Based in New York, Spiritualundertones is a blog by Sarah Almengor. Her posts reflect spirituality, relationships, and everyday life through her personal musings, photography and acquired wisdom.

Often times I am faced with the reality of the condition of my heart based off of other people’s actions. I’m not sure if self-awareness is meant to work that way (i.e., only “looking within” once somebody does something that I do not like), but either way I’m happy I’m brought to that point. Do I do things out of the kindness of my heart, or with ulterior motives at play?

I would much rather not do something because I simply don’t want to, than do something with ‘sense of entitlement’ rearing it’s ugly head and expecting something in return; the latter is dishonorable. The former is respectable because it is honest. Doing things with ulterior motives that you do not even recognize is in you, stems from lack of self-awareness. Are you (in your mind) too good to be faced with the reality of who you really are? You have to be able to ask yourself that question. You have to get to the place where you are comfortable with the truth. No matter how harsh. You will never find yourself if you never get to the place where you can be alone with you and examine your heart. It’s uncomfortable. It stings sometimes. It’s painful. But it’s refining. You have to be able to call your own bluff. If you only picked up your spouse’s dry cleaning to be met with praise and adoration, your motive was wrong. If you only paid for something to be owed in return (especially never once discussing any sort of “deal”!), your motive was wrong. Your “logic” is flawed.

Am I a person that is able to receive constructive criticism from others, or do I constantly defend myself? It does not matter whether or not I think I wrongfully snubbed someone. I am my own worst critic; we are our own worst critics in the sense of being too hard on AND being too light on ourselves. Therefore I most likely will be “easier on me” when it comes to how I view the way I treated someone, but my opinion no longer matters when another person is in the picture. If they think I was being rude, if they claim I hurt their feelings, there is no room for arguments. I shouldn’t defend myself — I should be quick to apologize regardless if I agree or not. That is called humility. Let’s take it a step further. Stay with me here.

Can it be considered respectable to not apologize to someone knowing that you should, because say, you hurt their feelings? Basically, which is worse?: stubbornly refusing to apologize due to disdain for that person, or not apologizing due to complete lack of self-awareness/denial of behavior? A self-aware person can choose to not apologize. It may not be the right thing to do, but they KNOW that. There have been countless times I’ve purposely chosen stubbornness over humility and did not apologize to someone who deserved an apology, whether I agreed (or didn’t agree) that they were owed an apology. Now, what about a person who can’t be told their behavior was offensive? Should grace be given to the person who is unknowingly stubborn, but the reason they are clueless about it is because they outwardly refuse to check themselves? In what world is that fair? Forget fair: on what planet would that make sense? Why should someone who refuses to see themselves as they really are not be held to the same standard as everyone else? No one should be responsible for holding their hand and walking them through self-awareness. That is up to them.

To do things with evil motives and not even have the moral decency to humble yourself enough to see it is beyond me. I truly don’t understand how a person can be all about doing nice things and helping out, only to hold it over your head at a later time. Not only does it cheapen the initial “act of kindness” itself, but it completely loses all credibility. You cannot claim to do something out of the goodness of your heart if there were no good intentions motivating you in the first place. Do I say all these things to profess that I myself am “all there”? That I’ve arrived at the place of complete selflessness? No, not all. Far from it, in fact. How often have you heard the saying “admitting you have a problem is the first step”? You can even get religious about it and say (albeit out of context) “the truth shall set you free”. None of us will ever wake up and realize we need to be more self-aware — among other things — until we recognize that we need to humble ourselves in order to do that. In order to be that. Self-aware.

Do I know how I come across? Again, I’m really only faced with these questions because of the people I’m surrounded by. Most people I’ve known have been self-aware, especially when I think back and compare them to the person I live with (which is my spouse). I know I can be very loud, obnoxious to some, and annoying. Why would it be hard for me to know that? I can read people. Not only that, but I can obviously see when someone is blatantly annoyed because I’m either talking too loudly, or drawing attention to myself in some way, or whatever the case may be. Reading people is part of being self-aware. You are either not bright (or just so obsessed with yourself that you just don’t care) if you can’t tell by the look on someone’s face that they find you appalling. Now, does that mean that you are an annoying person overall just because a man or woman cannot stand to be around you? No, not necessarily. (Side note: if many people throughout the course of your life have found you unbearable however, then it is suffice to say that the problem is PROBABLY you. AND…just because each and every person you have ever crossed paths with never told you directly that you are unbearable, DOES NOT MEAN that you are NOT unbearable. Yes? Yes). Just because you may not have thought there was a rude aura to you while in the presence of meeting new acquaintances does not mean that you weren’t stand-offish. I have faith in humanity trusting that most people get this. Yet…there are the special select few who need this explained to them numerous times a day…

Take American Idol (or shows like it) as a perfect example. I have not watched the show in many years, but watched it religiously when it first debuted on the air. It goes without saying what the best part of American Idol was, but I’ll say it anyway: the terrible auditions! What’s more entertaining than watching the confidence of people who are convinced they are amazing singers completely crumble once faced with the truth? It used to be hilarious, but it’s actually really not funny. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you lack of self-awareness in all its glory. You actually have two scenarios here: 1) these poor people either innocently — but incorrectly — believed in their heart of hearts that they were vocally-talented individuals (without having ever asked for a second opinion from friends and family), OR 2) despite friends and family telling them that perhaps they were not so great at singing, their lack of self-awareness (and lack of being able to receive wise criticism) drove them to audition anyway. I found it hard to believe the people who defended themselves to the judges who said things like “but my friends told me I’m an amazing singer” (did they really, or are you lying?), “no one ever told me I couldn’t sing” (they probably did but you just chose to block out negative feedback). Sometimes all the judges would give a unanimous “NO” to whoever was auditioning, and yet that person would still fight to the death with the judges decision. Why? Because someone who lacks self-awareness not only can’t handle the truth about themselves, but can’t humbly accept criticism without trying to “prove” themselves. Yep, even if it’s pointless.

In closing, be self-aware. Learn what it means to be that. Practice what it means to be it. Never become so sure of yourself that you assume no one has a problem with you. It’s unrealistic. Unhealthy. Ugly. Get alone with yourself and place an internal mirror up to your heart. See yourself for all that you are. I say this all the time, and I always will: there is much beauty to be found in a soul that is modest enough to examine itself.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Cleopatra in New York

Healed Intellect