sunrise //

Thoughts on Loss & Self-Awareness

DenaJanuary 30, 2018

sunrise //

Loss changed me in very profound ways I learned about the depths of sadness and the brutality of loss. But I also learned that when life sucks you under–you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again. –Sheryl Sandberg

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook, and I stumbled upon this inspirational interview with David Goggins. He says a lot in the video, telling the story of how he grew from an overweight, bullied, fearful child — into a strong, inspiring, Navy Seal. But of everything that he said in the video, there was one thing that stuck out to me the most: “The best thing that happened to me was, no one helped me. I had to figure it out.”

Those words resonated with me in a deep and profound way. When I look back at the course of my own life, it’s easy for me to recognize that I have been blessed in many ways and I have been fortunate enough to have people around me who cared about me; but at the end of the day, when it came to all of the big things and decisions that I have made–I had to be the one to make them. When I needed to be saved, I had to be the one to save myself. As well-intentioned as people may be, it turns out that the great hero in your life–the fairy Godmother, the knight in shining armor, the prince or princess charming–it is you. It was always you, and it will always be you.

Over the last few months, something interesting has happened. Three separate people in my life, who don’t know one another at all, have told me that they are struck by my self-awareness. The first time that it was said, I took it as a compliment, but didn’t give it much thought. When it was mentioned again, by another person, I thought, “Wow, what a coincidence.” When it happened for a third time, it gave me pause. There is more to this than a simple compliment or coincidence. There must be something that I am doing that is making people come to this conclusion about me.

Although I have always been familiar with the phrase self-awareness, I wasn’t sure exactly of the dictionary definition so I decided to look it up. First I found this:

an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality.

Then I found this:

conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires. “the process can be painful but it leads to greater self-awareness”

The definitions resonated with me and I understood why people would describe me as self-aware. Primarily because reflection is such a big part of my life. I truly feel that the best way to create the life that we want is through reflection–reflecting on our past, our present, our future. Where am I strong? Where am I weak? Where can I improve? Sometimes it means being brutally honest with ourselves. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes it feels great. But ultimately is a necessary practice to accomplishing anything. Surely it may be easier in the short term to pull the wool over our eyes, to throw ourselves into the daily grind, and to skip the process of reflection. But is that really living, or is that simply physically existing on a path to an uninspired life and eventually death. Only you can answer that question for yourself.

The other thing that struck me about the self-awareness definitions was the example used to illustrate self-awareness, “the process can be painful but it leads to greater self-awareness.”

The process can be painful. Ah, yes. Pain. Insert the Sheryl Sandberg quote at the top of this post. Loss changed me in very profound ways, she says in describing her journey after her husband’s sudden, unexpected death. Loss changed me in very profound ways. I couldn’t put it better. Loss has always seemed to play a part in my life. As a young child, at the age of four, I lost my grandfather. Later, at age twelve, I lost my Godmother. Throughout my teenage years, I fell in love over and over and lost relationships in heartbreak. As a young woman, I lost my cat tragically. Later, I lost both of my grandmothers in a short period of time. Perhaps the most difficult loss of all, has taken place over the last few years, as my marriage fell apart.

The Brutality of Loss //

Each of these losses shaped me. I was never able to gloss over loss lightly. For me, loss takes root in my heart. It sits there and it grows and consumes me. It takes a lot of effort to pull myself out from under the weight of loss. It is who I am. I feel things deeply — both joy and sorrow. But through each trial, I learn important lessons about myself and about life. I believe that this is where my self-awareness comes from.

I do not believe that I am perfectly self-aware. I have flaws and weaknesses that I am still discovering and working through. For example, I have recently learned that I will avoid conflict at great costs. I always knew that I was a people-pleaser, but I’ve recently discovered that it is much deeper than that. To avoid conflict, I will make sacrifices that will even cause me great discomfort. I am working on this. I am working on speaking my mind and protecting my spirit because, my goodness, trust me when I tell you that there are a lot of people who will take advantage of a desire to avoid conflict.

We are all works-in-permanent-progress. Perhaps that is the greatest key to being self-aware. A willingness to learn, to discover, to try every day, for all of our lives, to be better than who we were the day before.

Lots of love–

sunrise //

Comments (2)

  • Anonymous

    March 25, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I needed this right now.

    1. Dena

      March 25, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      I am so grateful to know that it resonates with you.

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