The Importance of Self-Awareness

(You discover directly) that your own immediat...
(You discover directly) that your own immediate self-awareness is just this (and nothing else), and that it has an inherent self-clarity, which is entirely un-fabricated. (Photo credit: Wonderlane)
Is the ability to examine oneself accurately (i.e., self-awareness) part of reason, critical thinking, skepticism, or freethought? It seems to me that encouraging one another to think critically about others and examine the merits of others' arguments may not be worth much unless we are willing to do the same with ourselves. In this way, self-awareness could be thought of as a component of reason.

There is something advantageous about developing the ability and willingness to perceive ourselves as we are perceived by others. If nothing else, this should allow us to develop a greater understanding of our own strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, we might be able to make ourselves more effective in accomplishing our goals.

Back in December, I wrote a post called "Atheism and Nonconformity" in which I mentioned an experience I had in a local atheist group listening to a woman complain about her life without realizing that her behavior was almost certainly a contributing factor to many of the things about which she was complaining. I wrote:
It was not terribly long ago that I was listening to a particular atheist woman with blue hair, tattoos, and piercings share how difficult it was for her to maintain friendships here in the South because her friends typically ended the relationship once they learned of her atheism… But over a few interactions, I noticed that she was loud, domineering, self-centered, and rather rude in conversations with others… In any case, I found myself not wanting to have anything to do with her, and I am fairly confident that it was not because of her atheism.
This particular woman stopped attending the group, and it was clear that everyone else had experienced similarly negative reactions to her. She was abrasive, unpleasant to be around, and generally off-putting. Everyone was nice to her, but nobody has missed her. I had nearly forgotten about her, but I've since learned that she's been trashing the group and various people in the group on Facebook, claiming she is going to start an alternative group, etc.

It occurs to me that self-awareness (i.e., having some capacity and willingness to perceive oneself as one is perceived by others) is a vital marker of mental health. I cannot count the number of people suffering from mental illness I have encountered who had minimal self-awareness. Those without it seem prone to drift from crisis to crisis, never quite understanding their own responsibility for at least some of their plight. Conversely, those who possess at least moderate self-awareness tend to be fairly well-adjusted and able to maintain healthy relationships.

I am not sure if there is a relationship between self-awareness and atheism. My experience with both atheists and religious believers leads me to think that there might not be one, at least not a strong one. I've ran across quite a few atheists with minimal self-awareness and quite a few religious believers with excellent self-awareness. I suspect you have too.

I suppose that taking a good look at oneself and fully considering the implications of one's behavior is challenging for most of us, especially if it requires us to consider aspects of ourselves we'd rather not acknowledge. And yet, I see no way around it if we are going to have the sort of lives most of us would like.

My hypothesis, a very tentative one at this point, is that the few people creating the most conflict in our community might be those without much insight or self-awareness. And I suspect the same is true for nearly every other community.