"Yes, love yourself. But also analyze and be critical of how you think, act and behave. Self-love without self-awareness is useless. Hold yourself accountable." --Unknown
I'm actually chuckling to myself, even as I'm writing this, because I went to college with someone who used to make some of the dumbest choices (when it came to relationships, money, you name it). Yet whenever that fact was brought to their attention, their preset response was "I'm aware." Since being aware of something is simply being cognizant of it or having knowledge about it, it's not like they were exactly wrong by saying that.
The thing that used to baffle me was when were they going to get to a point and place in their life where merely being aware of their mess ups wasn't enough? When were they going to start putting some of that so-called awareness on the front end of their poor decisions? Ladies—and gents who are also peeking in—this is where bona fide self-awareness comes in. Because, indeed, it's one thing to have knowledge of something or someone, but it's another matter entirely when you have a ton of knowledge about yourself before even getting involved in something—or with someone—else.
I've had my fair share of compliments; however, I think one that goes on my Top 10 list is something that both my bestie and spiritual mentor have both told me before—that I am ever-striving to be a self-aware individual. And since that has been a focus of mine, life has been calmer, easier and much more drama-free. I think it's due to the fact that I put the following 10 things into practice as much as I possibly can.
1. Self-Aware People Pray and/or MeditateGiphy
I'm gonna refrain from taking y'all to church on this point, but there is scientific evidence that there are all sorts of benefits that come from praying on a consistent basis. One study reveals that it can help your body to fight off disease. Another study shows that it's an effective way to find relief from depression-related symptoms. There's even research to prove that it can increase longevity. And don't even get me started on the power of meditation; of learning how to get quiet, still and deep breathe (check out "Scientific Benefits of Meditation – 76 things you might be missing out on" when you get a chance).
Some of the most self-aware people I know are also the most humble. A part of what makes them that way is they know there is a Higher Power that they must respect, give honor to and rely on for strength and support. If you're someone who knows that a Source is playing a direct role in your life, pat yourself (humbly) on the back. You're more self-aware than a lot of people out in these streets, just based on this point alone.
2. Self-Aware People Really Listen to Themselves and Others
Anyone who tells you that they are self-aware but they don't listen is in complete and total denial. One of the signature traits of a self-aware individual is their ability to pay attention to what is happening inside of them and what is transpiring around them.
How can you know if you're a good listener or not? When it comes to listening to yourself, meditation helps with that. So does paying attention to when something physically feels a little "off" or your gut is sending you certain messages. Another sign that you're good at listening to yourself is you practice self-care. At the end of the day, self-care is about knowing that you can't even begin to take good care of others if you don't start by tending to your own needs first.
As far as if you're a good listener with other people, ask yourself the following questions. Do you make sure to give them your undivided attention? Do you give them time to express themselves? Do you ask questions in order to gain the clarity that you seek? Are you intentional about making them feel comfortable and safe in your space? Do you not turn things around and make them be about you while they are talking (I hate it when people do that!)? If the answer is "yes", not only are you great at listening to others, you've mastered a form of self-awareness that few make a top priority.
3. Self-Aware People Have and Respect Boundaries
Be leery of people who don't have boundaries and/or don't respect yours. As a late poet by the name of Gerard Manley Hopkins once said, "Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and right to choose." Indeed. And since the purpose of boundaries is the deepest parts of your being, it makes perfect sense that self-aware individuals would have them; not only have them but honor the ones that others have because they support their need to honor themselves too.
Anyone who tries to push past your boundaries? First, share with them a quote by two of my favorite authors on the topic, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend—"The first thing you need to learn is that the person who is angry at you for setting boundaries is the one with the problem." (#dropthemic) Then, if you want to keep them in your life, but you feel like they need some assistance in the learning-the-point-of-having-boundaries department, bless them with a copy of Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. If they don't thank you now, they'll thank you later.
(Speaking of boundaries, if you're not sure if you have some, a read that is totally worth your time is "18 Signs You Lack Personal Boundaries (and Feel Constantly Used)".)
4. Self-Aware People Understand Different Emotions
According to many mental health experts, we basically experience four different types of emotions— anger, fear, happiness and sadness. Everything else is an extension of these. That might be true, but if you check out this emotion wheel, you'll see that what's going on in our head and heart is a lot more complex than just four feelings.
Something that I adore about my godchildren's mother is she makes sure that they are in tune with their emotions. When the older one (the second is a newborn) says that she is mad, her mom takes a moment to ask her if it's actual anger that she feels or maybe it's more like irritation, being overwhelmed or even tired.
