Helena Perray gives an honest perspective of holding on to memories in this week's Student Diary. - Photo via pixabay.com

Taking a step back is difficult. Within college campuses is a lifestyle that urges quick pace, new distractions and little alone time.

I often found myself stunting my personal growth out of intimidation and fear of who I was and how I would be perceived. I never wanted to ask myself difficult questions or reflect on past decisions in fear of revealing weaknesses or failures.

It’s uncomfortable but comfort rarely prompts growth. Self-awareness, a personal understanding of your actions, motivations and thoughts that frame your individuality is the first step in attaining the best version of yourself. This is how:

Personal Growth

Be honest with yourself, and welcome discomfort. What are topics regarding your actions or thoughts that you avoid? Which aspects of your routine aid in developing your character and lifestyle choices versus serving to distract you from them? Which personality traits or features do you tend to keep hidden from others? What fear or insecurity would they validate if brought to light?

In order to allow growth, we must come to terms with the idea of imperfection. Imperfection gives us a starting point, a place of reference to measure small victories in accepting what you cannot change and working to better what you can. Evaluate the habits you know you should kick and the reactions you wish you had a better hold on.

Is your thought process, in any given situation, one that motivates and encourages yourself and others? What can you do to improve it?

Make an effort to listen to the people around you and practice compassion. Understand your intuitions regarding their motivations, intentions and mindset. Acknowledging the thoughts and actions of others often allows for a deeper sense of self-awareness, encouraging you to reflect on your own impulses and motivations. Understand what aspects of your life are distractions and ask yourself what they are distracting you from; what is it about yourself that you are avoiding? If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re probably not being blunt enough.


Self-awareness is your ticket to self-love. When who you are is dependent on the approval of others, it’s easier to tuck away the less accepted parts than to acknowledge them.

Stop waiting for the rest of the world’s approval because, unfortunately, it isn’t coming. Listen to yourself and acknowledge the way that you speak to yourself. Would you tell others in your life the things that you tell yourself?

Accept your quirks and separate what can be changed from what is inherently you. If possible, set daily goals that push yourself toward incremental improvement. Understanding what makes you who you are, and restructuring your mindset toward finding the beauty in it, releases you from the pressure to avoid entire fragments of your personality.

You’ve grown to have your own traits and embellishments that separate you from the mold of sameness that society so relentlessly pushes. Take small steps towards acknowledging and embracing the less conventional aspects of who you are. You are not expected to match other’s perceptions or expectations of you, so stop allowing a need for acceptance and comparison to guide which parts of yourself you choose to recognize. If the rest of the world disappeared right now, who would you be?

Look Within

Put things into perspective. Self-awareness means coming to terms with processes that work for you, and those that don’t.

Evaluate your solid skill sets and the skills that could be improved. Reflect on the things that inspire and motivate you and attempt to incorporate them into your daily routine.

Taking time to better understand yourself allows you more room to prioritize different aspirations, develop attainable goals and daydream. Tune into the less visible aspects of who you are and allow the unexpected to surface.

You have full control over the discovery, improvement and acceptance of yourself, so use it to your advantage. A greater sense of self-awareness gives you focus and clarity toward your future. Stop downplaying possibilities; set end goals that are a step or two further than you’d typically try to reach and evaluate the aspects of who you are that make you capable. Because you are. 

Spend time alone.

Keep a journal or find places of solitude. Reflect on past reactions and thought patterns.

Which actions and motivations are you proud of? Which of those are holding you back?

Consider sources of happiness and discomfort and the implications of each in regards to your life. Ask the difficult questions. What emotions arise when you revisit situations you’ve sworn were over? What are you holding on to and at what cost to your progress? What void does it fill or fear does it invalidate? Ask others what tendencies they notice in you and come to your own conclusions as to the how and why you respond the way that you do. 

Allow yourself the vulnerability that self-awareness creates, because you cannot reach your fullest potential without it. 

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