The Value Of Knowing Yourself

Katie Young
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Wednesday - January 07, 2009

Self-awareness - we all need it and many of us don’t take the time to invest in the process to achieve it. We’re busy, we’re tired and we’d rather spend our time doing something else.

But self-awareness is an important part of what makes us tick. Being able to manage our behavior is also important to developing a high quality of life and constructive relationships with others.

If you want to do either of these things effectively, you have to first have a clear understanding of yourself. Sounds easy, right? Who knows you better than you? But many of us, however, aren’t always fully aware of what’s inside of us and how what we say or do affects others. Who you are is more than just the job you keep and the place where you live.

Take my friend Ali, for instance, whose boyfriend is on the low end of the self-awareness spectrum. Ali has a really hard time convincing her boyfriend of any of his negative behaviors. He constantly has to be right, he’s stubborn when she tries to compromise and he does-n’t realize the impact his angry words have on her. When Ali tries to explain how these things affect her, her boyfriend turns the situation around and blames Ali for whatever went wrong.

“I’m not like that,” he’ll say defensively. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. If you didn’t act like you do, then I would-n’t be forced to act the way I do.”

The blame game just goes around and around and both people end up feeling angry and frustrated.

“I just wish he were more self-aware!” Ali complained to me. “I mean, it’s really hard to convince someone they need improvement when they can’t even admit to the things they do!”

Part of becoming self-aware is having the willingness to obtain feedback from others like family members, friends or colleagues about how your interactions make them feel. There are varying degrees to self-awareness - you aren’t simply self-aware or not. It is, instead, an ongoing process of knowledge. But experts agree that the less self-aware someone is, the less psychologically “well put together” that person is.

According to Brenda Lovette, Psy.D., of the Lokahi Consulting Group, there are certain steps one can take to becoming more self-aware, and it starts with focusing on your own happiness.

“First, you need to be mindful and cognizant of your needs and what you need to do to take care of those needs,” says Lovette. “This gives you a sense of control and it can boost your immune system.”

Once you take care of yourself, says Lovette, you are then able to take care of others. Think about the things that make you happy. If you get a chance to surf for an hour after work or get to make a trip to the gym before heading home to make dinner, are you happier and more relaxed? Does that feeling translate to how you act with your family at home?

“You have to realize that when you take care of yourself first, you can be that much nicer to others,” says Lovette.

Self-investigation is not always easy, and may lead you to discoveries about yourself you would sooner have left unearthed. It can be scary and difficult to overcome emotional obstacles, but it’s also necessary.

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