Many of us are on this road towards self-awareness and personal growth. But have we actually thought of what it is we need to do to be more self aware and to grow? What does it mean to be self aware? How do you know that you have “grown” and what is growth in this context?
For a lot of people, the first step they think of is to enrol in a course. It could be a self development course or transpersonal course or some spiritual course or even a leadership course. There are plenty of these courses available. While these courses might be catalysts in providing a starting point towards growth, learning theoretical concepts and reading about them do not provide the growth.
So what provides the growth? Having relationships are what provides the growth. Why? Because it leads you to self awareness and self awareness is the first step towards change which leads to growth.
What does it mean to be self aware?
Self awareness has been defined as having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. This sounds quite straightforward enough. But how will you perceive your self? When you wake up in the morning and get ready for the day and you make sure that you look presentable, what do you do so you know how you look? Well, you look in a mirror, right? So it’s the same with perceiving your self towards self awareness – you also look in the mirror. But the mirror you look at is not the shiny glass that you look at to fix your hair. Why? Because all you see is yourself and you will not tell you how you are truthfully (unless you have developed some level of self awareness). The mirror that you look at and is held to you are the people that you interact with, the relationships that you form.
We all interact with each other and with our environment. The responses that we receive back indicate how we respond back to others, or how we relate to others. It’s a cyclical activity; we express outwardly and we receive back a response. Systematically, it’s like we’re constantly pinging back on each other over and over. Even a non-action is still a stimulus as there is always a result.
So then as we interact with each other, we get to know ourselves more. What we like and what we don’t like. How do we know this? Through experience. We get to know ourselves by going through experiences in life. Eating a hot food vs eating cold food. Swimming in the ocean vs swimming in a fresh water pool. Experiencing a challenging relationship vs a harmonious relationship. Interacting with people from all ages who come from different cultures and all walks of life. In a nutshell, having life experiences.
How do we grow from having a relationship?
While you will achieve a level of self awareness from all interactions, the most awareness and growth you will achieve will come from the relationships where you have a strong emotional attachment with. These are the relationships you have with people you have personal relationships with and who have an impact over your happiness and peace of mind. Who are these people? These are your family and friends that you care about, the people you work with/for at your workplace, and most importantly, the people you have love/sexual partnerships with. I call this love/sexual partnerships instead of husband/wife/girl/boyfriend etc. because love/sexual partnerships encompass all relationships that have a STRONG conditional and emotional attachment.
When we engage with people we have emotional ties with, we leave ourselves open to being uncomfortable, and often hurt. Why? Because there is a part in every single one of us who wants to be accepted and loved, and to matter if not to most people, then at least to those we care about. Since we are all unique individuals with needs and wants that are unique for each, we are all bound to be in conflict with each other. Adding to the complexity is our personalities which are based from our beliefs, culture, upbringing and life experience. When you take all these into account, there are so many areas that we need to be skilled at to have a successful relationship with people:
- First, know who you are and what you want.
- Second, understand what it’s like to be in other people’s shoes.
- Third, realise that everyone is on the same boat regardless of the circumstances.
- Fourth, know that each unique person has a unique way of being shown acceptance, appreciation, love, and being communicated with.
- Fifth, at the end of the day, ask yourself, “how do I want to be treated?”. And then treat others the same way as you would like to be treated. You will need to refer to number (1) to get this.
As you can see, there are so many areas to look at and so many things to juggle! It is all trial and error and lots of practice. If you commit to developing yourself, even if it’s just to improve one relationship, can you imagine how much learning and growth you will achieve? Imagine doing this CONSCIOUSLY with every relationship you have and every single person you interact with!
As we engage with people, we also develop our self awareness.
Having a relationship is a vehicle towards self awareness
Your relationships will always mirror to you who you are. You will see that as you grow within, and growing means expanding and embracing a bigger version of reality, the quality of your relationships will also change. As we interact and engage with each other, we also get to know ourselves more.
So this always goes back to self awareness. What are the benefits of self awareness? Self awareness allows you to understand why you are the way you are, and the why of the why’s and so on. Self awareness invites you to open the door to who you are and to understand you – your beliefs, your thoughts, your behaviours, and most especially your buttons; what triggers you. Understanding yourself also leads to change and growth as you expand your version of you as you navigate your way around the intricacies of relating with others.
As you understand yourself more and more, you will also begin to understand other people and know what it’s like to be in their shoes, because regardless of the circumstance, you will begin to understand that what you have experienced and felt, other people have too – the only difference is the scale and magnitude of the experience and feeling.
If you really are committed to your growth, whether it’s spiritually, socially or professionally, go have a relationship. Open yourself up to people, engage with people, have meaningful conversations with people. Don’t be afraid, because at the end of the day, we are all on the same boat and if you are afraid, you can be sure that others are too. So why not take that courage and open your heart to others? As you show your courage, you are giving others permission to be courageous too.
You will know how much you’ve grown by the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life.
© 2015 Nina Barcenilla, All Rights Reserved