Becoming Self-Aware

Recently I took time away from family and responsibilities to cultivate deeper self-awareness in the face of unexpected events. I needed this space to consider the upcoming changes and to understand what I would need in the process. The author Garima Srivastava writes, “Self-awareness is about understanding your own needs, desires, failings, habits, and everything else that makes you the unique individual you are. The more you know yourself, the better you are to adapting to life’s changes.” I definitely needed to better understand myself and adapt to what life was giving me.

There are important advantages to living with heightened self-awareness. A better understanding of ourselves empowers us to build on our areas of strength, as well as clarify where we need to make improvements. This means paying attention to what is going on both inside and outside ourselves. When we’re paying attention we pursue opportunities that fit our skills and preferences. We better identify our stressors so we can more effectively use coping mechanisms. We understand our personal triggers, what we value most, the feelings involved, and the different roles we play in life. Our choices become consistent with our ability to make informed decisions, monitor our own behavior, and have healthy interactions with other people.

Change can take so many forms and challenge us in our deepest places. Those of us who have had a cancer diagnosis know all about the kind of change that turns our life upside down. (The same is also true for caregivers.) Here is where non-judgmental self-awareness is needed, and kindness to our self is essential. This is where we especially need to quiet the chatter in our minds and switch off our autopilot, so we can evolve into seeing the present moment clearly. It’s in the self-awareness of the present moment that we have the power to positively change the way we see ourselves and improve the quality of our lives.

There are so many ways we can increase our self-awareness, so only a few are mentioned here. Try becoming more observant of your surroundings and sensations by noticing the breeze brushing past you, the scent of blooming jasmine, the soft soap in your hand, and the flavor of your favorite food. Eat mindfully so every bite is enjoyed and you are aware of what you are putting inside yourself. Keep observing what you are thinking and feeling without judgement – just notice what is going on inside of you. Keep a journal where you write down thoughts and feelings about what you struggle with, and what you’re grateful for. Read books about inspirational people. Practice listening to others, which will enable you to listen with more compassion to yourself. Create a space for yourself where you can experience the gifts of meditation. Take a series of slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people who are different from you so you can gain a different perspective and experience a fuller picture of yourself. All of these are life enhancers.

We may not be in control of the changes that continually present themselves, but we certainly can control how we handle them. The more self-aware we are, the more we can improve our quality of life. When we choose to be consciously in the present moment, awareness takes place and we develop skillful ways to handle the stress in our lives. Friends After Diagnosis offers a number of therapeutic activities that enhance self-awareness. All you need to do is pick the one that works best for you.

Until Next Time – Sylvia

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