Self Awareness

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading for certifications for work. Other than that and writing, I haven’t felt like I’m ‘allowed’ to read anything else. I’m nearing the exam of one of the bigger certifications and feel pretty good about where I am with it two months out from test time. It was raining on Wednesday and Dean already had taken the car, so I needed to take the bus into work. I decided to give my brain a break during the commute and pick up a book.

The book is one a client gave me several months ago on Self Awareness. I’m only four chapters in at this point, but it’s been interesting. It’s cited a lot of research thus far and apparently most people rate themselves as being incredibly self aware. And the least competent people usually rate themselves as being more skilled in things like driving. I mean… fascinating and terrifying!

Recently I’ve been witnessing a lot of family interactions after my grandma passed. Her estate has to be dealt with and that’s been tough for the family that’s there, but tough in a different way for the family that’s not there. Dean and I are also adjusting to everything being new and also both trying a diet. Everyone freaks out when I mention dieting, but it’s both as a means to save some money on frivolous food purchases and also to loose a few stress pounds that we’ve gained. If you’ve never done any kind of fasting, let me just inform you, it can affect your mood and interactions with people.

Seeing some of these interactions between loved ones and also observing our own interactions, you wonder sometimes if people know how they come across. Would they actually inflict the hurt feelings that they’re causing? Would they change if they knew?

Look at me.  Learning and growing all naturally and stuff!

Look at me. Learning and growing all naturally and stuff!

According to the research cited in the book,* we gradually begin to develop self awareness and a sense of ourselves as separate from the rest of the world as we grow from babies to children. (Assuming all is relatively normal.) Self esteem peaks at about age nine, which makes sense to me, and then in our preteen years we start to get an understanding about the perspective of others. Then we get to start feeling embarrassment and all of those fun things. Then in our teen years we start really trying to figure ourselves out and become balls of ‘no one understands me!’ emotional hormone bombs. We start leveling out in our 20s, but then … we really don’t do a whole lotta natural growth in the self awareness area.

Apparently there are some exceptions. Some people are just naturally very self aware and some have really worked at it, generally because of some kind of wake up call, but a large majority just kind of … drift through with not much more self awareness than they had in their 20s. Bear in mind that just about EVERYONE thinks that they’re very self aware! Really, we probably all have some work to do.

Once concept I’m enjoying thinking about right now is that there are two types of self awareness: internal and external. I personally think that our society right now is incredibly internal self-awareness based. Everyone is getting much better about knowing themselves and what’s going on within, but still lacking in how they affect everyone else around them. Somehow it’s everyone else’s responsibility to be sensitive, aware, etc. Which is great. Everyone should be, BUT I think there’s currently a lot of navel gazing going on with less attempt at understanding our actions in the world.

I say this with the full knowledge that sometimes what’s going on inside of ourselves is all that we can handle for a period of time. (Emphasis on ‘for a period of time'.’) And with no real solution other than to hope that eventually more people start thinking about how they affect the world around them and the people around them with their words, actions, et cetera.

Recently, I’ve been through a few ‘periods of time’ where dealing with myself and immediate surroundings pretty much had me at capacity. I’m happy to be able to extend my awareness out again. What am I doing about it? Aside from trying to be aware, I’ve started trying to tell people when I miss them. When they make me happy. When I think about them. At the very least, spreading good feelings should increase goodwill, yes? I hope so.

*Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think - that’s the book if you’re at all interested.