Me Myself and I: How to be more Self-Aware

 

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What do you think other people see when they see you? Do they see the same thing you see when you look in the mirror?

  • Do you often find it hard to connect with other people especially in certain situations?
  • Do you feel like other people don’t really “get” you?
  • Or do you find yourself feeling like no one really knows the “real” you?

Well perhaps you, like all of us, can stand to become more self-aware. Self- Awareness is the process of knowing who we are in relation to other people. It’s helpful to be self aware because it gives us a framework to interpret and understand all the feedback we get from others.

Here are three ways you can increase your level of self-awareness:

1. Listen to what other people say about you

What do other people say about you? Are there any major themes you’ve heard repeatedly over the years?

I was very fortunate to learn the benefits of being self aware relatively early in life. When I was about 15 years old I was involved in a very dynamic youth leadership program with a small group of other smart young people.  During one of our early skill building retreats, the facilitators had us participate in a self awareness exercise in which each person was given a stack of 15 pre-printed index cards with words on them and a roll of tape. Each index card had one word on it such as – sincere, apathetic, loud, smart, honest, funny, considerate, etc. Each person was instructed to tape the index card with the word they felt best described the individual group members on each person’s back.

I was expecting a ton of sincere and smart cards taped to my back because I thought those were the words that best described me. But to my surprise and sadness, out of the 15 cards I received, 10 were “loud,” 3 were “funny” and the remaining 2 were “sincere.”

At first I was confused and shocked. I asked myself, ” How could this be? That doesn’t even begin to describe me.” Then I got angry.  “How dare these people act like they know me?!” I thought.  But after the initial shock and anger, I got introspective and thought about what was happening. If 10 out of 15 people each independently thought that “loud” was the best way to describe me, was there some truth to that?  I thought about my behavior in the previous 2 weeks, which was as long as they knew me. When I was honest with myself, I realized I was being louder than I normally was. Not because I was obnoxious or naturally loud, but because I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd, so I thought if I turned up my personality people would notice me and I would make friends quicker. But instead, I just came off as loud and alienating and it hurt. And I think what hurt most was that I wasn’t even being me. At that moment, I wished that I could get a “do over” and present myself as I really was.That was a life changing moment for me. From that moment on, I wanted to make sure that the way I was perceived by other people was as close to the way I saw myself as possible and I became much more aware of my actions.

Important note: Part of considering what other people say about you is to first reflect on the person and the circumstance. Not all feedback provided by others will be useful or valid. But listening to trusted people who provide constructive supportive feedback is an invaluable way to become more self-aware.

2. Be purposeful about what you say and do

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How does this painting make you feel? Does it energize and excite you or does it make you feel tranquil and at peace?

Most people would probably say that this painting makes them feel calm and introspective. How does the artist evoke feelings from you? Well this artist made specific choices such as the chosen color palette and the subject of a setting sun on the horizon just beyond the end of a dock.

Whether we realize it or not, we are similar to the artist because we elicit certain feelings and behavior from others when we choose what we do, say, and wear for example. Those are our materials. What choices do you make that other people see and interpret?

For example:

  • What tone of voice do you use and how does it sound to others?
  • What type of words do you choose?
  • What do you usually talk about?
  • How do you dress your body? What colors do you wear?
  • How do you enter a room?

I encourage you to think deeply about your choices and decide how well they line up with what you want to project to others. When we choose how we want to make people feel and act accordingly, we are more likely to act in a way that is more in line with how we view ourselves. If you want people to trust you, be trustworthy with your actions. If you want people to be at comfortable around you, think about ways you might make them comfortable around you.

3. Reflect on your interactions with people

Think about how your interactions with other people tend to go. Both first time interactions with strangers and those with people you interact with over a long period of time. How do you feel before, during, and after talking with certain people?

Do you get the feeling that people shy away from you or are they drawn to you?

How can you tell?

If you are not getting the types of responses from people that you would like, it may be time to go inside yourself and really think about your actions. Part of being self aware is to try to understand other people better.

As human beings, we are wired to be social. In order to have a full and engaging life, interacting with other people is required to some degree. Because of this, it is helpful to have a basic ability to present yourself in a way that does not offend other people and will encourage other people to want to be around you.

Being self-aware helps facilitate easier relationships with both strangers and loved ones.

