How is it that often the people who talk the most about self-awareness are the least self-aware (ironically written by someone writing a post about self-awareness)? Is all of the talk about self-awareness just another opportunity to be obsessed with ourselves? Often, that is the case. I have to admit, at times, I enjoy thinking about myself. But self-awareness need not equal self-obsession.
We need the ability to see ourselves clearly. If we are not self-aware, we are likely to deceive ourselves without even knowing it. Apart from appropriate self-awareness, our relationship with others stagnates at a surface level because we are incapable of bringing our real selves to the table. David prayed in the Psalms. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139: 23-24)
In addition, if we are unable to see ourselves objectively, our relationship with God becomes stunted. God is the author of truth. If we are unwilling to deal with the truth about ourselves, we effectively hold God at arm’s length. It is as if God is knocking at the door and we are refusing to open the door and let Him see the mess inside.
The problem with self-awareness is that we all have blind spots. If it were merely a matter of wanting to be self-aware, many more people would be further down the road of understanding.
How do we make real progress in becoming self-aware? Or stated another way, since we all have blind spots, how do we see what we cannot see? The very definition of “blind spot” implies that we are not aware that we have the blind spot.
Here are several suggestions that can help us move the needle in our quest to become aware of our blind spots. Realize, though, that self-awareness is a lifetime journey.
- Pay attention to persistent negative emotions and reactions. Ask yourself, “why did that situation make me so angry?” “Why am I feeling so much anxiety? Look for the deeper why that is found beneath the specific actions or words.
- Use journaling to probe more deeply. Journal not just to record the events, but to explore your motives and insecurities. Stephen Covey wrote, “Self-awareness involves deep honesty. It comes from asking and answering hard questions.”
- Build friendships that serve as mirrors. Since we cannot always see ourselves clearly, others can help us see what we cannot see – if we give them explicit permission to speak honestly to us. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Prov. 27:17)
- Scripture exposes what lurks in the shadows. If we read Scripture with an ear to what the Holy Spirit might be whispering, we might begin to see ourselves in its stories. Scripture is replete with examples that shine a light on the heart’s deeper motives (i.e., Jesus and the rich young ruler).
- Self-assessments can be helpful if used well. The Enneagram is particularly helpful because it addresses the unhealthy tendencies that accompany each personality type. (www.enneagraminstitute.com) This helps us be aware of where we might also struggle.
- Don’t forget your strength. Too often, self-awareness becomes another means to make us feel small and unworthy. If viewed out of balance, we may spend so much time thinking how bad we are that we forget that we are all made in the image of God. A self-aware person is just as aware of their strengths and gifts as they are of their weaknesses and blind spots.
As we become more self-aware over the long journey of years, we will find more peace internally and better relationships externally. Self-awareness keeps us from needing to work so hard to protect our image. Self-awareness frees us from self-obsession. Self-awareness is the road to becoming the person God created us to be – honest, authentic, loving, vulnerable, and strong.