One day in seventh grade, a girl sat next to me on the school bus. She was the kind of person who made fun of everyone. She said, “Nick, I don’t even have to start with you. You’re already too messed up.”
That specific incident started a chain of thoughts in me that were really hard to shed. I embraced the idea that I was hard to love, that I wasn’t good enough and that I was inferior.
As we go through the different stages of our lives, we inevitably let people’s ideas about us shape who we think we are. It takes some real work to undo this damage, but that work is the key to life-changing self-awareness
Here’s what I’ve learned about how to become truly self-aware.
1. How to Be More Self-Aware: Question Your Beliefs
Becoming more self-aware starts with challenging the ideas you hold about yourself. Ask yourself probing questions: Is that thing I believe—that I’ve always been told—true? What ingrained idea from my upbringing did I adopt? What are the things I truly like or don’t like?
You may end up with a different picture of yourself than you started with.
2. Feel Your Feelings
This may look like asking: Why does that label make me feel this way? Why am I insecure right now? What just triggered me?
These feelings and questions can be difficult to face. But allowing yourself to feel them and truly explore their origin will help you see the things that don’t serve you. Remember that your brain is a problem-solver. It wants to provide you with the answers to the questions you ask it, so start elevating the questions.
3. Throw Out That Which Doesn’t Serve You
You’re not “just” what someone has always said you are. You aren’t “too old” or “too young” or “too inexperienced.” I know because I’m a guy who’s been given a lot of labels and put in a lot of boxes. I’ve had to work very hard to destroy those boxes—so I know that it’s possible.
This is the big secret: You are not trapped. You create your own reality. It’s not a fixed thing. You don’t have to hold onto any beliefs that don’t serve you. You don’t have to believe things that make you feel small or inferior.
4. Create Your Ideal Reality
Learning yourself and living as yourself requires practice.
I work every day to get people to identify me in ways that I want to be identified. I do this by acting in accordance with the identity I want—which is only something I’ve learned how to do by figuring out who I want to be. By challenging my self-beliefs and really getting to know myself.
5. How to Become More Self-Aware: Have Courage
True courage is required to face all parts of yourself, even when it’s uncomfortable. But if you can take this courageous step, you’ll begin uncovering the truth. The journey of self-awareness—of asking yourself the questions that get to the heart of who you are and who you want to be—is where you will find power.
That’s when you can step out in full light, not dimmed by anyone else’s labels, confident and fully empowered to live out your purpose without fear.
This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct 2023 issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo courtesy of Nick Santonastasso.
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