Why Self-Awareness Is So Hard (But So Important)

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I recently came across a fable about a lion and the sheep that I find silly but that is actually a great example of our blind spots in our own lives. It goes like this:

There was once a pregnant lioness that died soon after giving birth. The newborn, not knowing what to do, made it’s way into a nearby field and mingled with a herd of sheep. The mother sheep saw the poor, lost, and hungry cub and decided to raise it as its own.

And so the lion cub grew up along with the other sheep. It started to think and act just like a sheep. It would bleat like a sheep and even eat grass.

But it was never truly happy. For one, it always felt that there was something missing. And secondly, the other sheep would constantly make remarks about the lion being so different.

They would say, “You look funny and your voice sounds weird. Why don’t you bleat properly like the rest of us? ”

The lion would just stand there and take in all these remarks feeling extremely sad. It felt it had let down the sheep community by being so different and that it was a waste of space.

One day, an older lion from a far off jungle saw the herd of sheep and decided to attack it. While attacking, it saw the young lion running away along with the other sheep.

Curious as to what was happening, the older lion stopped chasing the sheep and pursued the younger lion instead. It pounced on the lion and growled, asking it why it was running away with the sheep.

The younger lion shook with fear and said, “please don’t eat me, I am just a young sheep. Please let me go!”.

Upon hearing this, the older lion laughed, “That’s nonsense! You are not a sheep, you are a lion, just like me!”.

The younger lion simply repeated what it had come to believe about it’s existence: “I know I am a sheep, please let me go”.

At this point, the older lion got an idea. It dragged the younger lion to a river nearby and asked it to look at its reflection. Upon looking at the reflection, the lion much to its own astonishment realized who it really was; it was not a sheep, it was a mighty lion!

What’s the value of this story?

This story may seem simplistic or silly. But, as most fables do, it has a moral to it.

The older lion in it is a metaphor for ‘self awareness’ and looking at the reflection in the water is a metaphor for ‘self reflection’.

Just like the younger lion in this story, your childhood and life experiences have shaped your self-awareness, as well as your limiting beliefs about yourself.

But that doesn’t make them the objective truth. Much like the lion cub, we can all benefit from taking a hard “look in the mirror” and acknowledge how accurate our ability is to see ourselves clearly and objectively — to become self-aware.

What Is Self Awareness?

There are a number of different definitions and key components of self-awareness.

  • Self-awareness is the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection.
  • Your ability to notice your feelings, your physical sensations, your reactions, your habits, your behaviors, and your thoughts.
  • Self-Awareness is about being honest with yourself.
  • Self-awareness is about focusing on the reality of your behavior and not on the story you tell yourself about who and what you are.

Why People Ignore Self-Awareness

It can be hard to take a good long hard look at our reflection. We may find things we don’t want to see — truths we know deep down that we don’t want to be. Truths from our past that will require a good bit of effort to accept, improve upon, or correct.

Or, like the lion cub, we never learned how to be self-aware or maybe don’t even recognize what it is.

Some common reasons why people ignore self-awareness include:

  • Fear of vulnerability
  • They feel stuck
  • A lack of healthy coping mechanisms
  • They’re not ready to take accountability
  • They’re scared to face a hard truth
  • The truth contradicts their perception of themselves

Why Self-Awareness Is So Important

Self-awareness is important for a number of reasons. In the story I shared, the lion cub learned to let go insecurities from it’s past that stemmed from being different from it’s peers. This allowed the lion to build a strong sense of self and to take pride in it’s true nature.

Similarly, there are a number of benefits we can find in our own lives as well.

Self Awareness:

  • Improves decision making
  • Helps us identify areas for improvement in our life
  • Builds clarity on our blind spots so that we can accurately address them
  • Helps us play to our strengths
  • Affects not only ourselves, but also our relationships with others
  • Builds our confidence and even our creativity
  • Is critical to our growth and personal development

Our blind spots consist of the fact that we assume others see what we see and think the way think, even though this is rarely the case.

Blind spots cause us to fail to recognize that emotions, such as fear and distrust, change how we and others interpret and talk about reality.

It’s totally natural that fear causes us to avoid self-awareness. It’s both a biological and psychological impulse.

And we can learn to master them — we have to if we want to continue to develop ourselves and be the best that we can be, as well as positively touch the lives of the people around us in all capacities. It all starts within us, and the more self-aware we are, the better.

Thanks for joining me I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

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