What is self-awareness?
Definitions of self-awareness
Various researchers have offered different definitions of self-awareness. Let’s look at these two definitions of self-awareness;
- Self-awareness is being aware of your moods and the thoughts about your moods- John Mayer
- Self-awareness is knowing your emotions. It is recognizing a feeling as it happens- Daniel Goleman
In my understanding, you develop self-awareness when you gain insight into your inner self. Knowing who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, understanding your thoughts, feelings and behavior leads to self-awareness. To become self-aware, you have to reflect on your behavior as well as the reactions to the events surrounding you. When you monitor how you feel and what you think, and how these thoughts and feelings contribute to your behavior. You become more self-aware. You, therefore, develop self-awareness when you explore your feeling and develop self-understanding of why you think, feel, and behave the way that you do now.
Self-awareness also involves gaining insight into your past and coming to terms with it. In these self-awareness exercises, I take you through some steps to help you explore your self-awareness. These include exploring your past (your childhood and upbringing), your identity (your personality) and your self-concept (how you perceive yourself today).
How to improve your self-awareness
Explore your childhood and upbringing
How we grew up largely contributes to the person we are today. If your childhood had some form of trauma, it contributes to your personality as well as your behavior and reaction towards events around you. On the same note, a safe childhood and healthy relationships can contribute to a person who is confident and trusting. In the developmental process of a child, you start developing a self-concept when you are young. This means that the events around your life as a child such as abuse and bullying can contribute to a negative self-concept. Your family and the society you grew up in contribute to the person you are. How you relate to your family can be a major influence in your life. For example, if you have a close-knit family, it provides a cushion against adversity making you feel safer and confidence and the opposite is true as well.
Explore your identity
Your identity is shaped by your genes and your surroundings, and therefore part of exploring self-awareness calls for understanding your personality. I highly recommend that you take the Myers-Briggs personality test. Once you find out what your personality is, you can search for the information available online about different personality types. For example, I am ISTP which stands for Introvert, Sensing, Thinking and Perceiving personality. When you read and learn about your personality, you will develop a better sense of your behavior and improve on self-awareness.
For example, I learned that I am an introvert which is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I became aware of the root of some of my behaviors such as my lack of interest in social life, how I got exhausted from human interaction. From other perspectives such as my perceiving personality, I understood why I don’t do well in structured environments as well as why freedom and autonomy are so important to me. In order to become more self-aware, I highly recommend taking a personality test and reading as much as you can about your personality.
Explore your self-concept
Another way to improve self-awareness is by understanding your self-concept and working on it. Your self-concept is how you perceive yourself. What do you think of yourself? How you perceive yourself contributes to your self-esteem and self-confidence. A low self-concept contributes to low self-esteem. This is why it’s important to become aware of how you perceive yourself and so that you can take steps to improve your esteem and confidence.
You can also become more self-aware by seeking feedback from others. according to the Johari window, there is a part of us that we don’t know but others do. We, therefore, need feedback from others so we can understand this perspective of ourselves. You could think that you are honest and to others, it comes out as rude, and you would never know this until another person tells you. I am a bit stubborn in having my way and sometimes this comes out as inconsiderate. It took feedback from my brother to let me know that sometimes I push hard to get things my way and this helped me relax a little in this area. Ask your friends how they think about some of your behaviors and self-reflect on some actions that may have affected others differently than you perceived.
Benefits of self-awareness; Why is self-awareness important?
Why do you need to become self-aware? Why is it so important that you develop self-awareness? What are the benefits of being self-aware?
Self-awareness leads to Self-acceptance
Self-awareness is the key to self-mastery- Gretchen Rubin
The only way you can improve yourself is by first accepting yourself. You cannot fix something if you don’t know what the problem is. When you really explore yourself, you become aware of who you are, why you feel and think the way you do, why you behave the way you do. After understanding all this, you accept who you are. Without self-awareness, we are always covered by layers of neurosis and defense mechanisms. You may be hiding behind some behaviors and fake characters and persona since you have not explored who you are and you are not aware of who you should be.
Upon reflecting and exploring your inner self, you become aware of who you are, and that you are a unique person. You don’t need some fake persona to present to other people, you can be yourself since you are not so ignorant of who you are and are not afraid of showing who you are to others. you become your authentic self. You master yourself as a person, you become in control of your life. a person that has achieved self-acceptance is not pretentious
Self-awareness leads to Emotional maturity
“Self-awareness is knowing your emotions. It is recognizing a feeling as it happens”- Daniel Goleman
Becoming self-aware helps you develop a genuine understanding of your feelings and those of others. Emotional maturity comes when you understand your thoughts and feelings. This level of recognizing a feeling as it happens and taking charge of the feelings ensures that your emotions do not control you. It also ensures that you do not pass on unsuitable emotions to others.