So in the comments below, I’d like to hear about how you can be more self-aware in your own life.

Why don’t you get a hobby!

Though we all have different levels of obligations, we each have some degree of free time to manage. Sometimes we let our free time slip through our fingers without really noticing. We spend too many hours watching TV or on social media. We hang out with uninteresting people out of sheer boredom. We engage in unhealthy activity just to fill up the time.

But if we are bit more purposeful and intentional with our time, we can get much more out of it.  In a lot of ways, time is like money. We spend so much of our limited resources on obligations and frivolous things, but we should also remember to save and invest a little for ourselves.

I personally think people greatly undervalue hobbies. A hobby is any activity or pursued interest that brings you pleasure and enjoyment for its own sake. Hobbies can strengthen our intellectual, social, and physical abilities. Hobbies also give us the opportunity to connect with others, learn new skills and give us a way to focus on something besides our problems.  In these ways, hobbies  help us improve our overall quality of life and self-development. If you find yourself frequently bored with your everyday routine or just plain restless, a hobby may be especially helpful for you.

In the event that you don’t already have a hobby or two, I thought I’d share some of my hobbies to help you brainstorm some things you can do with your own leisure time.

1. Reading

My reading nook. I can spend a whole day here just reading.

My first love is reading. This is a hobby passed along to me by my parents. Growing up, my house was filled with floor to ceiling bookshelves because both of my parents were avid readers. Over the years I’ve developed an extensive library myself. My book collection ranges from novels, biographies, architecture, and spirituality, to name but a few. I can get lost in a good book for hours without even realizing it. That’s one of the best feelings in the world to me!

2. Stained Glass

Office window

Most of you have seen this beautiful stained glass window at my office. It’s one of the details that made me decide to choose the space for my office in the first place.

I have always loved and appreciated the beauty of stained glass even when I was a kid. Maybe it’s from all those years of Catholic school!  So I decided to try my hand at making it myself and found a class.

So excited when I cut my very first piece of glass!
Various stages of the glass cutting process and tools

 

 

Original pattern and glass panes

 

The finished product in my home office. So PROUD!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ended up really enjoying the process and now I have a new hobby. As most creative people and artists will tell you, there is something really gratifying about making something interesting out of nothing. It really was thrilling taking separate pieces of glass and creating something new and beautiful with them. Can’t wait to get started on my next piece.

3. Nature enthusiasm

The lemon tree in my living room
I am always awed by the beauty and serenity of Lake Michigan

 

 

 

 

 

The beautiful trees at the Morton Arboretum Winter Illumination

There are tons of ways to be a nature enthusiast and it’s super cheap. Being among trees, sun, water, etc. always calms my spirit. I really feel most alive when I am in natural spaces. In the summer time, I am frequently at the lakefront of Lake Michigan. I find every excuse to be there. Each autumn I look forward to going out to the countryside to pick apples. In early summer, I pick berries and fruits. All year round, I enjoy gardening and tending to my plants in the comfort of my own house. When I’m having a hard day, I get my hands dirty in soil and leaves. It works like a charm.

4. Traveling

Phuket, Thailand
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Phuket, Thailand beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel is awesome! Its a wonderful way to gain some perspective on the way you live your life. Travel promotes introspection because you encounter new ways of living, and new people. It gets you out of a rut too. I dare you to try to think about the same old small stuff you sweat when you have jaw-dropping sights in the background. Go ahead, I dare you!

My personal goal is to visit 6 out of the 7 continents (I don’t have any desire to visit Antarctica), and each of the 50 states. I’ve already visited 4 continents; I only have South America and Australia to go! And I’ve been to 27 states already, so I only have 23 left.

But travel doesn’t have to be extravagant or take you to far off lands. Road trips are great too and something that can be done in one weekend very inexpensively. And if that’s too much, travel can consist of a bus ride to the other side of town, or a neighborhood that you’ve never visited. It’s all about that sense of adventure and exploring new things.

5. Urban Exploration

Urban ruins in a vacant lot
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Anybody know what used to be located at 1005 E. 63rd St.??

