Self-awareness and Relationships

I ❤  I ❤ Huckabees and this is one of my favorite gags in the film – but there’s an interesting point here as Jude Law’s character takes a major turn. If you want to ask how you are not being yourself, you only need to think about self-awareness. But self-awareness isn’t just important to you, it’s important to your relationships. Lack of self-awareness is a major underlying cause of failed relationships.

Self-awareness is really funny. It’s one of those things you have when you admit you don’t have it. Lack of self-awareness is sometimes easy to spot in others, but spotting it in oneself is always hard. At the very least, some might be helped by trying to think more rationally about their beliefs or accepting failure. Realizing that your view of who you are is different from who you are may lead to a few different places. At worst, it leads to a personality crisis. At best, it leads to greater self-acceptance.

When it comes to relationships, lack of self-awareness is big trouble. Someone who lacks self-awareness may have a very different idea of who they are from how they’re acting. An example is a partner who judges you for feeling emotional while he seems to be blissfully unaware of the times and ways he acts out. Feeling judged is bad enough, but it makes relationships so much harder when there’s hypocrisy there. Directly confronting someone lacking self-awareness on that hypocrisy will typically backfire, reinforcing existing beliefs.

Of course, self-awareness can manifest itself in other ways but the signs are typically clear. I’m adopting these from Inc. but it’s important to note that these are for otherwise loving, well-intentioned relationships! There’s a difference being lacking self-awareness and being purposefully mean:

  • Do you ever feel like you’re telling a story or expressing your opinion politely only to notice your partner take a hostile tone?
  • Controlling behavior. Asking for changes in behavior for reasons that aren’t clear. It may not come across as controlling but it directly is. Specifically, lack of self-awareness is clear when a partner’s stated expectations don’t reflect the partner’s stated values.
  • Passive aggression. Sometimes passive aggression is on purpose as a means of acting out while trying actively to not act out. Sometimes someone really has no idea they’re being passive aggressive.
  • Making excuses. If things don’t work out, it’s never the fault of someone who lacks self-awareness.

Even as symptoms these are enough to doom relationships. If not, there might be more trouble in the long run. Self-awareness is a key trait required for self-actualization, according to interpretations of Maslow’s (criticized) hierarchy of needs or just common sense. If you want to willfully change yourself into the person you want to be, you have to know who you are. In a long-term, committed relationship with someone you love, a time may come that a partner or circumstances, like parenthood, tell you things in your behavior need to change. Without self-actualization, that change may not come. Even worse, a person who lacks self-awareness may not realize that the person they are most compatible with is the person they want to be with for a long-term relationship.

Scary thoughts! Dealing with a significant other who lacks self-awareness is hard, especially if it impacts the quality of the relationship. It may need professional help. You may not be able to change a partner but the one person you can always change is yourself. So just think about it: “how are you not yourself?”