5 Painful Things That Happen When You Decide To Face Your Demons

What happens when you become the most authentic version of yourself.

Last updated on Jun 11, 2024

Woman facing reality, getting real with herself--looking in mirror TITOVA ILONA | Canva

The funny thing about self-awareness is that you need a certain amount of awareness to pursue it. It's a little chicken-and-egg quest for your best self — and a cyclical reminder — that being self-aware is a practice, not a destination Wikipedia offers a great definition for self-awareness, stating that, "In the philosophy of self, self-awareness is the experience of one's own personality or individuality ... how an individual consciously knows and understands their own character, feelings, motives, and desires." In other words, self-awareness is kind of like deciding to "get real" with yourself and then committing to stay real. 


It is a component of emotional intelligence. And, like the intelligence we associate with academics, there's no endpoint to emotional intelligence — only layering and refining. The more you know, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you know. And ‘round and ‘round we go. And so it is with being self-aware. A little light cast into a dark corner not only reveals what needs to be cleaned but inspires the possibilities when light floods the whole room.

The foundation for this ever-emerging quality of self-awareness begins in infancy when there's little more than physical awareness. For example, an empty stomach signals a crying to be fed. A loud noise startles a baby's peaceful sleep. The child is immersed in sensory stimulation. The experience is objective, external, and survival-driven until the sun rises over the horizon and reveals an inner response to the experience. A thought, a feeling, a curiosity attaches to the experience. This "outer" life is working its way inside. And, so, the "sense of self" is born. At some point, there's not only awareness but awareness of the awareness. And then awareness of accountability for that awareness. And therein lies the cornerstone of a building that is never complete.


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Here are 5 painful things that happen when you decide to face your demons:

1. Self-awareness brings you face-to-face with your own core beliefs

Do you ever wonder how you became the person you are? When you articulate your beliefs and values, do you hear your parents’ voices coming out of your mouth? Have you ever challenged those beliefs — religious, political, social, and/or financial? History is a tough nut to crack. What you inherit during your formative years is as tough to undo as language and feeding yourself.

In that regard, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Unless you’re encouraged from a young age to challenge beliefs before owning them, you may have no idea how you got here. You may stereotype certain people based on race, gender, religion, or income. You may believe one political party has the only answers and refuse to consider another viewpoint. Then, one day, you come face-to-face with a person or experience that challenges everything you say you believe. Things aren’t as neatly packaged as you had been led to believe. And suddenly you must make choices.


Do you do the hard work of examining why you believe what you believe? Or do you walk away from the opportunity to expand your life and deepen its meaning? That nudge, that stopping in your tracks, that discomfort — all are essential to self-awareness. Reshaping your beliefs doesn't happen in an instant. Personal enlightenment is a process of choosing better ways one thought, one experience, one challenge at a time.

2. Self-awareness brings you face-to-face with your strengths

Self-awareness isn’t all about fessing up to your faults. It's equally about recognizing your strengths and gifts. You may be asking, "Why would anyone need to work on recognizing their strengths?" While some people are self-aggrandizing and misguided in terms of their strengths, others don’t acknowledge theirs. And there could be any number of reasons. Competition. Fear. Parental disparagement during childhood. Disappointments in life. 

Even the deep-seated sense of responsibility for using those strengths for the greater good and the resistance to that effort. Being self-aware will ask you if you are being all you can be. It will ask you to examine how the world responds to you. Do others trust you, admire you, and seek you out for the consistency of specific gifts? Self-awareness will reawaken the connection between your dreams and the gifts you have been given to manifest them. That, alone, makes the commitment worthwhile!

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3. Self-awareness brings you face-to-face with your weaknesses

Every coin has two sides. Any truth serum that brings your strengths to the fore will do the same for your weaknesses. While it’s far easier to bask in the kudos of all your merits, the fearless examination of your flaws can be life-changing. That uncomfortable look at what begs for improvement is one of the biggest reasons that emotional self-awareness is difficult for some people to attain. Again, not an overnight process. Looking at the thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, and weaknesses that harm your relationships and limit your life takes courage. And courage, like all virtues and worthy pursuits, is practiced.

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4. Deepening self-awareness requires peace of mind, time, and attention

Autopilot may have its conveniences, but it can also be dangerous. It can lead to the dismissal of any accountability for where you’re going and how you’re getting there. You get too comfortable. You stop "checking in." You go from point A to point B with no awareness of how you got there. The busyness and chaos of life in a fast-paced, competitive world force you to choose the pursuit of peacefulness


Time isn’t going to pause. Quiet and calm aren’t going to magically consume you. Yet, the process of being self-aware and increasing self-awareness requires dedicated time, attention, and mindfulness. When you’re not necessarily looking forward to what your self-awareness work will reveal and ask of you, going into a contemplative or meditation mode can be difficult. Again, practice. Today, you may last two thoughts, tomorrow two minutes, and next month two hours.

5. Being self-aware means being aware of how others see you

If you’re going to do all this self-awareness work, surely you want to know how self-awareness can help you. While the benefits of self-awareness are endless, one of its greatest pay-offs is its effect on relationships. Self-awareness is essential to any healthy relationship. It’s at the heart of owning one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors without blaming others. And the avoidance of blame is integral to problem-solving and the development of intimacy.

Knowing how others perceive you, while it shouldn’t define your sense of self, will give you insight into the effectiveness of your self-expression. Do people feel safe having difficult conversations with you? Or do they feel they can’t get a word in edgewise? Are you perceived as kind, just, thoughtful, confident, and capable? Or do people avoid you, distrust you, limit their contact with you? These considerations will give you insight not only into yourself but into your relationships, as well.

Is there truth to those perceptions, both positive and negative? What do those perceptions say about you? And what do they say about those who have them? Are you making wise choices about where and with whom you spend your time? How people see each other speaks volumes about both the observer and the observed. How do you think the world sees you? How do you think those closest to you see you? As you get further along in your self-awareness work, you may find the courage to ask and reflect upon the answer.


Many things in life are destination-driven. Get the football over the goal line, the golf ball into the hole, the million-dollar deal closed, and the kids successfully launched. And yet, the experience of every destination reached, whether a goal or a tropical island, is influenced by that which has no destination. Being self-aware affects every aspect of your "being." And, the more you practice it, the happier you will be at every destination.

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Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. Her writing on marriage, divorce, and co-parenting has appeared on MSN, Yahoo, Psych Central, Huffington Post, Prevention, and The Good Men Project, among others.