My 11-year old daughter, nicknamed Bee, is passionate about dance. She isn’t necessarily good or bad or talented or untalented at dance; she simply loves to do it. She has taken ballet for seven years now and always begs for more intensive instruction. Recently, at her ballet school, an audition was held for a “professional ballet track for girls ages 8 to 11. My daughter was thrilled with the news and begged to be able to “try out”. We arrived for the audition early and I was surprised to already see a pretty long line of girls. As she happily went into the audition room the line continued to grow longer and longer. As a mother, I began to become concerned for Bee, that her dream may not be fulfilled. An inner battle ensued between wanting her to do well and be placed in the class, wanting her to do well and not choose to go into the class (mostly because of the time commitment), and wanting to grab her little hand and go home to avoid the competition and scrutiny. The mom sitting next to me, possibly sensing my struggle started talking to me about the benefits of ballet to both body and soul. She discussed how much ballet had added to the lives of each one of her daughters in terms of balance, wisdom and self-awareness. She related that she recently had discovered that in the German language there is no word for “confident”. The closest word to “confident” in German, she said, was “Selbstbewusstsein”, which translated means “to be self aware” or “an awareness of self”. This wise woman implied that it was more important to be self-aware than to be confident. Knowing our purpose in our own behaviors, as well as our deeper beliefs, feelings and aspirations can help us even when faced with disappointments and possible failures. Taking risks, with an awareness of our goals and values, is important in and of itself. Coming to know our-selves, our flaws and our strengths can come from taking these healthy risks. I thought a lot about her comments. I recalled a quote by Aristotle that reads, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” Crisp and Turner (2010) defined self-awareness as “a psychological state in which people are aware of their traits, feelings, and behavior”. Alternately, it can be defined as the “realization of oneself as an individual entity”.Being self-aware means seeing clearly our own personality, reactions or responses, behavioral and relationship patterns, desires, reasons we feel think and behave in certain ways, motivations and core beliefs. I see self-awareness as a state of radical self-honesty regarding our own values, our priorities, and who we really are in both positive and negative terms. It is our individual awareness of our self that guides us into making positive necessary changes in our own life in order to become ever closer to the person we really want to be. Self-awareness also helps us understand other people, and other people’s perceptions of us. “It is more useful to be aware of a single shortcoming in ourselves than it is to be aware of a thousand in somebody else.” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama). We can go toward self-awareness in many and various ways, including:
- Purposeful Mindful thinking
- Mindfulness practices
- Examining our choices
- Determining and acting on our values
- Being open to considering both our mistakes and our triumphs.
- Looking and assessing consistent patterns which appear in our thoughts, feelings, behaviors and relationships.
- Slowing down and considering the “why” in our own behaviors, thoughts and emotions.
- Considering honestly the reasons behind potential gaps between our intentions/priorities and our behaviors.
- Going toward healthy, growth-enhancing desires and promptings.
- Spending time in nature and tuning into our senses.
Self-awareness is not self-consciousness. There is some evidence that extreme private self-awareness may lead to self-consciousness, which can be positive in that such people are more aware of their thoughts and feelings and are more likely to stick to their personal values, but they also may suffer from increased stress and more anxiety (Mullen, B. & Suls, J., 1982) In my own self-awareness, I am conscious that the launching of this website and this blog feels both like an exciting new adventure and alternately like a bit of a risk to me, kind of like my daughter’s audition. I continue to love my work and love the privacy and anonymity that my office affords. I make every effort to make my office feel safe and warm and private for each of my clients. That will continue. No clinical information regarding any client will ever be shared in this “internet/blog” forum. One of my goals is that this website and blog will have the same safe, warm feeling as my office. I hope it will. However, I am not altogether confident with the forum of the cyber stage. Yet, Even though this stage feels slightly uncomfortable to me, like Bee, I think I will go forward and dance anyway, keeping my goals and priorities in the forefront of my mind. My colleagues and I are excited by the chance to share things that we have learned and experienced as helpful in the years we have been psychologists. I am sure we will have some small missteps along the way, but we hope to be able to give information that will be helpful, relevant, informative and entertaining. The blog is not meant as treatment or therapy. Rather it will be stories, interesting concepts and research reviews that are focused on positive change, growth and understanding. We are going to work on updating the blog approximately once a month. Our first series of blogs will focus on concepts around anxiety disorders. Until then, hold in mind that, “Self-awareness is an act of self-kindness”, Reuben Lowe Whatever life presents us with, it would be well for each of us to slow down and have compassion for ourselves and others, come to know, accept and work in positive ways with our true selves, and of course go toward the dance even if it feels a little uncomfortable. Crisp, R.J. and Turner, R. N. (2010). Essential social psychology. London: Sage Publications. Mullen, B. & Suls, J. (1982). Know thyself: Stressful life changes and the ameliorative effect of private self-consciousness. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 18, 43-55.