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  • The Importance of Self Awareness 2: Become Who You Truly Are

    In this second post in this series on the importance of self-awareness, we explore the idea of becoming who you truly are. “Become who I am?” someone might ask, “Really? What’s the big deal?”

    importance of self awareness
    Building self-awareness… PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

    Isn’t it all really very simple? As Popeye the Sailorman put it many years ago, “I YAM WHAT I YAM!” From this perspective, what else is there to be said about the importance of self awareness?

    Well, pretty clearly, the above is a different understanding of our unique identity than Jung intended when he wrote:

    The privilege of a lifetime [italics mine] is to become who you truly are.”

    C.G. Jung

    What could Jung possibly mean by this? Clearly, he feels that becoming who you are is a big deal—the “privilege of a lifetime”, no less! Is knowing who I am, and being who I am, really all that important?

    True and False Identity

    Often, there’s a clear difference between who we think we are, and the personal characteristics that we actually possess. We can have an image of ourselves that is quite different from who we really are. Often, the story we tell ourselves about who we are doesn’t quite match the reality.

    Researchers often point to evidence that shows the contradictions between some idealized version of ourselves, and who we really are. For instance, research shows that many people who don’t see themselves as racially prejudiced actually carry substantial racial bias. Or that people who see themselves a compassionate can actually walk by starving or apparently gravely ill homeless people. It can be hard for us to acknowledge some of the less agreeable aspects of ourselves.

    Yet, there are plenty of other ways in which our story about ourselves can be in error. Consider the individual who may have a career as a tough, steely go-for-the-jugular business person. Then consider what can happen at mid-life, as this person realizes that he or she is actually empathetic, and cares most deeply about building people up. Such people can often come to the realization that they have been living out someone else’s story.

    This process of working out who we really are can be quite involved!

    When the Real Me Shows Up

    We can spend a lot of time and energy consciously or unconsciously avoiding who we really are. This can consume an enormous amount of effort, and it can cause an enormous amount of pain. It may be particularly difficult when we confront situations where the real me shows up, and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

    We know “the real me showing up” as a classic midlife motif, but it shows up at plenty of other times in a life as well. A wealth of clinical experience has shown me how extremely painful it is to feel a huge discrepancy between how an individual is living, and who they are and what they really want. This can lead us to situations of unhappiness, even misery, and to situations of inner and outer conflict.

    If we can gain insight into what is motivating us on the unconscious level, we can help ourselves to feel less conflicted and generally better on the emotional level. Research by Oliver C. Schultheiss of Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nürnberg indicates that our sense of well-being tends to grow as our conscious goals and “implicit” or unconscious motives are more harmonized. We should not grind away at careers or patterns of living that give us things that are highly valued by society or our family if these things don’t fundamentally matter to us. Jung would certainly agreed with that conclusion.

    This highlights our theme: the importance of self-awareness! How do we harmonize our deep unconscious motivations with what we are consciously trying to do? We have to open ourselves up to our unconscious feelings and motivations.

    Making the Unconscious Conscious

    [The human] task is to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious.

    C.G. Jung

    Much of what C.G. Jung writes is focused on the importance of self awareness, and on becoming aware of the contents of our unconscious, however it manifests. For Jungian /a-midlife-transition, this can involve using a variety of approaches to self awareness, including:

    • journalling and closely watching our emotional and bodily reactions;
    • closely examining our interactions with other people;
    • active imagination“, or the use of our imagination to get closer to the true contents of the unconscious; and,
    • looking at our dreams, as a way of understanding our unconscious reactions.

    In addition, a supportive relationship with a Jungian /a-midlife-transition can greatly assist in the whole process of “sorting the ‘I’ from the ‘Not I'”, as Jung puts it. Becoming who we truly are is vitally connected with coming to terms with the aspects of ourselves of which we aren’t yet conscious, and connecting them with our conscious awareness and goals.

    Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,

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