming for is love and kindness. Approaching ourselves from the place of understanding and compassion is not optional but necessary when it comes to facing our shadows. We can only grow if we are coming from a positive and uplifting place in our heads.
Step #3 Using what we discover
Once you find the courage to face traits and behaviors you wish to change and then acknowledge them with love and compassion, it’s time to accept them. Remember that there is nothing wrong with you. It’s only what happened to you that brought you to this place in life.
Now that you are aware of how you behave, observe it and take it easy. Watch yourself in uncomfortable or pressured situations and notice your feelings, thoughts, and behavior. Become an observer
Once you become more mindful, you will be able to consciously choose different ways of behavior. And the more you do it, the more proud and confident you will feel in your ability to change. Awareness is a game-changer if you use it right.
Although self-awareness is about the positive and negative sides of our personality, I wanted to point out those areas we are afraid to look at.
Authentic transformation can only happen if we are brave enough to acknowledge what we want to improve and change while, at the same time, approaching it from a healthy place of understanding and empathy.
Remember that there is nothing wrong with you by finding things you may not like about yourself. Self-awareness is a profound skill to master since it offers you powerful insights into the most important person of your life – yourself.