So I happen to live in a city that has tons of rich history. The southside of Chicago has gone through a ton of changes in the past 50 years. Some neighborhoods that once thrived have since been depopulated and have seen better days. But that history is fascinating to me. And I frequently happen upon reminders of this rich past. These pictures come from a block of vacant lots on 63rd St. I’ve read that this street used to be a bustling shopping center. Unfortunately, I’ve only known it be one of vacant lots. Its super cool and interesting to see the remnants of this past that I’d previously only saw in books. I have tons of photos like this.

Ok. So those a few of my hobbies. I also have plans to take up more hobbies in the future as my interests continue to change and I outgrow some.

Maybe your hobby is photography, or baking, or weight lifting, or intramural sports, or bowling, or skating. Perhaps my hobbies/interests bore you to tears, or maybe you even share some of them.

Whatever the case, I’m eager to hear about your hobbies in the comments below. Or if you don’t have any just yet, I’d like to hear what hobby you plan on pursuing with your leisure time.

The Nitty Grit(ty): How to Persevere

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Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up— Chinese Proverb

What is Grit? No, not grits, silly. Grit.

Grit is the ability to persevere when things don’t seem to be going your way.  It’s being able to keep showing up in spite of difficulties while in pursuit of your goal.

Picture this. It’s 1974 in Zaire, central Africa.  The “Rumble in the Jungle” has been hyped and touted as the biggest match of the century and the whole world is watching. A young Muhammad Ali is backed against a rope and being pummeled by a bigger and stronger George Foreman, the reigning heavyweight champion. But after 8 rounds of intense boxing and countless punches to the body, Ali somehow ends up towering over a knocked out Foreman in defiant victory. Ali perseveres and wins. This is grit. Being able to endure in the face of what feels like insurmountable challenges and obstacles.

Grit is a favorite trait of mine because it’s so darn useful in so many situations and anybody can learn how to adopt it. In fact, psychologists say that grit can help people obtain their goals just as much as skill or personal intelligence.

So why does this matter and why should you care?

Well, having grit can mean the difference between living the life you want to be living and feeling unfulfilled and like life is passing you by. When you are able to steadfastly pursue the things that you want even after failures and roadblocks, you are undeniably more likely to reach your desired destination.

Cultivating grit in your life can help if you are:

  • struggling with finding a new job and have gotten countless rejection letters
  • trying to break into a new career
  • leave an unhealthy/ unfulfilling relationship
  • attempting to lead a healthier lifestyle
  • trying to become a more positive person
  • trying to move on after bad things have happened

Whatever your challenges, here are 5 ways you can cultivate the habit of grit in your own life:

1. Remember why

Sometimes it’s really hard to maintain your motivation, especially when it takes great feats of willpower every single day.  In moments when you feel like giving up, it’s helpful to remember why you started in the first place. Was it sheer frustration? Was it because you were sick and tired of how you were feeling? Whatever the reason, remember it when times are rough and it feels easier to give in and give up. You can anticipate that things won’t be easy when you begin by finding a way to commemorate the moment. Write a journal entry explaining why you are pursuing this new goal and list in detail how your life will be different one you achieve this goal. Record a video of yourself on your phone in which you express why reaching this goal is so important to you. You can replay it later when your motivation is running low.

2. Inspirational quotes

I don’t know about you, but a well chosen inspirational quote when I’m feeling low is deeply powerful. Aside from the fact that these quotes can speak directly to whatever situation I am struggling with, they also remind me that other people have struggled with my same problems and I feel less alone. I’m reminded that other people have made it through hard times and so can I.

3. Acknowledge and celebrate all of your progress

Sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. We think it has to be all or nothing. Perhaps we haven’t reached our ultimate goal yet, but we can still celebrate how far we’ve come. For example, you may be looking for a job and haven’t yet found work. Well you can congratulate yourself for applying to x amount of jobs this week, even when you really didn’t feel like it. Even though you haven’t reached the finished line, you’re still in the race. Acknowledging your tenacity and celebrating it, helps you to remain committed to it!

4. Self-care

It’s so important to take care of yourself so that you don’t burn out. Continue to do all the things that you enjoy as long as they don’t impede your goal. The pursuit of your goal should not force you to neglect all the other parts of your life. If you have an enjoyable life, you will feel less likely to quit when things get tough.

5. Support

Everybody needs a cheerleader or two. Seek out people who understand and will support your pursuit of your goal.  Encouragement is vital.

So in the comment section below, I’d love to hear how grit can help you pursue your goals!