Friday, April 4, 2014

The Dark Side of Self Awareness

Usually when people write about self awareness (us included), everything comes across as positive and good. There is, however, a dark side to self awareness of which it is important to be aware. 
This flip side to the coin of self awareness is that none of us is perfect, or even close to being perfect. This means that practicing self awareness will reveal to us the numerous blemishes, inconsistencies, incongruities, and harmful tendencies that are an inherent part of the composition of our sentient beings.
Unfortunately, as M. Basil Pennington, the Trappist monk and priest who wrote over 60 books in the latter half of the 20th Century, penned, "In seeing ourselves as we truly are, not all that we see is beautiful and attractive. This is undoubtedly part of the reason we flee silence. We do not want to be confronted with our hypocrisy, our phoniness. We see how false and fragile is the false self we project. We have to go through this painful experience to come to our true self."
Remember, when you see the dark side of yourself, it is like looking at the dark side of The Force as depicted in the Star Wars series. Being aware of your dark side ── your human weaknesses and all other negative aspects of your character ── is the preliminary step in being able to control and overcome these.
Of course, overcoming any personal weakness is a particularly gratifying and satisfying feeling; one of the greatest sources of self esteem you will encounter. Aristotle obviously got it right when he wrote: "I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self."
Those who do not win the battle with themselves become lost souls, empty of the self knowledge and understanding, and thus the passions, that make life worth living.
Additionally, being aware of your faults, flaws and weaknesses is also the first step in changing or modifying these. It's your choice ── you can either control these, or be controlled by them.
Likewise, you can continue to exhibit your faults and flaws, and suffer the consequences, or you can take action to change.
As Jim Rohn said, "Unless you change how you are, you will always have what you've got."
Rohn also gave this good advice: "You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of." 

This article is excerpted from the book Project You: Living A Determined Life, available in both paperback and eBook formats at 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Your Conscience and Self Awareness

Your conscience plays a key role in your quest for self awareness. Some might equate the conscience to one's self awareness, but in fact they are two separate aspects of the inner self.
Self awareness is being conscious of your feelings, emotions and thoughts; whereas your conscience evaluates your feelings, emotions and thoughts and assigns judgmental scores or values to them.
For example, you may want to cry about something that has happened. Your self-awareness abilities will help you identify all the emotions, thoughts and feelings that are combining to cause the tears that are about to burst forth (a physical response to your mental, emotional and spiritual components). Your conscience, on the other hand, will judgmentally tell you whether crying in this instance is right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate, if the crying should take place in public or privately, and the "correct" length of time allowed for the shedding of your tears.
In many ways, strong self awareness (and strong self understanding) requires an ability to keep one's conscience in check so that your true feelings, emotions and thoughts are allowed to surface unhindered. After all, if you want to cry, go ahead and cry. Why should your conscience prevent you from experiencing an innermost feeling? In fact, such inhibitions may be detrimental to the full development of your spirit (i.e. the real you).
Stephen R. Covey, the legendary author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, wrote in his later work First Things First, "One of the most powerful uses of self-awareness is to become aware of conscience and how it works within us."
As the Polish proverb goes, "Conscience is the voice of the soul." And in most cases you will want to listen to that voice.
But your conscience is, unfortunately, also formed by the lessons taught to you by your parents, teachers, societal rules, and the cultural customs, norms and practices in which you were raised.
As a result, your true conscience (that true voice of your soul) will at times be in conflict with the one shaped and formed by these other outside influences. This is when you know (instinctively and deep down) that something is not right, but that you cannot prevent or change it.
The more in tune you are with your inner self, and the closer you are to being driven by self actualization (refer to Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs), the less likely you are to compromise your principles or trample on your values.
Shame, one of the worst personal feelings one can have, arises from the fear or realization that one's actions have not been in accordance with one's true inner self. Do not be afraid to not live up to the expectations (or rules) of others. The rules and expectations of others are unlikely to power your dreams and desires. Instead, be afraid of failing to live up to your own expectations and to your own principles, values, morals, rules, and ethics.
Here are two quotes from Marcus Aurelius, the 2nd Century Roman Emperor, that reinforce these last two points:
You can change your beliefs so they empower your dreams and desires. Create a strong belief in yourself and what you want.
He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.
This article is excerpted from the book Project You: Living A Determined Life, available in both paperback and eBook formats at