7 Ways to Increase Self-awareness

self-awarenessWe all want to increase our self-awareness. But there’s a fine line between lost and found, sense and nonsense, awareness and ignorance, self and other.

Sometimes rabbit holes must be passed through in order to discover a profound truth that just happens to be the opposite of another profound truth. At times worms need to be juxtaposed with wormholes in order to see how the micro and the macro come together to create the meta: the imaginative mind contemplating it all as finite constructs bashing against each other within an infinite reality.

Sometimes self-awareness might mean self-abasement. Other times it might mean self-aggrandizement. And still other times it might mean self-annihilation.

In this article, we’ll stick with the basics. How do we increase our self-awareness and get from this place of ignorance to that place of knowledge? How do we bridge the gap? And is the gap ever really bridged?

“When we hold to the core, the opposite sides are the same if they are seen from the center of the moving circle. I do not experience; I am Experience. I am not the subject of experience; I am that experience. I am awareness. Nothing else can be I, or can exist.” ~ Bruce Lee

Here are seven essential methods toward increasing self-awareness. Just remember to have fun with all the “fine lines.”

1.) Meditate to increase self-awareness:

“What we have to learn in both meditation and in life is to be free of attachment to the good experiences and free of aversion to the negative ones.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche

Do you want a deeper understanding of yourself? Ironically, you must get outside yourself by going inside yourself in order to discover s deeper sense of self. And there’s no better method toward blurring the boundaries between inner and outer, self and cosmos, finite and infinite, than that of meditation.

Mediation is powerful because it pierces the veil, it splits the mask, it breaches the ontological skin. By solely being present with breath-work, by merely surrendering to the sacred silence between inhale and exhale, by simply letting go of our attachment to the way reality seems to be, we become something deeper, something more profound, something bigger than itself (infinite) and yet still itself (finite).

We become deliciously paradoxical, both ubiquitous and confined intermittently. Such ontological collocation, especially if practiced often, holds the ever-deepening secrets to increased self-awareness.

2.) Stretching comfort zones:

“You can have courage or you can have comfort, but you can’t have both.” ~ Brene Brown

Ah, the famous stretching of the comfort zone. It has inadvertently become more of a cliché than a rite of passage, since the majority of us would rather reside in the comfort of our certainties than to brave the discomfort of the unknown.

Alas, comfort-junky beware, clinging to comfort and security is a a self2slippery slope into indolence and apathy. Which is a slippery slope into entropy and decay. Which is a good way to decrease self-awareness.

Life just so happens to be active. Those who are inactive, inert, and lazy in their contentedness, will merely exist. Those who move and dance and mix things up with enthusiasm, will make existence happen.

It’s all too easy to just give up, all too simple to stick with the known, and all too effortless to not put forth any effort in doing something that’s never been done before.

It’s all too painless to never risk heartbreak, all too ordinary to not discover the extraordinary within the ordinary. Don’t give into the allure of easy. “Easy” is who you already are. If you want to go deeper, pray for a tough instructor. A leap of courage is the thing.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estés intuited, “As with any descent into the unconscious, there comes a time when one simply hopes for the best, pinches one’s nose, and jumps into the abyss. If this were not so, we would not have needed to create the words heroine, hero, or courage.”

3.) Self-interrogation:

“Attitude is the difference between ordeal and adventure.” ~ Karl Frei

Ruthless self-questioning; brutal self-honesty; the tearing apart of one’s philosophy or ideology thus far. That’s the art of self-interrogation. You want to really dig into the guts of what it means to be a human being becoming self-aware? Then this is your cup o’ tea. Just start with the question: who am I? And keep going. Don’t settle for an answer. Use your imagination. The rabbit-hole that is yourself is deeper than you can possibly fathom.

Self-interrogation is self-questioning on crack. It’s a take-no-prisoners, no-holds-barred deconstruction of self. It drags the ego kicking and screaming to the abyss and forces its whiney, woe-is-me head over the ledge. The deep self-truths discovered in the throes of having “hit rock bottom” are unparalleled.

