24 Things All Extremely Self-Aware People Know and Do

24 Things All Extremely Self-Aware People Know and Do
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Why do all these list posts need an intro?

I'll just leave you with this quote from Eminem:

"Fuck an intro."

1) They take responsibility

Some people think it's "harder" to take responsibility, and "easier" to blame other people.

Really? Is it? So it's "easier" to blame other people, even though blaming other people will never, ever get you what you want?

Doesn't sound too "easy" to me.

Taking responsibility is liberating because you realize that you can actually do something about it.

I blamed a lot of other people when I first started writing because my posts weren't accepted into their publications. I thought I knew better than them. I thought I "deserved" to be featured in their publication because I was clearly good enough.

Well, clearly, I wasn't. And it was only once I took responsibility that I started to write more, and write smarter, and just become better.

That's "easier" than blaming others.

2) They're kind instead of nice

The word "nice" has roots in the following:
• Foolish
• Stupid
• Senseless
• Careless
• Clumsy
• Weak
• Poor
• Needy
• Ignorant
• Unaware

The word "kind" has roots in the following:
• Deliberately doing good to others
• Innate
• Natural
• Compassionate
• Loving
• Full of tenderness

I know which list I prefer.

And I know which list I prefer to practice on myself.

3) They know their beliefs aren't real

I want you to think about your most important belief. One that guides your life. One that you lean on when you need something to lean on.

I want you to remove it from your head. I want you to hold it in your hand. I want you to close that hand.

Now, open that hand. What's in that hand?

Your belief, right?


There's nothing in your hand.

Your most important belief, the belief that guides you, the belief you lean on... it's not real.

So... why does it seem so hard to let go of them sometimes? Why does it seem so hard to change? Why wouldn't we just let go and take on different beliefs all the time, depending on what we need?

What about the beliefs that aren't useful to you? What's stopping you from letting them go?

A belief that you need them?

4) They don't take their results personally

Some of my writing gets read by thousands of people. Some gets read by hundreds. Some gets read by tens. Some gets read by a few. Some doesn't get read at all.

What would happen if I took all of that personally? I'd be exhausted. I'd be forever up and down and then up again and then down again and... man. That's unsustainable.

Any feedback I get isn't about me because it's about my work. And I'm separate from my work.

And knowing I'm separate from my work allows me to learn from the negative things people say. It allows me to become a better writer. It allows me to become a better person.

5) They know they need certainty and uncertainty

Humans need certainty and uncertainty. This is a fact.

Too much certainty = boredom.

Too much uncertainty = anxiety.

It's good to be certain about your health, about your relationships, about your finances.

But imagine being certain about every single minute of every single day of your entire life. How boring would that be? How depressing would that be?

We need both.

6) They know they're more than their thoughts

You're the one who experiences your thoughts. You're the one who hears them. You're the one who can control them.

So... you must be something else. Something different. Something more.

That means that you're not required to do whatever your thoughts wish for you to do. You don't have to obey them. They're not in charge -- you are. The real you.

It's like this quote from Michael A. Singer, author of The Surrender Experiment and The Untethered Soul:

"The day you decide you are more interested in being aware of your thoughts than you are in the thoughts themselves -- that is the day you will find your way out."

7) They know they're more than their feelings

Same thing as being more than your thoughts.

Your feelings aren't there to tell you how to act, and they're not there to tell you whether or not to act at all. They're there to tell you what's important to you.

I have another quote for you, this time from Victor Frankl, author of Man's Search For Meaning:

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response."

8) They know what's important to them

When I first wrote everything down that was important to me -- with the help of a mentor -- and put it in order from most important to least important, and wrote down why these things were important to me, I looked at my list and had this thought: "that's me."

Do you know how encouraging that is? How freeing? How much confidence it gave me? And yet people will find all sorts of excuses to not do this, even though the whole thing takes less time than watching an episode of something on Netflix.

I did this with a friend recently. He wrote down everything that was important to him -- not to his parents, or to his friends, or what he thought should be important to him -- and we put it in order, and we talked about why those things were important to him.

He looked at his list and said this to me:

"Oh my god... I know why I'm not happy."

So he changed. Now he's happy.

It's not "a lot more complicated" than that.

9) They live by what's important to them

If you know what's important to you, but still refuse to live by what's important to you... that's going to hurt.

I know it hurts because it's exactly what I did.

It's exactly what I did because I still valued other people's opinions of me over my own. Not random people though. The people closest to me.

I still thought I needed their permission. Their approval. I still thought they needed to wholeheartedly and enthusiastically and irrevocably support my every decision.

It was only when I got tired of my own bullshit, and tired of still not living the life I kept daydreaming about, that I actually changed.

Be grateful if you're finally getting tired of your own bullshit.

