“Do you think most people are self-aware?” It was an honest question.

I answered rather matter-of-factly. “I would say 98% of people are not self-aware.”

His eyes widened. “Really? That high?” I thought about it and changed my mind. “Actually, I would say I understated it. It’s probably more like 99.9%”

That sounded more like it to me. About 1 in every 1000 people. Not that I’ve done any studies. It’s just 15 years of experience boiled into a number.

Self-awareness is a journey that we are all on, whether intentionally or dragged kicking and screaming. There is no clear line of being “in” or “out.” I can”t know how far I am on the journey because…well, that is beyond my awareness! :-)

My experience thus far is that there are the three stages of self-awareness we go through as part of our lifelong journey to find meaning and inner peace.

We begin in the Pre-stage of self-absorbed. We are unaware of ourselves and we like it that way, sometimes ferociously so. We don’t know why we feel like we feel, do what we do or think what we think. We are reactive. We think other people are “doing it to us.” We get angry, hurt, bitter, resentful, happy, thrilled and overjoyed by whatever happens to us. What is “out there” defines how we experience life. Our overriding concern is our own safety and well-being. We are needy, insecure and self-absorbed.  “It’s all about me.”

Stage 1 is Self-awareness. We become aware of what is going on inside ourselves, brought on by those outside triggers. We realize that other people cannot “make” us happy or unhappy. We are choosing. We are deciding. Because we decide how we respond, we realize that we control how we feel. We realize that we have “beliefs” and “expectations.” These are the rules of life by which we “judge” external events and thereby react to them as “good” or “bad.” When we change our beliefs, we change our experience. We are in control. Our overriding concern is changing ourselves in order to handle life better. We need a lot from ourselves, but not from others.

Stage 2 is Self-acceptance.  We accept our faults.  We are true to ourselves.  We let the world see who we are. We live as if we have nothing to hide and nothing to prove.  In so doing, we begin to “forget” about ourselves. We are comfortable in our own skin. The only problem is, other people don’t necessarily like this new quality in us.  Our authenticity is pushing their self-protective buttons, dragging them towards a self-awareness they don’t want.  The result is often damaged relationships with people who can’t go where you are going. Sometimes, it’s best to let them go. Sometimes,you need to change for their benefit, such as for your spouse. This is where we get pushed into the fourth stage.

Stage 3 is Inner healing. This stage happens when we are willing to intentionally make changes for the benefit of others.  These changes come at our expense.  It is an ego-shrinking experience that liberates us. We begin to know at a deep level that we can handle whatever life throws at us.  We learn when to accept and when to change, living out the serenity prayer. We are flexible yet clear about our boundaries. The idea that it’s “not about me” takes root at a deep, visceral soul level. We get over things quickly and we have a cheerful soul even in the face of great difficulties.

With this level of inner peace and self-esteem, we become truly present to what is happening around us. We have moved into the post-stage of self-less. We see past the facades that people publicly present, to the real person behind the mask. We have no desire to unmask them or change them. We see them, we accept them and we don’t react to them unconsciously. Our over-riding concern is to be helpful to them as they need it at this time and stage in their lives. We need nothing from them. We have all we need from the inside. We have undergone a spiritual transformation.

Becoming self-aware is a spiritual journey that usually gets imposed on us by unwanted, difficult challenges. The spiritual principle I use to help me overcome these challenges is the First Rule of Inner Peace: “First get neutral about outcomes and then you will see clearly what to do.”  It is Jesus’ sensible way to resolve inner conflicts so you can know in your soul that you are doing the right thing. The book is based on our spiritual journey through these three stages. Page 117 includes a helpful chart.

When you are present and at peace, you are “other-aware. You forget yourself because you are compassionately indifferent to what happens in the future. Therefore you are safe. In that moment, your soul is open to God – the quiet inner voice that will guide you – if you are attentive and willing to follow it. This is the deepest level of self-awareness – the awareness that God is ever-present.  In your weakness, you become strong in Him. (2Cor 12:10). Inner peace follows naturally and easily.

In his peace,

John