Who you were before becomes a crucified puppet tied onto a cross by its own strings. Who you were before becomes an inside-out caterpillar vivisected by your butterfly self. And tomorrow? You guessed it, the butterfly gets dissected as well. There are no answers, only questions. There is no end-state, no final destination. Especially where the self is concerned. “It’s turtles all the way down?” So it also goes with the self.

4.) Travel:

“Much travel is needed before the raw man is ripened.” ~ Proverb of the Caravan of Dreams
a self3
Genuine travelers have no destination. As with life’s journey, in the pursuit of increased self-awareness, the journey is the thing.

Travel unfolds the self in a way no other action can. When we travel we are equal parts self and other, comfortable shore and tumultuous sea, our-culture and their-culture intermingling.

We become psychosocial specters playing at being spectators. And with authentic travel, play is the thing. Self-improvisation is the dance. Adapt and overcome is the mantra of immersion.

The world folding over itself is ourselves unfolding. And, my god, what an astonishing revelation is at hand when we’re caught up in the sojourn. Time stops. There’s a break in the daily grind. The all too typical self must halt its incessant selfness in order to partake in the delicious otherness.

5.) Reading/writing:

“Reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found. By reading the writings of the most interesting minds in history, we meditate with our own minds and theirs as well. This to me is a miracle.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

If art is catharsis aesthetically actualized, then writing is its infinite canvas. What better way to discover a deeper sense of self than to dive into the self of another? We are social creatures after all, and the collective unconscious is a deep sea of psychosocial symbols and mythological archetypes.

When the writer-reader cycle completes its circle, such waters become self-actualized. The tip of the iceberg-self suddenly becomes more and more the iceberg of the human condition itself. As the reader’s self dissolves with the writer’s self a deepening of Self becomes manifest.

Suddenly we are Nietzsche intellectually crushing out over morality. We are Jesus forgiving all of mankind. We are Buddha letting go of attachment and becoming one with the universe. Suddenly our once rigid persona becomes a flexible arsenal of masks. And, voila, Vonnegut’s “miracle” is at hand.

6.) Creativity:

“Every act of perception, is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.” ~ Gerald M. Edelman

Imagination is the source of self-awareness. It must be. For before knowledge can become manifest it must first have a stage to act itself out upon. Imagination sets the stage.

The creative person, and especially the creative deviant, is a perpetual stage-setter. Like artistic archeologists carrying the bones of the Phoenix, they build the current stage out of the ashes of the last.

What they erect on these stages holds the human a self4condition in the grip of Ethos and Mythos. What they release when they tear it all down liberates the human condition. Between the two there are plenty of seeds just waiting to be planted in the fertile loam of the human mind.

Similar to the self, “the only viable option for the universe is for it to be in a state of creative disequilibrium, holding together sufficiently to not fall apart, but open enough to be expanding.” ~ Thomas Berry

7.) Solitude:

“The only thing that can fill an eternal hole is the eternal.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

You want to increase your self-awareness? Then decrease your codependence and embrace your interdependence. When you are alone with your thoughts, out beyond the things of man, your psychosocial hang-ups melt away and the burgeoning Self emerges as a walking-talking-thinking extension of the World itself.

Self-as-self transcends self-as-culture becomes self-as-world. When you are an extension of the world, your awareness broadens. It subsumes cosmos. It transcends culture.

There is more knowledge of self in a teaspoon of solitude than in all the melting pots of culture. Increasing self-awareness is a matter of tapping into the soul-stream of solitude running like blood-work through nature. It’s independent steps becoming an interdependent dance, a menacing stillness speaking a language older than words. It’s God on a bullhorn silently screaming through all things. We have only to pay attention. Rumi advised, “There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.”

Image source:

Know thyself, black and white
Aristotle quote
Turtles all the way down
blue-yellow yin-yang
Cameron Gray Cage

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  • Gary 'Z' McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.

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