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Is self-awareness self-indulgent?

“I wish someone could tell me what to do with my life.”

Have you ever uttered these words when you’ve felt stuck?

Have you ever felt like you had nothing more to learn about yourself, and that by now, you must have figured out your life? Then shied away from decisions, telling yourself that you must stop over-thinking, just grab life by the horns and get on with it, because all you lacked was simple discipline, focus and drive.

I’ve been there. How wrong I was.

I knew what I wanted out of life, and at the same time, I didn’t. The dreams were blurred and unattainable. They were a very big picture, which I wouldn’t dare to investigate close up.

Our dreams can be heavy burdens, constantly reminding us of how little we’ve achieved and how much we lack. We think about what our 15 year-old self would think of us, and shrink with disappointment.

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People offer a soft approach to solving life’s big questions. They preach “being kind to oneself”. But life is short and the hard method seems to give more immediate results. “Stop thinking, start acting” a muscular man barks out of his Youtube channel. You take up the challenge. If an idiot can become a millionaire, then surely you can too. It works for a few days, and then you feel soiled. “This just isn’t me”.

Then comes the gentle, but pro-active method. ‘Evolution’ as opposed to ‘Revolution’. Growth instead of crash and burn. A compassionate approach, in which you highlight what you already have and stop focusing on what you lack. I’ve come to think that this is a happy medium for most of us. It recognises the need to take action and to step up by becoming true “agents” of our lives, yet it accepts that dodging all the questions is unhealthy in the long term.

With this approach, you’re an active observer. You become a scientist in search for answers. You start by reframing the question and by breaking it down into smaller questions, to solve one at a time, accepting that overnight change isn’t the norm for most of us. You watch the individual you are from a fresh perspective, with no judgement.

You brainstorm, test, fail, track and start again, until you acquire the knowledge and understanding of how you function best, and what changes you need to make in order to feel more fulfilled.

You come up with the answer to the question “what should I do with my life?”

When I think of Socrates’ “Know thyself”, it evokes jumping into the driver’s seat. Investing in oneself. Taking the time to connect with the aspirations and dreams you’ve probably spent a good chunk of your adult years quashing in order to fit in or be the person you thought you needed to be.

“Know thyself.” 

– Socrates

Is that navel-gazing?

In the School of Life video on “How to become a better person”,  Alain de Botton explains “To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one’s troubles and moods, to have a sense of what’s going on inside oneself and what actually belongs to the world.”

“To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one’s troubles and moods...” - A. de Botton Tweet This

Developing self-awareness is not self-indulgent. It’s the act of taking control of that little voice, which sometimes tells you you’re not enough. It frees you from the fear of not fitting in with a norm, by highlighting the beauty of your uniqueness. It relieves you of your reliance on other people’s validation. It makes you more compassionate towards yourself and thereby more accepting of others. It enables you to make informed decisions, to embrace your values and climb mountains.

I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

  • Are there any areas in your life where you think you could benefit from developing self-awareness?
  • Have you spotted any recurring patterns you’d like to break?

Please use the comments section below to join in the conversation or email me at charlotte(at)astoryworthliving.com

Spread the word! If you know anyone who is looking for more meaning in their life, please share this article with them!

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