If you are having a bad day, emotional maturity helps you take control of your low moods such as finding a way to distract yourself or cheer yourself up. it also helps you not spread your bad moods to those around you such as by snapping at them for no reason. Emotional maturity is exactly what you need in order to develop effective relationships, and I shall discuss this in detail as I discuss the importance of self-awareness in relationships below.
Enhance your self-confidence and esteem
As we have seen, developing self-awareness leads to self-acceptance, self-realization, and self-mastery. As I mentioned earlier, you cannot fix that which you don’t understand or know where the problem is. You cannot, therefore, work on your self-confidence and self-esteem if you don’t understand the nature of your esteem and what affects it. early childhood trauma such as bullying, abuse or abandonment can contribute to low self-esteem. When you take the self-awareness exercises in this area, you will come to a realization of how your childhood experiences make you feel the way you do. You cannot change your childhood, but you can work on healing yourself.
First, self-awareness helps you accept what happened to you even if it is unpleasant. This means that you have come to terms with it and no one can use it to bring you down, or you can avoid events that make you remember this. secondly, self-awareness helps you work on healing yourself so that you don’t become a victim of circumstances. Therapy is one way to work on your healing, and if you can’t access a therapist, it’s important that you talk about these experiences to a close person or journal. Writing it all down feels as if you are sharing and it lifts the burden off your shoulders.
Helps you accept your shortcomings
Some physical aspects of a person can also affect their self-confidence. For example, appearances such as thinking that you are too tall or too short for your liking, too heavy or too thin for your liking, some deformities, conditions such as acne, dental formulae, or misaligned physical features sometimes contribute to low self-esteem. The self-concept exercise in self-awareness helps you confront such things.
If you can’t change something, you learn to accept it as part of you and if there is something you can change, you recognize it as the source of your low esteem and start working on ways to change it. For example, you cannot change how short or tall you are, but you can lose some extra weight if it affects your confidence. Accepting your physical concepts boots self-esteem and confidence since no one can use how you look to bring you down. Do you want to talk about my acne? Go ahead, I have already made peace with it and there is nothing you can say about it that can put me down.
Helps you live your best life now
“In order to enjoy the good life, we need to be fully open to experience, live in the present moment, trust ourselves, take responsibility for our choices, and treat ourselves and others with unconditional positive regard” – Carl Rogers
You can use self-awareness to increase your self-worth. Self-acceptance and self-realization which develop from self-awareness help you give yourself and those around your unconditional acceptance. Sometimes we love ourselves, and others, having set strong and strident conditions that they must meet or that we must meet before we grant ourselves or others approval or acceptance. We also tend to base our self-worth on achievement and appearances. For example, you aim to be a certain weight, and until you reach this weight, you don’t feel worthy. You want to achieve some level of education, and without this certification, you don’t feel worthy.
This shouldn’t be so. You should give yourself acceptance in whichever situation you are in, even if you intend to move from this situation. Remember, a good life is a process, not a state of being. You shouldn’t limit yourself that you will live the good life or you will be happy with yourself when you achieve goal A or B. Instead, accept to live your life fully, enjoy it and enjoy your worth today, as you work towards bettering yourself.
Gaining self-awareness does not mean that you’re perfect. It means you understand where you are on a journey, and what you don’t have yet should not keep you from enjoying your life. So what if I haven’t achieved the level of success I desire? Does that mean I should not enjoy today? Self-awareness helps you realize that being happy and satisfied is not a destination, it is a process. You will constantly work on improving yourself, but you will enjoy today while at it.
Helps you take responsibility for your life
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own.. you realize that you control your own destiny” Albert Ellis
Self-awareness also helps you take responsibility for your choices. It doesn’t matter if you have messed up in the past. Accepting and taking responsibility is the only way to move forward. It’s the only way to come to terms with the events around you and reduce possible distress that may be caused by guilt and worry. You learn not to be so hard on yourself since you are not a perfect person, you are a process.
