Sunday, 1 March 2009

Nobody realises that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

For some time, I have found myself deeply admiring the characteristic of self-awareness in some individuals and bemoaning its absence in others. I think self-awareness is beautiful. I aspire to know myself, to be aware of how my actions affect others, and to appreciate others as equally mindful beings. This latter point is crucial, as I think that attempting to achieve self-awareness involves the understanding that for every thought, emotion and feeling that I have, someone else is having the same (but different) cognitive experience. When I catch myself behaving or thinking in a way that fails to demonstrate this, I feel frustrated and as though I have let myself down. I am not a paragon of these virtues, but these are, at the very least, my aims.

It is not that I expect others to behave in a way that pleases me; I do not believe self-awareness is synonymous with putting others before, or on the same level, as myself. I don't always intend to act with vast amounts of (outwardly apparent) consideration for others. I don't live by the mantra of "do as you would be done by", although most of the time, acting in a way that is self-aware achieves this quite well. I acknowledge the importance of selfishness and doing what is best for myself, even if this means hurting or disadvantaging others in some way. What I really care about is an awareness of these things; that is, thinking and displaying thoughtfulness in behaviour. 

I frequently find myself troubled by what I perceive to be a lack of self-awareness in other people I encounter. Sometimes, the incidents are trivial; for example, a group of people walking four-abreast on the pavement, unaware of others clogging up behind them, or having to step into traffic to get past. On other occasions, the absence seems more pronounced - people who repeatedly find themselves in situations where they are distressing others, and when confronted with this information, always look to an external other to shoulder the blame, denying any opportunity for meaningful introspection about their involvement in the problem.

I view being self-aware as a crucial part of being human. I sometimes find it terrifying that there are powerful, influential adults existing and behaving in a way that appears to be so automatic, mechanical and without thought. On days when I am exposed to a greater number of people who behave like this, I find myself feeling quite isolated and alien. I now feel that you can never be too self-aware. In the past I didn't believe this to be the case, but I think that was because I was blurring the boundaries between self-awareness and self-consciousness. My understanding of the latter is that it involves some sort of preoccupation with the self, and it brings with it negative feelings of discomfort, paranoia and social anxiety. I don't really think that anyone ever fully achieves self-awareness. But I am very glad that I have realised how much it means to me.