Radical Self-Awareness

Photo by ariel sion on Unsplash

“I wish I were normal”

The words lazily floated through my mind as I waited for the light to change. I was on my way home from a particularly intense counseling session, and as I sat at the stoplight, I lamented my perceived brokenness. Some counselling sessions leave me feeling happy and uplifted while others make me acutely aware of how much my trauma has shaped me. The more significant the trauma, the harder it is to heal. I’ve been trying to heal for two decades and sometimes I grow weary of the process and long for this faux state of being called normalcy.

I know that normal is as much a mythological construct as unicorns or Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate, but it is embedded in my psyche. Normal is an imagined state of being that allows me to get through a day without experiencing anxiety or depression. It is an unencumbered existence in which I can be in relationships without overthinking or putting up walls. This is what I imagine when I say I wish I were normal.

I know normal doesn’t exist, but I also know I’m not the only one who longs for it. Judging by my social media feeds, more than a few of you are carrying weights you shouldn’t have to and bearing scars you don’t deserve. Unfortunately for us, there is no easy button when it comes to personal healing. Instead we must do the hard, but beneficial work of being radically self-aware.

What is radical self-awareness? It is the practice of discovering your unique self which includes your defining values, core beliefs and innate characteristics. It allows you to see yourself as you are without pretense or expectation. To be radically self-aware is to be open to loving self-criticism, intentional self-evaluation and total self-acceptance.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

How does one become radically self-aware? It starts with curiosity, patience and openness. Be curious about yourself. Take time throughout the day to check in and ask:

What am I feeling right now?
Why is this important to me?
What do I need?

Once you become comfortable with these questions, you might become aware of deeper wonderings that were previously hidden. Such as:

Where do I belong?
Who are my people?
Where does it hurt? (for more on this question, click the link)

Questions act as emotional seismographs that help key us into the shifting of our heart’s tectonic plates. As we allow our curiosity to develop, we begin to find answers that lead to more questions, and the string of Q&A continues until we find the root of the issue. Each time we are able to uncover the roots that lie deep within, we uncover a hidden piece of ourselves.

This work of asking questions and seeking answers requires patience. The process of self-awareness, like the President’s twitter account, can’t be controlled. Answers come when the time is right and we’re ready. All you can do is position yourself, hold the question and wait. Waiting when you want to be healing is incredibly difficult. I’ve felt frustration so intense it turned to despair, but the answers have always come. I’ve found that one reason for the delay has been my own lack of openness.

Photo by Julie Kwak on Unsplash

Openness completes the trinity of radical self-awareness. When I think of openness, I think of the soil beneath a maple tree. Not every helicopter seed that haphazardly cascades from the tree branch to the ground takes hold and sprouts, but a select few do. That is how openness should function within this context. Every Tom, Tricky Dick, and Harry will have opinions on what you need to do, so you’ll be bombarded with seeds. However, the seeds you need to receive and let take root are those that come from your inner circle.

They offer seeds of perspective, challenge and insight that can lead to breakthroughs. Some of my most fruitful conversations have been with friends, mentors or counselors who have pushed and challenged my way of thinking. If I’m honest, I will tell you that my ego hasn’t always allowed me to receive what they’ve offerred, but when I have, I’ve been grateful.

Though I have moments when I long for normalcy, they are few and far between. It is natural to grow “weary of doing good” as the scripture says. Healing is hard work, and those of us tasked with it don’t get to take days off. Wherever you find yourself on your own journey of restoration, may you remain curious, patient and open. I don’t expect that I’ll ever be healed, but I’ll always be healing. I hope the same for you. Be radical!

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