10) They never waste a perfectly good mistake

I learned this from Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, the entrepreneurs behind one of the biggest wine brands in the world -- Barefoot Wine. They say that there's no excuse for wasting a perfectly good mistake, because every mistake is beautiful, because now you've got the opportunity to never make the same mistake again.

Never making the same mistake again is real self-awareness. It's funny though -- it's another one of those things that people say is "hard." It's "hard" to admit to your own mistakes. But... is it? Because what's the alternative? Making the same mistake over and over and over and never moving forward and never becoming who you know you could be?

Does that sound "easier"?

11) They live in reality

I really wanted to just quit my 9-5. Even though I had no savings and hadn't started making any money on the side. I didn't care about that because I hated my job so much and I just wanted to escape.

I didn't want to live in reality, because the reality was that I couldn't just quit. And that reality was painful. More painful than I'd be able to handle, I thought. So I just complained and sulked and took no action.

I didn't want to accept my reality because wouldn't that be admitting defeat? If I accepted it... then what? Where would my drive go? Didn't I have to hate where I wanted to be to get to where I wanted to go?

No. Another myth.

It was only when I totally accepted that I wasn't where I wanted to be -- when I stopped judging myself for not being where I wanted to be -- that I started working to get to where I wanted to be.

It's only when you accept your reality -- no matter how much you think you don't like it -- that you can change it.

12) They know that their opinion of who they are is more important than anyone else's opinion of who they are

If other people's opinions of you are more important to you than your own... then how can you expect to live a life that's true to you? How can you expect to ever stop worrying about what other people think of you? How will you ever feel free?

Do you think your opinion of someone else should be more important than that person's opinion of themselves? I doubt it. And yet... it's somehow okay for other people's opinions of you to be more important to you than your own?

Other people are allowed to be who they are, but you have to be who other people want you to be?

13) They know they're allowed to put themselves first

If I asked you to write down a list of the important people in your life, would you write your own name?

If so, where would you write it? Right at the top? In the middle? At the bottom?

When I put other people above me is when I lived by their expectations instead of my own. It's when I wanted their approval, their permission, their support. Actually, it's not when I wanted it. It's when I needed it. Well, when I believed I needed it.

And because I needed it... when I didn't get it, I didn't do the thing I wanted their permission to do.

That means I didn't get what I wanted to get. All I got was frustration, and annoyance, and unhappiness.

Because I didn't think it was ok to put myself first.

You have no control over other people so how can it be ok to put anybody else at the top of your list?

How can they be more important to you than you are?

14) They know that success can never be overrated

A girl said this to me on a date:

"Success is overrated."



How can success be overrated?

I guess if you think of success as money, or things, or achievements... then yeah, maybe.

But that's not what success is. Success is individual. Success is whatever success is to you.

For me, success is choice. Which is similar and different to freedom.

Success is being able to take the time to work hard when I want to. It's when I'm able to take on a new project. It's when I'm able to take a day off. It's when I take an evening off to go watch an NBA game (I need to move to the US first). It's when I can go on holiday with my (future) wife. It's when I can pick my kids up from school and take them to basketball practice or chess club or ballet lessons or whatever it is they want to do.

Maximum choice = maximum success.

15) They know the difference between "very" and "too"

If you believe you're very scared to do something, you leave yourself open to doing it.

If you believe you're too scared to do something, you'll never do it.

What story do you tell yourself?

16) They know they can't become who they are if they're scared to learn from who they've been

There have been times in your life when you've been all of who you really are.

What could you learn from that? The least you could learn is that you can be all of who you really are.

There have been times in your life when you haven't been who you are.

What could you learn from that?

You could learn about what holds you back. You could learn about who you hold back around. You could learn about what makes you think pretending to be someone you're not is a better option than being the real you.

Wouldn't learning about those things help you to become you?

17) They know it's less about "how to" and more about "what's stopping me"

I get asked a lot of "how to" questions.

How to stop procrastinating, how to stay motivated, how to get over my ex.

All of them have the same answer: figure out why you're doing it, and then stop doing it. And you probably won't even need to "stop" -- figuring out why is usually enough to stop.

But, of course, that's not the answer people want. They already know that answer. So they need more.

Asking "what's stopping me" questions can be scarier because they go deeper. "How to" questions are surface questions. They're easy to answer. But "what's stopping me" questions give answers like "because I'm scared" or "because I don't want to" or "because I don't know if I can."

Admitting to those, confronting those... that's self-awareness.

18) They don't turn one problem into two

I do this way too often. Like when I'm driving and someone cuts me up. Or pulls out in front of me. Or is going too fucking slow.

They do these things and I get angry. Or pissed off. Or frustrated.

