The Art and Importance of Self-Awareness

Mature Man Looking in Mirror“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung

One thing is certain: each person has his or her own views, thoughts, and emotions. Even though we are so different, we experience similar patterns of self-analysis which make up who we are today. These patterns are typically created by the end result of our behaviors and viewed either negatively or favorably by our strongest critic, the almighty self. It’s amazing how our growth is determined by how the self translates our actions.

Self-awareness is the ability to formulate a summary of our behavior based on past and current thoughts and emotions. It allows us to understand what’s going on in our heads and why. Self-victimization, on the other hand, prevents us from accepting that we’re responsible for it, and for what we do as a result.

Being self-aware is the ability to see our true selves without blinders. This is the first step in being true to one’s self. It requires empathy, patience, strength, humility, and love. One of the hardest things to do is see one’s self as fallible, but that is what we are. We all make mistakes and we all have our triumphs. The great ones are capable of seeing both extremes in oneself and learning how to merge them together to make them a better individual.

As humans we generally spend our life living within the two hemispheres or poles of self-thought. On one side, we play out our lives as victims due to painful events in our past and learn to feel powerless when confronting obstacles. These thoughts are considered indications of victimization behavior, and may look different for each individual:

  • Justifying events and ways in which you were wronged
  • Complaining about a difficult event in life without looking at the role you played in the circumstance
  • Obsessing about sad events to justify negative behaviors and feelings of anger, sadness, and shame
  • Vocalizing and telling sad stories to gain approval and avoid potential judgment
  • Taking the stance that others need to change for things to improve

In the other hemisphere dwell our thoughts of empowerment, which require self-awareness. The following are indications that you are practicing self-empowerment:

  • Consciously allowing your self to let go of thoughts of victimization
  • Taking responsibility for your role in difficult events from the past
  • Responding proactively in the future based on your education and experience of past events
  • Establishing emotional competence and development instead of relying on others to fill this void
  • Taking full responsibility and course of action for your decisions
  • Taking the stance that change will only happen when we work on our internal and external self

The fundamental difference between self-awareness and self-victimization pertains to our acknowledgment that we have been hurt. Self-awareness is about observing our response to what happened; self-victimization is about feeding into the story of what happened.

Tips to Achieve Self-Awareness

  • Strive for emotional awareness—understand what you are feeling and what is being triggered within so you can appropriately assess what is occurring and how to respond in an effective way/space that voids previously negative responses and patterns.
  • Recognize negative and damaging thoughts/cognitions so you can censor them.
  • Recognize your behavior tendencies and possible patterns to make appropriate adjustments prior to negative actions and/or outbursts.
  • Come to terms and learn about your expectations, beliefs, and assumptions which affect the path and actions you choose.
  • Regardless of past events and patterns, accept responsibility for your actions and the role you played in the outcome.

© Copyright 2013 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Todd Deutsch, MFT

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • alice

    December 2nd, 2013 at 4:08 PM

    Don’t you think that there are so many people who allow the past to bog them down that they really do forget about the fact that in many cases, not all but some, they are actually responsible for a great deal of what happened to them? Ok so maybe they didn’t ask for the things that happened to them, it is rare that anyone does, but still, there comes a point in life where you make a decision about whather this is what you are going to allow to define who you are. If you let the actions of others define who you are and what you become then you are in some ways complicit in this and really, have no one to blame but yourself. I wish only the best bfor everyone, I really do, but often it is time to stand up and take those steps forward instead of remaining stuck in the actions and events of the past.

  • Todd Deutsch

    December 2nd, 2013 at 10:57 PM

    Alice you are absolutely right. Our past can bog us down preventing us from gaining fulfillment in life and being true to ourself. I only wish more individuals were brave enough to be vulnerable and look at their flaws. I wrote an article a few weeks ago which was posted on the Good Therapy blog, “The Courage to Work on Yourself” which depicts the courage to take a leap of faith. All the best, Todd

  • Glenn

    December 3rd, 2013 at 4:47 AM

    Love the opening quote from Jung!

    And how true- you look beyond who you are then it is all about what could be, but you look within, and in a very powerful way you see things clearly and see life as it actually IS. Great find for me this rainy morning!

  • Ed

    December 3rd, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    I have found everything you have shared here to be wholly true in my own experience.
    Always working toward the renovation of my thoughts the good the bad and the ugly.
    Thank You
    Ed Henegar

  • Jana

    December 4th, 2013 at 8:28 PM

    I am sure you are all aware that one needs help to do this at first. Guidance from another person who has been there. So if you have been there then you will be able to take others there otherwise you may need someone who has been there to take you there.

  • janey

    December 5th, 2013 at 4:56 AM

    found out the hard way a long time ago that me being happier had nothing to do with others making me happier- it is all about me making that life choice to BE happy
    spent a whole lot of time focusing on how much better things could be if only others in my life would change, only to realize that you know who needed to change the most? me, because i am the only one that i have any kind of control over

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