Developing self-awareness doesn’t mean we are self-indulgent, narcissistic, or live an “it’s all about me” life. Instead, it demands that we look at ourselves through the lens of reality to determine who and what we are. All too often, we use rose-colored glasses to justify our shameful actions, claim that we know better than our neighbor does, or disrespect those different from us and whose opinions aren’t in line with our own. Such faulty thinking takes its toll on how we treat others and relationships. Guilty of basing my self-awareness on figments of my imagination, I wanted to be something I wasn’t.
For example, my husband and I were novice off-road bicyclists, with sub-standard equipment. Our styrofoam helmets were held together by animal painted nets. His was a dinosaur and mine was a dragon. It was hard to tell the front from the back on styrofoam helmets, so we always put our animal’s head to the front. While taking our bikes out of the van on our first attempt to ride a difficult trail, I noticed an experienced rider, quite attractive in his spandex, coming down from the mountain. As I put my dragon helmet on, and he approached us I said, “How was the ride?”
“Great,” he answered. I looked at him, smiled, and said, “We can’t wait to get up there.” As we pushed our bikes past him, he turned, looked at me, and said “Uh. Your helmet’s on backwards.”
A funny story, but also a reminder that we can’t imagine ourselves. We need to find ourselves. How we relate to the world, the way we think, the way we live, and the way we respond to society comes from knowing ourselves authentically. Even when it’s painful.
This is where emotional intelligence comes in. If I had applied emotional intelligence to the situation on the side of a mountain, I would have known that the experienced rider could determine a novice rider from an experienced one. Furthermore, I would have saved myself from the emotion of embarrassment.
Being in touch with our emotions helps us in our search for self-awareness. By taking a good look at the emotional baggage that comes with risky behaviors we’ve discovered about ourselves, we make healthier choices and live intelligently and according to reason.