Self Awareness

Self-knowledge or awareness has over the course of time been viewed as a number of different things. In the time of Socrates, he considered this as an examined life. The millennial age will often allude this to being ‘woke’ as promptly used in instances of such referencing. Identity has also taken to be explained in the light of a different perspective, but in much simpler terms, it would be defined as what a person is— with his/her present state being what they had been in the past.

Illustration: John Holcroft

Of more pressing importance than the need for a definition is to shed more light on how very important it is, the urgent need for it in our lives and what its application seeks to achieve. A being becomes a number of things by a number of influencing factors— the environment where one grew up, the type of parents one had, the relationships involved in and many others. A being, further from experience, will be actively and passively influenced by the multi-layered slices of these factors. Most of which go on to define what our preferences and actions reflect now: how we react to certain situations, the type of jobs we find fulfilling, our definitions of success, and even the style we desire our houses to look like. For Instance, a child who grew up around harsh criticisms from parents and friends will most likely be that unassertive adult now who would rather not speak about his inconveniences at work. A girl growing up in an abusive home grows up to think that abuse is synonymous to, or, is a form of expression of love. These examples draw out then, the importance of understanding who you are, why you act a certain way to stimuli from the world and how your mind works. It is by understanding these behind-the-curtain machinations we are better equipped to navigate through life and optimally change our existence for the better.

The unexamined life is not worth living
— Socrates

Every invention seated in our houses have been utilised for their purpose by observation or attaining knowledge from its manual— knowing not ourselves can be likened to staring at a cooling system on a very hot day with the hope that maybe it will fulfil its purpose. Our manuals come in a number of things, in books like the bible, or ancient scribes bearing musings of Buddha; in the study of philosophy which serves a wide tray of wisdom on the application of self; or the study of human nature in psychology to a deeper understanding of how our consciousness works. Most of the awareness about self is stemmed deep in a great allowance of introspection and observation. Like an electric fan we learn how to use by observation and not necessarily a manual— we know we should plug in to its source of power and by frequent association we know to press a higher number if we are dissatisfied with the performance of the present number.

Illustration: Hannah Bessross

Embedded in and by society are labels we have taken on by a close affinity with the expression of these labels. Our identity should be chiefly tied to what we know of ourselves and what the outside, in truth, can observe about us. However, much care should be taken to accepting whatever the world would care to say about us. It is to be reminded at all times that we are only but the captain of our life’s ship. A healthy path of self-awareness would be one that requires deep questioning and examining of our habits and perceptions:

If I were to write a speech about success what would I say?

What would, of the many things, bring me genuine happiness?

How do I feel when I am alone with myself?

What do I really want from a partner?

When I was last confronted, how did I react?

There are a lot of things in my life that makes me sad, what are they?

Our answers to this questions mirror a lot about ourselves that even the media will not adequately discern. From inquiry, we come to observe that we maybe have a bad response to confrontations—this knowledge then becomes relevant to changing the undesirable. From quiet and intended observation we are able to separate ourselves from the world, and view our identity through our own lenses.

We are the answers to these questions. Our answers— not vague or ambiguous— brings clarity, injects essence to our existence, reveals our innermost desires and wants, bog down weighty issues troubling us. A revelatory process of our identity goes further to help with our choices in career paths, choosing partners, cultivating healthy habits and ultimately give meaning to our lives.

Illustration: Hannah Bessross

Sometimes putting the lens over our lives can be a really daunting experience, in that, we would not only find beauty but chaos; sides that aren’t who we ever thought to be. However, it is known that acceptance/ knowledge is the first step in refining or re-tuning. It is important to remember that as complex beings, this should come with less disdain on the dark sides we find. With care and patience, we can route ourselves towards becoming the better person we imagined. A great deal of self-knowledge not only serves as a fulfilling tool for our own lives but for the lives of other we are entangled with— our partners, our parents, colleagues and so on. It helps with understanding you better and births a rewarding association.

The identity of a person is never a cemented thing, it is neither rigid. We, over the course of our lives, become different persons before we eventually settle into who we really are.

We never stop learning about ourselves. Even when the hair is grey and the spine flails, we discover things about ourselves every day. Because of the flexibility of identity, we accumulate pieces of many other things that shape up to become who are. Some pieces are left behind along the line, some chaff off, some get broken and undefined. But a life in frequent examination would always make survival in life a better and fulfilling process.