Self-awareness is a true understanding of who you are. B.K.S. Iyengar, in his book “Light on Yoga” explains that we need to ask ourselves what we are doing and why we are doing it in order to open our minds. If you ask anyone, they probably say that they want to be self-aware. But, it isn’t one of those things that you are or aren’t, and it isn’t easy (which is probably why so few people actually have self-awareness). It requires constant practice – thoughtfulness, mindfulness, and empathy. It requires humility and challenging your thought-basis and thought-system.
If it’s so hard to do and so much easier (and sometimes happier) to just be un-aware, why should we even try to attain self-awareness? For me, the answer is because I desire the truth. The path to truth is difficult, but when I’ve put in the time and effort to increase my self-awareness, the Universe has rewarded me. I don’t know if the happiness that I experienced was presented because of this, or if it was always there and I simply was made aware of it – either way, I know that it was true happiness and not based on material or a comparison to someone else or an ill-conceived notion.
Iyengar also explains the difference between self-awareness and self-consciousness. The latter is self-absorbed and filled with worry and self-doubt. It is exhausting both mentally and physically. It is a fine line, to experience self-awareness without falling into self-doubt. To do so, one needs to begin the practice with a love of oneself and a promise to forgive, with thoughts of positive truth and not just negative truth. Give yourself a break. Make a commitment to change for the better, but accept that you are an imperfect human and celebrate that you are an awesome, kind, strong person who is committed to bettering yourself!
Self-awareness is a daily practice. We will not always be successful. We will not always be kind to ourselves or to others. We will not always withhold judgment. And that is the point of practice – to keep practicing!
Iyengar says that, “When you are self-aware, you are fully within yourself, not outside yourself looking in. You are aware of what you are doing without ego or pride.” I think that self-awareness is a worthwhile goal for anyone searching for deeper meaning in his movement practice and his life.