Self-awareness is a big step on the path toward a happier life. In fact, it’s one of the first steps you have to take. If you aren’t self-aware, you’ll never be able to identify the weaknesses or flaws that are holding you back, or the strengths that could propel you forward. If you’re going to make big changes in your life, self-awareness is key.
The problem is that self-awareness can also be hard to come by. True self-awareness—the kind that can lead to real and lasting change in your life—doesn’t exactly come naturally.
This is because there are plenty of hurdles to self-awareness—hurdles that look a lot like common aspects of human nature. Anyone who wants to become more self-aware is bound to face one or more of these hurdles, in some form, on their journey. Your best bet for “jumping” the hurdles effectively is being able to identify them, recognize them, and design helpful thoughts around them. As you do this, you’ll start to glide through life with less bumps and over time you’ll glide effortlessly.
One of these major hurdles is what we like to call “the Skeptic.”
In simple terms, skepticism is doubting something. It’s what makes you wonder if what you’re hearing is correct, and what may prompt you to dig deeper to discover the truth.
Think of your brain as a boardroom. There are many voices that can speak up, depending on the situations you find yourself facing. They will all share different opinions, perspectives, and beliefs. The Skeptic is one of those voices.
Having a Skeptic on your “board” isn’t inherently bad. In fact, it would be detrimental to not have one. Asking questions isn’t necessarily harmful. As we challenge ideas, we form opinions and uncover truths that we may have never discovered if we had just accepted any and all information presented to us. The idea of asking questions, demanding evidence, and verifying information is even referred to as “healthy skepticism.”
It is, however, possible to give your Skeptic too much power.
When the Skeptic is in control
Let’s go back to the boardroom. Giving one speaker—any speaker—too much time in control of the meeting is going to skew the way the brain works. When that speaker is the Skeptic, a certain dynamic emerges.
A Skeptic with absolute power is going to shoot down every idea, even good ones. Skeptics will poke holes, find faults, and discover dead ends in every possible plan or solution.
Skeptics will also create distrust of other “board members.” When Creativity, Faith, or Innovation try to speak up, Skeptics will shut them up quickly and decisively. If that happens too often, those other voices may stop speaking up altogether.
An uncontrolled Skeptic is also going to hinder progress, sometimes significantly. Asking endless questions, trying to account for every possible scenario, and constant second-guessing is ultimately going to keep things stagnant, rather than moving them forward.
In other words, as important as the Skeptic can be in certain situations, it’s really hard to get anything done when the Skeptic is in full control.
The Skeptic and self-awareness
The above principles hold true when it comes to self-awareness. If the Skeptic has too much control, they’re going to make you question everything and everyone, while also preventing you from getting anything done. This makes the Skeptic a huge hurdle to self-awareness.
Here are some of the Skeptic’s main arguments when it comes to self-awareness. If you find yourself thinking any of these thoughts—especially when it comes to self-improvement—you may have a Skeptic holding you back.
“You don’t need this.”
A Skeptic is going to question your desire to even become self-aware. “Why would you need self-awareness? Aren’t you happy with your life? Everything is going fine. This kind of stuff is for other people, not for you.”
In this way, a Skeptic keeps you from even acknowledging that you need to create change in your life. A Skeptic will try to convince you that you’re doing well and that any sort of significant change is unnecessary.
Tell the Skeptic the truth: “I am self-aware. I am learning and growing every day. I am creating the change I want in my life.”
“This will never work.”
Skeptics tend to doubt potential, whether it’s in a person or a plan. A Skeptic will likely take your thoughts about wanting to create a better life and respond to them with things like, “That sounds nice, in theory, but it could never happen in reality.”
The Skeptic will try to squash any kind of hope you might have for meaningful change in your life, simply by telling you that change isn’t really possible.
Tell the Skeptic the truth: “I am always successful. I am a powerful creator of my future.”
“This is stupid.”
Another powerful tool the Skeptic uses against self-awareness is actual criticism of any theory, idea, framework, or plan. They might denounce a method as silly, pointless, or even “woo woo,” in an effort to undermine the idea so that it’s abandoned completely. (Sometimes we get that feedback at Design.org about what we are doing for people. Too bad we don’t listen, eh Skeptic? If we did, we wouldn’t bother creating this. If we did, we’d live in fear of what people are saying about creating a meaningful life. Don’t worry, we’ll keep creating.)
While it’s not a bad idea to be discerning when it comes to different methods, writing everything off in this way will effectively keep you from trying anything, which will keep you from finding a solution that works for you.
These arguments get in the way of personal progress. They keep you from acknowledging you need help, from believing that change is possible, and from exploring different ways to bring about that change.
Tell the Skeptic the truth: “I am transforming my heart and mind. I am trusting the love in the world. I am knowing that improvement is happening.”
Learning how to push back against the Skeptic is crucial if you want to achieve self-awareness. Using the above common arguments as a guide, we’ve come up with counter arguments that can help you get your mind in the right place when it comes to self-awareness.
Skeptic says: “You don’t need this.”
Respond with: “Everyone needs this.”
Acknowledge that self-awareness isn’t just something that’s “nice to have,” but a vital part of a happier, more meaningful life. Everyone needs to be aware of their strengths, flaws, and impact on the world around them if they are ever going to create positive change.
Skeptic says: “This will never work.”
Respond with: “This can work if I put in the effort.”
The Skeptic’s argument that you’ll never find self-awareness is expressing doubt not only in whatever plan you might put in place, but also in your ability to execute that plan. By recognizing that change and happiness are possible, and that you can make them happen, you are fighting back against the Skeptic in an empowering way.
Skeptic says: “This is stupid.”
Respond with: “This is something to try.”
Your Skeptic would have you shut down every theory you hear, before you even give it a chance to be put into practice. Instead of giving in to this way of thinking, realize that each theory or method you hear presents you with a real option and opportunity. You can decide yourself whether each option is worth pursuing, but you should at least acknowledge the options as viable possibilities.
Self-awareness is a big part of discovering true happiness in life. If you’re letting your Skeptic get in the way, it’s time to start re-training your thoughts.
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