If you’re particularly aware of your surroundings and what makes people tick, it may surprise you to discover how little self-awareness some people have. It seems preposterous to go through life unaware of why we want what we want, why we do what we do, and why we avoid what we avoid.
More people lack self awareness than those who are self aware. But why?
There are several reasons why. First, we have to remember Maslov’s hierarchy of needs. This pyramid graphic portrays how people focus all their attention on core needs first, then work their way up the ladder as their needs are met.
Tier 1 is food, water, clothing, and safety. Without enough food to eat or clean water to drink, it doesn’t really matter how you feel about your social standing in life. It doesn’t matter how others receive you or whether you are fulfilling your life’s calling. These are problems of privilege.
So the first reason why people lack self awareness is because of greater needs.
Now think of anyone you might have met who was abused as a child. It would be no great surprise if these people lack a solid sense of self awareness, because their childhoods were framed by pain, betrayal, fear, and shame. Basic security needs were never met.
There’s another group of people who were neglected or abused as children who seem hyper aware and hyper vigilant towards the perceived threat of danger.
These people may be extremely self aware in some categories, while sorely deficient in others. That’s because a focused need can motivate a person to scrutinize and observe the how, what, and why behind a set of life choices to the exclusion of other “less important” areas of their lives.
Second, a person may lack self awareness because they lacked a mentor or influential figure who demonstrated what self awareness looks like in action.
As children, we learn from close proximity and observation. Our parents and siblings, neighbors and friends are most likely to introduce new interests, hobbies, mindsets, and traditions. We pick it up from others and eventually we modify it our own lives.
Third, we avoid truths out of willful ignorance. I and many folks like me in my hometown feared they “unknowable” questions surrounding health, wellness, disease, and longevity. We didn’t know what was conspiracy theory and what was fact.
And worse yet, we didn’t know how to develop skill at knowing the difference. And so the hopelessness and helplessness of our ignorance drove many of us to indifference. We stopped caring and we hardened our hearts toward health warnings and nutritional labels and proactive health care. We grew cynical. We felt powerless.We refused to continue living in a vulnerable state. So we chose to withdraw from the subject entirely. Sound familiar?