Can you imagine how less emotionally confused a lot of us would be as adults if our parents took out the time to be this thorough with us when we were little? There's no time like the present. Check out the emotional wheel link. Print it out and hang it up if necessary. We're emotional beings. It's a good idea to know what all of our emotions are.
5. Self-Aware People Think Before Speaking
I used to date a guy who stuttered. He was also soft-spoken. Boy, did I learn a lot about communication, thanks to interacting with him. For one thing, I had to accept how straight-up rude it is to cut someone off while they're speaking. Whether we realize it or not, it's also an ego trip because we're basically saying that what we've got to share is far more important. Another thing that it taught me was how impatient I can sometimes be while engaging others. But since my ex took longer to get his words out and I have a naturally louder tone than him, it taught me how to slow down and really listen. Know what doing that did? It taught me how to do more thinking before I speak.
Thinking before speaking is basically taking out a moment or two to process what you're about to say and how you're about to say it in order to see if you're willing to handle the reaction that you just might get. It's also about applying tact and timing to truth.
Self-aware people typically don't like drama, so they would rather take long pauses in conversation than to rush to get things out, only to unnecessarily start problems.
6. Self-Aware People Observe Others’ Mistakes (to Avoid Making Them)
One of the best things I've ever heard my mother say is, "Discernment prevents experience from being your teacher." What that means, in a nutshell, is you don't have to go through everything in order to learn. Sometimes, observing someone else's life, can be impactful all on its own.
This is one of the best traits about a self-aware person. They don't think that you need a certain type of status or education or even a certain tax bracket to be a powerful teacher in their life. A houseless (which is what I prefer instead of the word "homeless") individual, someone in prison or a substance abuser can have brilliant points and insights just as much as anyone else. If you listen closely enough, they might even have more.
7. Self-Aware People Are Patient
Someone once said, "When you delay instant gratification, you will experience long-term satisfaction." Self-aware people know this. They're the kind of individuals who would rather save up for something rather than charge it on their credit card. They're also the ones who aren't interested in settling because they live by the quote by writer Maureen Dowd—"The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for." When it comes to having something vs. having what's best for them, they'll take what's behind Door #2.
However, there is something else about patience that goes beyond waiting for things. One of the most slept-on definitions of patient (probably because it's uncomfortable and difficult) is "bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like". When you look at patience from this perspective, it is one of the hardest things to put into practice. Self-aware people do it anyway because they know that life isn't always easy nor is it always gonna go their way, but, at the same time, the best way to get through the trying times is to apply a nice dose of patience.
8. Self-Aware People Are Compassionate
I really like the word "compassion". There is something really soothing and safe about it. When there are people on the planet who don't just acknowledge someone's pain or discomfort but want to do whatever they can to help relieve it? That is humanity functioning at its finest. Compassionate people are empathetic. Compassionate people are giving. Compassionate people know how to forgive others and themselves. Compassionate people are mindful and grateful.
There is absolutely no way that you can be a compassionate person and not have a pretty high level of self-awareness; especially if you know that being compassionate starts with extending compassion to the one who's looking at you in the mirror.
9. Self-Aware People Are Focused
I have a friend who says the funniest thing about his mom—"I don't know what makes her think that if she calls me three times in one day that it's gonna make me call her back any faster. I check her messages and if it's not dire, I get back to her once I've done the other things that are already on my list." You know what kind of person functions this way? A focused one.
Focused people don't spend hours on social media while they are at work. Focused people don't buy an extra pair of shoes when they are trying to save up for a new car. Focused people don't settle for Mr./Ms. Right Now when who they really want is Mr./Ms. Right, period. Focused people refuse to let someone discourage them off of their plans and goals. Focused people have routines, work methodically and know how to embrace each and every moment they are in.
Something else that's dope about focused folks is they truly honor their time. I think it was an author by the name of Shannon L. Adler who once said, "Don't say you don't have enough time or enough money to change the world. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Gandhi, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci and Jesus Christ." A lot of focused/self-aware people? They probably have this quote hanging up in their office or house somewhere.
10. Self-Aware People Know How and When to Let Things Go
Cue in Toni Braxton's song, "Let It Flow" right here. Every March, there's a national observance day called National Get Over It Day. It's a reminder that everything has its own time and season. Self-aware people are not only accepting of this reality, they are often so in tune with themselves and what's going on around them that they can sense when much-needed shifts are coming. And since they know that, more times than not, in order to get to what's better, they are prepared to release what's before them—and they are able to let go with love.
Personally, I find letting ish go to be one of the best qualities of self-awareness. It's also one of the greatest motivations to make self-awareness a consistent life practice. How about you?
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