Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I’m Just Trying to Get My Spot like a Polka Dot

Self-Awareness as defined by Merriam-Webster is; “[cognizance] of one's own personality or individuality”.

I like to include definitions on blog posts to reinforce the subject being spoken about so that everyone understands exactly what I mean. I also like to because the amount of definitions for a single word can often be infinite or people just make up their own conceived meanings. I hope by this point, you have caught on that this post is dedicated to self-awareness.

The wheels in my brain started turning today when a close friend of mine said; “[Berea], you are SO self-aware it's crazy”. I smirked as I recounted the numerous times throughout my life in which my parents had told me virtually the same thing. My dad is a big advocate for self-awareness given his career dealing with (and counseling) hundreds of thousands of unique people, which is why he has always pushed me a step deeper into exploring my feelings. For example, being angry at someone over a verbal disagreement is just not satisfactory in being self-aware. The question is really, WHY? (Or as a good Lutheran would say; “what does this mean?”) Maybe it was a growing issue that I was angry with that person for a comment they said months ago and had never addressed it. It takes a lot of thinking to understand more than the top layer of emotional issues. “Emotional” including; cheerful, upset, depressed, volatile, uneasy, regretful, and the list goes on (hundreds in fact). So, I want to share with you my experiences so that hopefully you will learn something and maybe teach me something.

I realize not all people are like me, in this respect, so I get asked what has made me self-aware. I have come up with a couple answers that I think are the best. First of all, I will never forget my dad coming home from a conference in Colorado and telling my mom, my older brother, and I that he had bought us presents. (Side note here; from what I remember, my family was fairly poor growing up, even though my parents tried to conceal it, I still knew getting presents in the middle of the year was out of character.) My life changed forever when he handed me a hard cover book that said “Journal” on the front. I was six years old when my family started the weekly tradition of writing in our Journals every Sunday after church. I have now been writing on a regular basis for over SIXTEEN years. I’d say I have come a long way with my writing and personal development in 16 years and to this I credit the majority of my self-awareness. When you reflect on life events, however major or minor they may be, you inevitably think about what was said and what you would have done differently in hindsight. Writing those events, feelings, and outcomes down on paper reinforces the ideas, at least for me. You begin to think deeper every time you re-read what was written and trust me, you see it from different aspects nearly every time.

Okay, so writing has helped me grow, but the other reason I think I am “SO” self-aware is my exposure to different cultures growing up. It is no secret that my family moved a lot in my younger years and it certainly helped me understand myself better. I adjusted my personality to fit in with the people I wanted to be friends with and as bad as that might sound, I really think it helped define who I am. I was able to compare my feelings and morals to those around me as well as see different traits I wanted to possess.

Moving on, I want to try and share how to become more self-aware. It is essentially second nature to me now, but I am continually growing to say the least. Being self-aware means getting to know yourself better than you want to. You have to admit your faults. HAVE TO. No one is perfect, regardless of how much people can hide it, so even if you want to continue to hide your imperfections, at least admit to yourself you are not perfect and why. So, being self-aware is a huge cycle. The following list I created helps structure this cycle.

1-An emotional even occurs
2-You have feelings/emotions after the event
3-Reflect on what you would change and how you WANT to feel
4-Imagine possible future situations (or if it were to happen again)
5-Use reflections in next emotional event
*-Strive for the feeling(s) you WANT

I’ll walk you through an example just to drive home my point.
1-Emotional event: November 2011 my grandmother died.
2-Feelings/emotions: I had regret of not spending enough time with my grandma, not showing her enough love, and not gaining enough wisdom from her. I was sad there was nothing I could do anymore.
3-Reflect: I wanted to feel at peace.
4-Imagine future: What happens when the next close person in my life passes away? I don’t want to have so much regret.
5-Use reflections: I haven’t had someone else close to me die since her but I can use those reflections NOW. It is a reminder to keep important relationships strong when you can. I can already tell you I feel guilty I haven’t been working as hard as I should with my remaining grandparents, but at least having these thoughts is facing realization.
*-Strive for the feelings you WANT: This is key. I should star this a million times. You need to answer this for yourself. Happiness is my key and may be yours also. I say that weekly and sometimes daily. Ideally, I want to be in situations that will ALWAYS make me happy. When I have decisions to make, the prevailing decision is 9/10 what will make ME happy. I also want to point out that making other people happy makes me happy, for the record, so I don’t always just discount others’ feelings to better myself.

The next topic of being self-aware I want to address is the negatives. Although deeply knowing yourself is fantastic, it can be dangerous. I realize I have TONS of problems and I mean a PROFUSION of problems. I like to say I am an emotional hypochondriac, haha. Granted, I am not a continuous basket-case, blabbering my problems to every poor soul I meet, but I am not shy to expressing feelings when I feel the need. It does get exhausting when I make realizations about my character and I always feel depressed because I know my faults all too well. The main thing that helps me get through these feelings is looking at the big picture. For example, I know I get angry VERY easy, therefore, I’d venture to say this is a bad trait of mine. However, I don’t get very angry about everything that makes me upset so I know I’m not just an angry person all the time, but I know there are areas to improve. In being self-aware, you need to address and continuously work on negative feelings. That’s what helps you grow.

I’m going to give you another example because I don’t want to be sounding vague. This is very personal, so please don’t judge or criticize me because I am certainly working on it! So, I often plan events for my friends and I, such as gatherings or get-togethers because I like being with my friends. Unfortunately, not everyone has my schedule, so there are a million and one excuses why people can’t attend various things I plan. Me, being a spoiled, baby-of-the-family, think that everyone should drop whatever else they have planned to hang out with me. Obviously, I am not that conceited, but it would be nice to have that, right? Anyways, I have a tendency of getting mad at people for not doing what I want. BUT I KNOW THAT I DO THIS (self-realization) and I know that me getting angry at someone is really MY problem, not theirs. So I have been working on differentiating between excuses and understanding I am not at the top of everyone’s list. If they are truly making excuses not to participate, I want to find out if it is because of me or not. If it is beef they have with me, I might as well not even try again because they likely aren’t as true of a friend as I thought. So overall, I learned I have this issue, I admitted that I have it, and I am working to stop it. Fair enough?

I am going to wrap this up now as I do not blame you if you are sick of reading. Life is an interesting journey. The best advice I can give as a 22 year old is to stay happy and FROG (Christian acronym). “You can’t solve an Algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.” –Baz Luhrmann

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Romans 12:3

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