Do you know someone that always blames others for the wrong things that are happening in their lives? Such people lack self-awareness. If you constantly blame others for your wrong life choices, you cannot work on improving yourself since, well, it’s not your fault that things are not working out for you. A self-aware person on the other hand fully takes responsibility for their lives. They recognize what they are doing wrong and seek ways to improve so their tomorrow will be better.
Self-awareness helps you work towards achieving your potential
“What a man can be, he must be”- Abraham Maslow
Part of the reasons I am so glad for self-awareness is by making me realize that I can achieve much more than I have. Self-awareness transforms your thinking. First, you learn that you are responsible for our life. You then learn that changing your attitude and thinking can help you tackle the events in your life much more prudently. You can escape the preconceptions of the mind and allow yourself to soar. We must discover our potential, seek out experiences that will allow us to fulfill it. taking responsibility and taking charge of your destiny can help you work towards achieving your potential and gaining satisfaction towards the life you have created. As a result, you live a fulfilling life.
Self-awareness helps us develop resilience
“Men are not disturbed by events, but by the views which they take them”- Epictetus
We cannot control what happens around us, but we can control our reaction towards it. you cannot control your childhood, your upbringing, your society and even the events that are happening to your life right now. But you can control how you react towards it. you develop resilience by learning to bounce back even when things go wrong for you. Self-awareness helps you strengthen your mind such that when unfavorable things happen, you don’t take them personally. As the quote by Epictetus above says, your attitude and reaction to the events around you are what disturbs you. I wrote a post on how to develop resilience and one of the suggestions is to develop self-awareness so that you develop a proper understanding of your inner self, as well as of how you react, face terrible problems and continue to grow.
Self-awareness helps us withstand hardships
‘To turn natural sadness into depression, all you have to do is blame yourself for the disaster that has befallen you’ Dorothy Rowe.
Life will always present you with things that you cannot handle. A sick family member, natural disasters, accidents, a lot of things that are sometimes too much for our minds to comprehend. It’s not easy to deal with such events, but you stand at a better position when you are self-aware. As Rowe says in the quote above, we fall into depression mostly when we blame ourselves for things that have gone wrong. The moment you ask, ‘why did this happen to me?’ leads to self-blame, guilt, helplessness, and shame, all which lead to a depressive state of mind.
Whether you have suffered from a bad childhood, job loss, loss of a relationship, it is good to look at the situation that it happened because bad things happen, not because you are doomed to misfortunes or you deserve to have bad things happen to you. Self-awareness helps us not internalize these events, but view them from an external perspective. We learn that sometimes bad things just happen and as much as that sucks, there is really not much we can do about it, and it’s only through acceptance that we can move on.
Characteristic of a self-aware person
How is a self-aware person?
A self-aware person is not perfect, and she knows she is not perfect. She is well aware of their strengths and weaknesses and is constantly working on improving what can be improved, and accepting that which cannot be changed. A self-aware person is emotionally intelligent, and are aware of emotions such as sadness, low moods, anger, among others. They’re able to recognize such moods as they happen and find ways to manage their emotions so that they don’t sink deep into unfavorable emotions. A self-aware person is able to effectively develop good relationships professionally and personally. This is because they are able to recognize not only their emotions but those of others and therefore develop empathy. They don’t project negative emotions to those around them but can handle their emotions by themselves in a smart manner.
Importance of self-awareness in relationships
Your relationship with yourself sets the tone of every other relationship you have- Robert Holden
It takes two to tango. YOU are an important part of this relationship; this means you have a role to play in making it work. It’s therefore important that you really understand yourself, come into terms with who you are and develop a great relationship with yourself, internally. When you are self-aware, you are at peace with who you are, the good and the bad. You have accepted things about yourself that you cannot change and you are already working on the things you can change. You’re able to recognize your emotions as they happen and take charge of them so that emotions don’t control you. This is why it is important for parties in a relationship to be self-aware.
Self-awareness helps develop empathy. Empathy is when you put yourself in the shoes of the other person. It’s helps understand how the other person is feeling so as you can come to a meeting point. Self-awareness in a relationship also ensures that you don’t project your bad moods to the other person. You can control your anger so that you don’t say things you don’t mean, things that will hurt the other person simply because you are angry.
Emotional maturity, a result of self-awareness will help you recognize your emotions and those of others. I wrote about this in the eBook 3 thoughts that could completely transform your life.
Now that you have understood what self-awareness is all about, I recommend these self-awareness exercises to help you create a great relationship with yourself and with others and live a fulfilling life.