The two faces of self awareness

I have just returned from my holidays. The Maldives, a once in a lifetime trip. I am lucky to have had the resources, the time and the access to such a beautiful and peaceful place.

Sat looking out at the beautiful sea one day I had a moment of real stillness inside. I looked at the colour of the water and felt the warm air on my skin without narrating the experience internally, as I usually would. As the still moment gave way to an inevitable thought, I found myself thinking who is on this holiday?

We all know who we are, no? I am Lauren. My husband is Tom. I live in Devon by the sea. I have two cats. I work in the NHS. I love my family very much. But what about beneath those things, what if I look underneath the labels like my name and my status as ‘wife’ and ‘daughter’ and ‘employee’. Who exists to be given such labels in the first place?

I started thinking about this awareness of Self, and the term self-awareness which is often used in relation to a personality trait and emotional intelligence. I felt the term needed some unpacking.

Is it good to be self-aware? I think of self-awareness as being good when it means understanding our own behaviour and its impact on others. On the contrary, it could be a bad thing to be often thinking of ourselves, having an acute awareness of the self. One might call that self-ish, a pit-stop on the road to narcissism even. 

But what about Self awareness, capital S?

How much attention do I pay to my Self, rather than myself. I think of my Self as the observer, the witness, the experiencer of my life. The one who still exists if I take the labels and the statuses away. If Tom leaves me I would be no longer a wife. If I left my job I would no longer be an employee. I could even change my name to Samantha (I always wanted to be a ‘Sam’ when I was little!) and then I would no longer even be Lauren. But my Self would still be there, unchanged and untouched by the removal of my usual descriptors. 

I am building my awareness of Self. I had better know her and listen to her if she is really the one who is me. During meditation I touch upon my Self (let’s hope that one doesn’t get taken out of context). I feel the external world become temporarily distant and I move inwards to rest upon the essence of my Self. During the day I am taking moments to become Self aware. When I sit, or stand, or open a door. These are my prompts to come right into the present moment and feel the one who is sat in the driving seat. Not the conveyor-belt of thoughts and planning and to-do lists that my mind is rehearsing. The quiet one inside. When I become Self aware, I feel a building of energy. I feel a sense of peace, and a sense of excitement that coexists with it. I realise I am in there, and whatever’s happening on the outside, I am okay. 

Given that they’re not going anywhere, whether I like it or not, it seems a good idea to become better acquainted. 

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