Self awareness is a skill we should learn as adults. Some people have self awareness built in, as is the case with a friend of mine. Others, like me, have life beat lessons into them over and over that grows self awareness.

I know now that you can’t control a lot in life but you can make choices. And I realize now that inside and outside influences affect self awareness.

Self awareness reflects the light within you

Outside Influences

People in your life affect your self awareness. For example, you may have a parent who won’t take steps to protect their health. Talking to them doesn’t help because doing so threatens their autonomy. Being self aware could lead you to not badger that parent. Instead, you could monitor them and prepare for any gradual or sudden decline ahead of time.

I get a lot of medical advice from people including my sister, who’s a nurse. I saw her last week and she asked me a lot of medical questions. As I answered her, she gave me a lot of directives. In the past, I would ignore her but get angry inside. I don’t need that stress. So, when I see her on Thanksgiving Day, I’ll tell her how I feel and that I’ll ask her for advice when I need it.

I also thought badly of people and even groups of people because they reminded me of my past failures. That illustrated the saying that anger toward someone is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Once I realized those people weren’t responsible for my failures, I wasn’t upset anymore.

Inside Influences

Recently I learned how to tune out external noise. It’s much harder to tune out noise in my head — especially when I want to sleep.

The web has plenty of sleep advice. You can drift off to sleep by counting sheep, thinking about what makes you happy, or taking medicine. You can stay awake by thinking about stressful things.

In my case, my shaking and dystonia can keep me up for hours. When I have bad shaking and dystonia episodes, I think about stressful stuff because my body is under stress already. For example, I think about what I have to do the next day, like go to a medical appointment.

Worse, I tend to think about bad situations that could happen and how I would handle them. I had a ready excuse for thinking about bad situations, and it was a good one — I needed to prepare now so I wouldn’t stress out during a real event. I discovered that doing so only caused pain from unnecessary stress. My heightened self awareness is teaching me that I can handle stressful situations by preparing properly, not hurting myself.

Consider Advice

Know when you’re not being self-aware. For example, you may know someone is not self aware and so you disregard that person’s advice — or even feel threatened. That doesn’t mean their advice for you isn’t valuable. So, take a step back and let your self awareness kick in. That way you’ll be in a better place to review that person’s advice. It may be useful, or you may need to talk to someone else about it. For example, when I received medical advice from my sister, I decided what was important enough to discuss with my doctor during my next visit.

My medical issues have forced me to focus on reducing stress by increasing my self awareness. I’ve made good progress not acting on emotions, valuing input from others, and letting go of the past.

I’m a better, more effective person than I was a year ago. Yet I still have a long way to go. How have your adventures made you more self-aware?