When I was a kid my father used to like to say, “you have to know who you are.” It sounded wise, but most of the time I didn’t know what he was talking about, probably because I had no idea who I was. I knew the biggest limbs of my family tree and the sequence of my resume. I knew what I did for fun and the religion I was taught. I knew the gender, race and nationality that was ascribed to me. Was I the manifestation of that data?
Since much of the world is on some level of quarantine, we have an unusual opportunity to spend more time alone and get to know ourselves. The New Oxford dictionary defines self-awareness as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives and desires.” I encounter many articles and memes about self-love and self-care, but I can’t recall any about self-awareness. I would argue that you can’t love yourself if you don’t really know yourself. And, if you become more self-aware and don’t like what you find, now’s a great time to work on improving yourself.
I post inspirational words every Friday on my social media. This past Valentine’s Day I posted, “Cultivate courage, kindness, strength, patience, compassion and resilience. You won’t have to search for self-love. It will reside in you effortlessly.” It was really a response to all the information that I see encouraging people to love themselves without even necessarily taking the time to know themselves. It’s like when you were a kid and your mom made you hug Aunt Bunny with the moustache. Sometimes we are our own Aunt Bunnys. We may be so busy working and providing for others, or hiding from painful experiences that we don’t ultimately know ourselves. Trying to cultivate self-love without self-awareness is like slicing bread before its baked.
Perhaps it’s possible to love ourselves without knowing ourselves well. Maybe we can experience a perfunctory form of self-love steeped in duty, the same way abused children still love their parents and Aunt Bunny still gets her “sugar.” We might love ourselves because we feel we have no choice. If we had a discourse on the meaning of love, we would need at least a few different classifications: romantic, maternal, platonic, etc., as well as a multitude of definitions.
For the purpose of today, let’s agree to assume you have to know someone pretty well to love them. Most of us wouldn’t get married without feeling we knew our spouse well. Parents often have such a deep love for their children because we’ve known them since birth. Strong friendships are often born from shared experiences and knowledge of each other over time.
It’s remarkable that you can live an entire lifetime without self-awareness. My guess is many people who’ve experienced trauma either physically or emotionally may not want to know themselves too well, because of the pain inherent in unearthing the realities of the past. It takes courage to heal. Ironically, I often recommend the book, The Courage to Heal, to trauma survivors, because it was a profound help to me. I’m so grateful it was gifted to me by my sister when I was in my early thirties. I sometimes wonder how my life might have been if I encountered helpful therapy sooner. I make the distinction because I’ve experienced a number of really terrible therapists over the years. I would liken it to dating. Some experiences were useless and others were profound. The Courage to Heal was one of the profound ones.
A friend texted me about being bored yesterday. Mirriam-Webster defines boredom as “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.” They define curiosity as “marked by desire to investigate and learn.” It seems to me curiosity is the antidote. It can cure boredom and open the door to self-awareness, self-love and genuine self-care.
These days have been scary and weary, but they’ve also been quiet, precious and ripe with potential. As we all spend time with more stillness than usual, what a wonderful time to cultivate curiosity and self-awareness. We can work on our reading or movie lists, choosing content that expands our perspective. We can write in our journals. (I have four.) We can try an online course. There’s a ton of free yoga and meditation resources online, some are my own. I published my resource list today as a companion to my e-book, Black Vegan Life ™ Guide to Self-Care. There’s a link in there for the Live in Wonder Journal by Eric Saperston. It’s a wonderful step in the direction of self-awareness.
I encourage you tap into your curiosity. Cultivate your courage to explore and to dream. It’s never too late to begin or deepen a journey of self-awareness. My dad used to quip, “you have to know who you are.” Turns out he was right.
I wish you all Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. The photo is a quote that showed up in my Instagram this morning. Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of my favorite books, and the quote really resonates with me. I write because I have a story to tell. We all have our stories. Not everyone wants to share with the world, but we should at least be able to share with a few understanding souls. Here’s the link to my Black Vegan Life Guide to Self-Care and resource list https://honeybutterflyz.com/e-books