In the broadest sense of the term, self-awareness simply means I am aware of myself as an individual separate and apart from others.
When an animal sees itself in a mirror and says, “Hey, that’s me!” that’s one indication of self-awareness. Virtually all humans have this ability. A few other animal species seem to have it as well.
In a deeper sense of the word, self-awareness means that “I know that I know.” I have the ability to reflect upon my own awareness. I am aware not only of a body called me, but I am also aware of a sense of an internal me looking in the mirror at me as the body. I have an internal mirror that reflects the contents of my mind just as the external mirror reflects the image of my body.
Radical Self-Awareness takes us another layer deeper.
As I recognize my physical self in the mirror, and as I am aware of seeing that image, I can also be aware of my reaction to this awareness. I may notice I feel some chagrin at how much gray hair I see in that image staring back at me. (Is that really me?) I am aware of my response to my awareness. I see an image in the mirror, I recognize that image as me, I have a mental judgment about that image (I’m getting old), and I have an emotional response to that judgment (dismay). I am aware of all this and I am aware that I am aware of all this!
Welcome to the practice of Radical Self-Awareness!
Radical Self-Awareness means being aware of the primary experiences of seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking; and it means being aware of the meaning I give to these experiences. It means being aware of the emotional response that arises from my ascribed meanings, as well as seeing all this without judgment or analysis. This is not as complicated as it sounds; it all happens in an instant. I may not always have the full awareness in the exact instant it arises, but as I reflect back on my emotional reactions, I will begin to see all this unfolding. With practice, I can see this more quickly each time it occurs.
"Radical Self-Awareness means being aware of [my] primary experiences of seeing, hearing, feeling, thinking; and it means being aware of the meaning I give to these experiences."Robert Brumet, Living Originally
For example, I say “hello” to a friend and she does not acknowledge my greeting. I become aware that I’m feeling angry at her. This can throw me into a story about “how inconsiderate and insensitive this person is” ... and so on. Or I can stop and breathe and feel the sensations in my body and pay attention to my feeling of anger. I may discover that beneath the anger lies some hurt feelings. I realize I feel hurt because I believe my friend doesn’t value me enough to respond to my greeting. If I stay present to the experience of hurt, I will see it rests upon my interpretation that my friend deliberately ignored me.
Seeing this, I understand there are other possible interpretations—perhaps she did not hear me, or she was preoccupied. I may then see how often I base my own sense of worth on the responses (or lack thereof) from others. I can see this without any self-judgment, and may even feel grateful for the insight. All this can occur within a few seconds if I simply take time to be aware of my own experience in the moment.
Excerpt from Living Originally.