“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
― Lao Tzu
I will be first to admit that just a couple of years ago, my definition of self-awareness was incorrect. Like many, I also falsely believed that being consumed with self-awareness had something to do with being selfish, self-absorbed, overconfident and even narcissistic. Over the years in my journey of personal growth and learning ways to support others healing from trauma, depression, anxiety, low self-worth and other issues, I have realized that being self-aware is a necessary ingredient to happiness. The practice of self-awareness allows us to recognize our strengths and limitations, our needs, set boundaries, choose healthy relationships, give the best of ourselves. The second ingredient is like the cherry on top-Acceptance gives us permission to be okay!
To be self-aware and accepting in my practice means to:
- Accept ourselves. Many of us work tirelessly to achieve perfection—an illusion created by childhood experiences that push unrealistic ideologies. The struggle continues for years, making us feel exhausted physically, emotionally and mentally. In this uphill battle to ‘perfection,’ we tend to miss the beautiful self that we are Now. The authentic self in the present that can feel good, contribute to society, attain goals and feel accepted and content with life. This does not mean we don’t create goals for change and growth, it just means we create realistic attainable goals that are good for us and not dictated by false ideologies and expectations.
- Take care of our needs. We tend to wait for another to fulfill our inner desires, assuming they should magically know-how “I feel and what I want.” This distortion results in feelings of frustration, regret, resent and remorse. I’ve learned to buy myself flowers, jewelry, go for walks, and even have a talk with myself need be. I find this practice increases my sense of security and reliance on myself-it’s merely learning what our body, mind & soul needs at a specific moment, and being able to rely on our self to fulfill the need.
- Realize that we are human and, by default, have limitations. I often find that many people equate limitations to low self-worth, lack of confidence or ability. It’s quite the contrary. Having knowledge of our limitations allows us to embrace our humanness. I’m not holding myself to standards of perfection. Instead, I have learned to create realistic goals, ask for help when needed and make decisions that are good for me. Through this process, we learn to forgive ourselves and lend compassion.
Self Awareness can help you break destructive cycles
Whatever destructive cycle that you have adopted due to past learning experiences can be undone through self-awareness and acceptance.
Take, for instance, the obsession with physical looks that is perpetuated in our society. Many of us have struggled with our looks for years, being called all sorts of names at school, taunted by the family to stop eating so much or so little, ridiculing ourselves from comparisons on social media. The apparent outcome is self-hate, which stagnates us and perpetuates the cycle of weight obsession and thus feelings of hopelessness and low self-worth.
We feel attractive, loved and coveted when we look ‘good’; however, the second we compare ourselves again and feel inadequate, we spiral quickly into feeling worthless, unloved, unwanted and excluded.
Do not get me wrong. Self-awareness and acceptance do not dismiss opportunities for growth. In fact, they’re exactly about growth, but with kindness and compassion.
Let’s try this. I invite you to think about an ingrained habit or thought that holds you back from feeling your best? Is it self-judgment, self-criticism, weight issues…?
Reflect: take some time to become self-aware of the impact it’s having on your life
What is it taking away from you? How would you be if you did not have it? How would you feel, think and behave?
“Am I okay with feeling like this? What do I need right now to feel my best? Do I want to change to fit an illusion, or do I want to change in order to feel good in my own skin? What can I do right now to help myself? Who can I turn to?
Ask yourselves wouldn’t any personal goal fueled by love, be a more pleasurable journey then one fueled by hate?
Hatred is demotivating. Love is blossoming. Self-hate brews guilt, shame and anger. Self-awareness and acceptance encourage forgiveness and compassion.
Self-awareness & acceptance is about:
Creating specific and realistic goals that are authentic to you!
Changing how you approach yourself and, as a result, how you approach your goals!
Rejecting standards of perfection!
Dismissing illusions created for you!
Creating your own narrative!
Reena is a Registered Psychotherapist who treats individuals, couples, and groups for various issues including anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, relationship, and parenting issues. Her approach to therapy is holistic, integrative, and trauma-informed.