I’ve been thinking a lot about “self awareness” of late.  By that I mean the capacity to understand one’s self.  I am not talking about narcissism, or self centredness, nor even really about “taking care of one’s self”.   I am thinking about that sense of understanding one’s self and living life in congruity with that self-understanding.  Complicated enough for you yet?

Most of us don’t really have a good grasp of “who we are”.  We are frenetically busy people with skills, tasks, networks, relationships, experiences, appointments, goals, dreams…but beyond the external markers on our daily calendars, who are we at our inner core?

I have a theory that self awareness, if it is to come at all, usually comes to us in our 40’s or 50’s.  The reason I say that is for most of us we are simply consumed by taking care of the assignments that come to us.  But somewhere in our 4th or 5th decade, those assignments slow down and we have opportunity to realize what we are really like.   There are exceptions to that rule–I have met people in their 20’s and 30’s who are incredibly self aware.  And I have met people in their 70’s blissfully ignorant of what I speak.

The challenge is to discover one’s core, and then live in consistency with it.  When you live outside your identity, and there are times when you must, it is incredibly taxing.  Not impossible–just draining.

How do you discern it?  Interestingly, it’s hard to do it yourself.  Hmmm.  No seriously, some looking in the mirror is good but it’s amazing how self deceived we can be.   I find that most awakenings come in conversation with trusted friends who will give you good feedback as to “what you are really like” .   But even then you have to filter because as I mentioned before, some of us live lives far outside our essential identity.

“Who am I?” is a great question.

For some, their faith association causes them to abdicate the question and defer to “I’d rather understand who God has made me to be” as if some external adjudicator will simply assess them and pronounce them.   As pious as that sounds, it’s really irresponsible.  Yes God has made us, (Psalm 139), but he invites us to times of soulful reflection and self awareness.  Sometimes that reflection leads to peace and celebration.  Sometimes it leads to change.  That’s called repentance.  We need that too.