#22 Self-Awareness Part 3
This is part 3 of a 4-part series entitled The Self-Awareness Series.
‘You cannot understand yourself in a vacuum.’
Awareness is a life long pursuit. We are born and our concept of the world puts us directly at its centre. Egotistical, chubby balls of tears and poop. It isn’t until around ages 3-4 that children begin to develop the ability to see themselves as separate and unique individuals, and by 5-6 they are transitioning from ‘me, me, me’ to ‘us’, becoming aware of the needs and interests of the group, and using the power of ‘no’ to help define themselves within the group setting.
And the development continues beyond the borders of childhood. In all of us. But the degree to which this change occurs varies astronomically from one chap to the next. What is responsible for the degree? The level of self-concept.
To paint a picture, i’ll tell a little story. I was on a packed, London train. The soft buzz of mass anxiety can be heard only if you engage – which most tend to avoid (hence the sea of dead eyes). A gentleman gets on and stands by the doors. The doors begin to close and I can see that his head will be caught between them if he doesn’t move it, but this seems obvious so I refrain from saying anything. The doors close in. Not much time left to evade – he must be a pro. WHACK! The man seems perplexed if not slightly annoyed as he rubs his head. The train continues on its journey unperturbed by the man’s ordeal – bastard train. The train slows. Then stops. The doors fly open. The protagonist’s head glides back into the path of the doors. What is he doing? What’s his game plan? The doors begin to close. I look on captivated. This time his head gets caught between the two doors and the pressure looks like it might burst his head open like a grape. He squirms and his head pops forth, liberated if worryingly purple. He grunts and rubs his head furiously. This happens three more times and then the purple-faced man gets off his head misshapen from the beating.
Some folk make the same mistakes again and again and again with no idea what’s going wrong. They point the finger at their environment, ‘Bloody train!’, or the people within it, ‘I binge eat because my boss is antagonistic!’ Studies have shown that taking responsibility for the things that happen in your life makes you more content. Things should occur through you not too you – the distinction being in the presence/absence of control. Humans have an inherent need for autonomy and this is striped from your person when you abdicate responsibility.
So take back the control. Look within. And ask yourself ‘what could I have done differently to produce a more favourable outcome? What do I need to work on?’ Now with each error comes an opportunity for growth.
An important thing to understand when hunting for self-awareness is that you will discover most about yourself when you look at how you think/act in the difficult or unlikely circumstances that inevitably crop up. Do you crumble under pressure? When someone does you wrong, do your friends, family, and colleagues take the brunt of your anger? Do those loud opinions you force into the eyes of all your friends on Facebook get backed up with actions? Do not brush these things under the carpet of your psyche. Analyse them.
This is The Gentlemen’s Game.
P.S. I reference a study involving Huntington’s disease in this podcast without really knowing what it is. Having this public platform for my thoughts and ideas has brought to my attention the many gaps in my knowledge. It’s got me thinking about how we often formulate opinions based on nothing more than a whim, a feeling, or hearsay. And these half-boiled, inadequately-tested ideas clutter up the brain and then other concepts, beliefs, whatever, are built upon these shaky foundations. And as we build ungrounded ideas on top of ungrounded ideas we become more and more invested in false conceptions of the world – no one wants to be wrong once, and the desire to avoid being wrong more than once often overwhelms anything else.
How do we avoid this? I think the best way is to surround yourself with folk who make it their business to go deeper, to research thoroughly before making decisions, and who always retain open, critical minds. Their approach should be scientific. They should be willing to change their stance based on new information. And they should be a diverse group with conflicting opinions.
And at the end of it, when you don’t know something feel no shame in saying, ‘I don’t know, but I want to.’
Anyway, for those of you that also are relatively unaware of Huntington’s disease: it is an hereditary disorder of the central nervous system. It develops in adulthood. Causing damage to nerve cells and affecting movement, cognition and behaviour. Here’s a good article on it if you’re interested in reading more.