[PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING] What is self-awareness?

“I think, therefore I am.” In 1637, René Descartes used this statement as a tool to prove that something in this world was real and certain, and could not be doubted. He could not doubt his thoughts, because he was the one who was doubting, meaning he was thinking. This simple phrase opened up the argument of how being aware of one’s own consciousness is part of the human condition.

Self-awareness is how one experiences their own being. How someone perceives their values, personality, goals, and any way they classify themselves can be labeled as self awareness. As explained by Scientific American, the difference between self-awareness and consciousness is that, “Consciousness is awareness of one’s body and one’s environment; self-awareness is recognition of that consciousness—not only understanding that one exists, but further understanding that one is aware of one’s existence.”

Self-awareness and self-reflection allow people to have grace for themselves and others.

When it comes to understanding the workings of self-awareness, little is known. Does self-awareness require a more complex brain? Is it perhaps a condition that only humans can endure? Science doesn’t know. Although it has been proven that most animals are conscious, researchers are not certain whether or not animals are self-aware. Some animals, such as apes, can possibly recognize themselves in the mirror, but some animals cannot, such as dogs. Originally scientists believed there were parts of the brain that allowed for self-awareness, but ongoing research shows that there may be larger and more complex neural pathways that make the origins of it hard to define.

Whether animals are self-aware or not is a question that will continue to be studied, but why self-awareness is important is something that every human should study and reflect on individually. Self-awareness is the reason humans can reflect on themselves, which is an essential step for people to learn and grow. If a mistake is made, humans can be aware of that, but can also take the step to reflect on how to prevent it from happening again. Humans can feel emotions, but can also take an extra step to decipher what is making them feel sad or happy, and apply that information to their lives.

Self-awareness and self-reflection allow people to have grace for themselves and others. Not only are they able to understand themselves on a deeper level, self-reflection can allow them to understand others. Because humans share this level of awareness, it allows them to build connections and empathize with others on a deeper level. While every person self-reflects subconsciously, it is important to take time to intentionally reflect in order for active growth to flourish. When humans take time to focus on themselves, it allows them to make connections between things they may not have previously noticed and to endure the human condition to a further extent.