Why though? What good does it do? Do I think that's going to somehow resolve the situation?

Surprisingly, it never does. Me getting angry at the person in front never makes them go faster. Who'da thought!

The first problem was the person in front of me driving slowly. Depending on how you define "problem".

The second problem was me getting angry about the first.

Which of those is out of my control? Which of those is within my control?

There's no need to turn one problem into two.

19) They know it's not wrong to feel bad

Brené Brown said it best: we can't selectively numb emotions.

If you numb sadness, you numb happiness. We can't have true happiness without true sadness. Believing anything else means not believing in reality.

How many times do you hold back from really feeling? How many times do you feel sad, but then stop yourself? How many times do you try your best to avoid feeling sad?

Avoiding feeling sad is the same as avoiding feeling happy. Because if you don't let yourself feel one, you'll never feel the other. Not really. Not truly.

It's not wrong to feel bad.

We've just decided that it is.

20) They don't waste time failing at what they don't want

Is there a bigger waste of time than failing at what you don't want? I suppose continuing to fail at what you don't want is even worse... and yet how many of us do that?

How many of us settle for that pain, rather than the pain of failing at something we do want? Even though I don't think any sane person would argue that the pain of the latter is infinitely more worthwhile.

It's just like Jim Carrey said:

"You can fail at what you don't want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love."

How simple.

21) They know there's only one common denominator in all of their relationships

If you've ever said "why are all women [x]" or "why are all men [x]", then I have some news for you: it's not them.

It's you.

Have you ever realized that you're the one who's picking these people? That you're the one who's choosing to spend time with them? That you're the one who's choosing these particular people to get to know better?

I only know this because this is exactly what I was like. And I still don't think I'm completely past it.

All the women I'd been with and were dating seemed to be "complicated" or "flakey" or "not sure about what they wanted."

I was convinced that this was true. That all women were just like this. I never even considered, never even thought, not for a moment, that maybe, just maybe... it had something to do with me.

Because of course it couldn't be me! How could it possibly have been me? It was them! Their fault!



And let's just say that was true. It's not, but let's say it was. Let's say it was all their fault. How does that help? Is that a useful belief?

Or is it a more useful belief to actually look within and understand why I'm choosing who I'm choosing?

22) They don't say the word "don't"

Don't think of a blue tree.

Yeah. Exactly.

The unconscious mind can't handle the word "don't." Because "don't think of a blue tree" essentially means "think of ANYTHING other than a blue tree.

Anything? Anything at all? That's almost infinity things. It's actually infinity minus one -- the blue tree.

Because choosing from almost infinity things is somewhat difficult, the mind goes in the one direction you've given it: the blue tree.


How many times have you thought something similar to the following:

"DON'T mess up."

"DON'T think about that."

Or even...

"I DON'T want to fail."

I don't want to fail. Where do you think the mind does when you think that?

I know where it goes.

But don't believe me.

23) They're grateful to the people who've been a part of their life

Every person who's been in your life -- every person who's loved you, who's liked you, who's disliked you, who's hurt you, who's deliberately hurt you -- they've all impacted you.

They've all helped to make you who you are.

The only way you won't be grateful for that is if you don't like who you are.

And self-aware people always like who they are.

24) They know they've already been who they really are

There has been at least one time in your life when you've been who you really are. There have probably been many times. I hope there have. But there's definitely been at least one time.

One time where you've made a decision completely for you. Where other people's opinions just didn't seem to matter. When you knew with your whole heart that it was just the right thing.

How did it feel? Good, right? And that's an understatement.

So... what's stopping you from doing it more often? What's causing you to hold back from feeling that good again? Why are you pretending to be something you aren't?

Because real self-awareness is so much more than knowing who you are.

It's being who you are.

It reminds me of the biggest regret of the dying:

"I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected me of."

That still gets me every time I read it.

I tried to work out exactly why it got me for a while. And I couldn't. I'd just get emotional. But I think I have it now.

It gets me because the regret has nothing to do with not knowing how to live a life true to themselves. It has everything to with knowing exactly how, but lacking the courage to do it.

They knew who they were. They knew what they wanted. They knew what kind of life they wanted.

And yet... they made different choices. Because they thought they had to fulfill the expectations of others.

That is heartbreaking.

And sort of ironic. If they lived their life based on the expectations of other people, what did they think the other people were doing? Those other people were probably doing the same -- living by the expectations of a group of different "other people." And then THOSE other people... and on and on it goes.

We all know who we are.

Maybe it's time to stop pretending we don't.


If you liked this then subscribe to my blog. I'll teach you how to become more self-aware, and you can take part in my surprisingly popular Wednesday Q and A: www.matthearnden.com


This article originally appeared here: Life Learning on Medium

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