Becoming Self-Aware

I walk funny, and I didn’t know it.

I was commenting to my wife on a recent family walk that I had accidentally kicked my left ankle with my right heel as I walked. I recalled that I had done this a few other times in the recent past, most noticeably on our east coast trip this past summer while walking throughout New York. I had grazed my ankle enough times that it left a bit of a callous. Was it my new TOMS shoe that didn’t fit correctly? Were my flip-flops loosely swinging to the rhythm of my gait?

My wife replied that I had always had a unique walk, that my feet are not parallel, that my right foot is at a slight angle which allows for my heel to scuff my ankle.

I looked down. It was true. My left foot pointed straight ahead, but my right foot was naturally at a slight outward position.

“How long have you known this?” I demanded.

“I first noticed when we started dating,” she replied.

“So I’ve been walking like this for years, with a slightly off-kilter gait and funky perpendicular legs, and I never knew it?! And you never told me?!”

“When would that have ever come up in a conversation, honey?”

“……Good point.”

It explains a lot. I tend to get hip pain on my right side after running or long hikes. I can’t sit cross-legged on the floor with my son without feeling like my leg is going to pop out of socket. It’s not incredibly noticeable by others, but it certainly won’t go unnoticed now.

I believe one of the most powerful qualities a leader can have is self-awareness. It may be one of the strongest values I hold. To truly know thyself–strengths, weaknesses, passions, gifts, history, potential–means you can know where you’re coming from and where you’re going. It is having a clear mirror to look into, one that doesn’t distort or destroy, but reveals what’s really there, both the good and the bad. It is found through introspection, contemplation, a Biblical framework for truth, close friends and mentors who are willing to be radically honest, and prayerful dependence on God.

The opposite of self-awareness is self-deception, i.e. choosing to believe in a false reality rather than embracing the truth.

Jesus knew who he was. He knew where he came from. He knew where he was going and what had to be done. He knew his Father and he knew his followers.

He’s who I’m choosing to follow, funny walk and all.

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Joel Mayward is a pastor, writer, youth worker, and film critic. The author of three books, he has written for numerous ministry publications, including Christianity Today, Christ and Pop Culture, Leadership Journal, YouthWorker Journal, Immerse Journal, The Youth Cartel, and LeaderTreks. You can read his musings on film, theology, and culture at his personal blog, For his film reviews and essays, check out Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelmayward.