Self-awareness: the key to growing through the teenage years.
In my last post I wrote about the first ten years and how they are mostly a time to learn to manage yourself: your body, your emotions, your academic and social skills. So, that was a time when you’re looking mostly at yourself. No two year old looks at other toddlers and wonders whether they are toilet trained or not. Nor do seven year olds concern themselves with how others behave with their parents; they don’t ask themselves whether other children throw temper tantrums as they do. This is true even when parents point it out to them.
In school, there is more awareness of how you do in comparison to others but children generally don’t really care whether others do better or worse. They are focused on themselves. However, in the second decade, all that begins to change. Children start to become acutely aware of how they compare to others.
The Middle School passage.
Middle schoolers become very sensitive to how others see them. Generally, those others do not hesitate to let them know how they feel about them. In sixth grade, preteens are very preoccupied with how they rank among others, what their standing this. As a matter of fact, that is the business of junior high or middle school. Most children take that work very seriously and sixth and seventh grade can be very intense for preteens.
Even though that is a tough period for a lot of youngsters, this is very important. It is the door to the world of adults. Self-awareness is essential to growing into an adult and making yourself a place in the world.
So, what is self-awareness? How do we “get” it? How do we use it once we have it? That is the main subject of this guide book that I am writing for teens.
Let’s start with what is self-awareness. Self-awareness is holding the mirror up to yourself and having a good look. You can start with your physical traits: your age, your gender, your race/heritage, your height, weight, hair, eye and skin color. This is just a quick description of how your look to others but it contains a very large amount of information about you.
This is where awareness of differences start: most teens (and adults) are keenly sensitive about those traits even if they are not always aware of them. There are many traits that make up who we are and our task is to live with them in a proud and productive way. We call that assuming ourselves. Awareness gives us freedom. It gives us freedom to be who we are and also to manage how we appear to others.
While these basic physical traits are essential, the inner traits are at least as important. We all have inner traits that guide us through life, whether we are aware of them or not. So, how do we hold the mirror up to those traits in order to become aware of them?
The mirror I have created is called the Identity Scale. It lists a lot of inner traits and their opposites; it even has room for you to add things you want to measure for yourself. I won’t list them all here but just to give you an idea: it helps measure whether you are happy or sad, shy or friendly, angry or peaceful. There are many other qualities to look at as well.
Once you are more aware of yourself as a separate person with your own individual make-up, you can start thinking of how you would like to be. Do you want to strive toward a little more of this or much less of another trait. This is the gift and the purpose of the Identity Scale.