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What’s driving you to find out how to be more self aware? Are you having trouble building healthy relationships due to a lack of self-awareness or is it hindering personal growth?
Whenever I hear the term self-awareness, I instantly imagine a pair of internal eyes that let us see the things we miss with our human eyes. For example, the effects our behaviors have on how our lives turn out.
The only thing is that you have to activate the ability to fully see yourself and the world from a different perspective and with a greater level of consciousness.
I’m excited you’re ready to start your self-awareness journey. Let’s get right to what it means to be self-aware, how it impacts your life, and how to build self-awareness, starting with 11 steps.
What Is Self-Awareness?
Self-awareness is consciously recognizing your personality traits, behavior, thoughts, and feelings. The recognition extends to your desires, passions, beliefs, and motivations. You’re able to determine if these aspects of yourself are in line with your core values, such as honesty, fairness, and integrity. It is, in essence, a psychological state of focusing attention on the self.
Awareness of oneself also has an external aspect that allows you to assess how people see you and how your behavior, speech, and responses affect them.
To build self-awareness, you need to be able to look inwardly (introspection) and determine what behaviors are acceptable and what needs to be changed.
Humans aren’t born completely self-aware. The attribute develops with time and life experiences. The pace of development and level of awareness is different for each individual.
Some people make a conscious choice to improve their internal compass, if you will, in hopes of improving their overall life experience.
Learn more by reading 15 Signs Someone Has a Lack of Self-Awareness
What Happens if You’re not Self-Aware?
Self-awareness isn’t static. It tends to grow as you go through different life experiences, although growth isn’t typically automatic. Conscious work needs to be done to arrive at a place where your thoughts, feelings, and reactions are leading to more positive than negative outcomes.
Those moving through life without having this kind of connection to themselves may not understand why things tend to go wrong for them. Granted, some of it might be sheer bad luck (if you believe in such a thing). Other times, it’s bad judgment and decisions.
Even though self-awareness can’t be measured, you can tell someone has a healthy dose of it from how mindful they are when interacting with others. It’s commendable for you to aspire to increase self-awareness, otherwise, you won’t be reading this, right?
Perhaps you’ve recognized you could’ve avoided many pitfalls if you had a stronger connection to your sense of your SELF. Highlighted below are common problems linked to living unintentionally and unawares:
11 Steps to Becoming More Self-Aware
Being self-aware is more than the ability to see your physical reflection in a mirror and recognize your outward attributes. Researchers describe it as physical self-recognition, which is different from your consciousness of your inner world. You have to open your mind’s eye to see that world.
Even though we aren’t born with much internal awareness of ourselves, the ability to introspect is still there waiting to be developed and expanded. However, something has to trigger the curiosity to look inward and evaluate oneself.
In other words, you have to first become aware that something inside of you needs fixing. Coming across the term “self-awareness” and wondering what it meant was what led me to embark on a self-awareness journey.
I’ve come a long way with regard to self-recognition and am also able to see myself from a third-party perspective. This lets me understand why those close to me feel and react positively or negatively based on my behavior. I later came to understand that’s how you can develop empathy for others. It doesn’t happen overnight, though.
There are steps involved in the process of becoming more self-aware. While it takes time and ongoing conscious work, heightened internal awareness is completely achievable through the following steps.
#1. Evaluate Yourself and Your Life
To begin raising self-awareness, you have to confront yourself with tough questions that serve as a self-assessment. Here are some of the many important questions to ask and answer honestly:
From the answers, you can gauge your current level of self-recognition. Initially, you may be startled at how much inner work needs to be done. Don’t worry, the process is gradual. Just be persistent. In fact, the self-evaluation activity can be carried out continuously throughout your life as you strive for greater internal and external awareness.
#2. Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Knowledge of how your strengths and weaknesses impact everyday life helps pave the way for self-development.
The assessment should include making a list of your qualities that positively and negatively affect others. Do you talk over people in conversations and tune out when they are speaking? If so, learning how to communicate with empathy can help you actively listen to others. Doing so lets them know you value what they’re saying.
Maybe one of your weaknesses is assuming the worse, accusing others, and flying into a rage before asking for clarification. The behavior causes arguments. Not only that, you later realize your assumptions are usually farfetched or wrong. By then, it's too late to backtrack. You’ve offended or hurt the other person’s feelings.
Think of ways you can improve attributes that cause conflict, make people feel inferior, or push people away. In your new sense of awareness, you’re empowered to be more mindful of thoughts and reactions and conduct yourself differently.
#3. Welcome Feedback
There’s the self that you see and think you are and there’s the person others see you as. When how you view yourself syncs with how most people see you, you can safely say that’s the TRUE you. You can only gather this information by accepting criticism and feedback, both positive and negative.
Ask friends, peers, and mentors to shine a light on your personality. Encourage them to be honest and candid. Be emotionally prepared to hear what they have to say, the good, the bad, and the ugly. You could even ask your boss or team leader for appraisals of your performance.
#4. Reflect on What You Learned
After receiving feedback, it is necessary to reflect on it in your quiet moments. I usually make a note of it and cross-check people’s observations with my views of myself.
During your cross-check, don’t be surprised if you’re utterly shocked at what you’ve discovered about yourself. Sometimes, I find myself nodding in agreement with the details in the feedback.
Perhaps you scanned and reflected on the information and realized you never thought of yourself that way. Whenever your self-image conflicts with your public image (how others see you), take it as a defining moment and carry out a self-inventory exercise.
As you grow in self-awareness, you’ll more easily acknowledge that those providing feedback might be on to something. It’s now up to you to do the inner work to change or adjust harmful traits.
#5. Be Understanding Instead of Defensive
We’re naturally wired to welcome praise and not criticism. Many of us have to make a conscious effort to allow people to highlight our shortcomings without hustling to defend ourselves.
Perhaps you were acting unkind, aggressive, or controlling and a friend called out the behavior. In a state of low self-awareness, you might have responded aggressively after interpreting their recognition as an attack on your personality.
Try to show that you understand why your friend came to that conclusion rather than defending or justifying your action. You can take it a step further by admitting that you weren’t respectful or overstepped your boundaries.
As you continue increasing your awareness in relation to others, you’ll also notice how easy it becomes to apologize for missteps.
#6. Identify Emotional Triggers
You may see yourself one way or want to think and behave in a more pleasing way. Yet, there is another side of you that comes out in certain situations. You’re not two people, just one with opposing reactions based on your mood or current environment.
Behaviors that don’t align with your core values come from somewhere and that’s what you need to find out.
Could it be childhood trauma, low self-esteem, poor self-image, or a personality disorder? For example, narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder. Some people’s triggers are deeply rooted in fear of judgment, fear of failure, or anxiety.
Identifying and listing emotional triggers is one of the first steps to changing behaviors you’re now aware aren’t so helpful. I did this exercise in the early stages of my journey. I discovered that honesty is one of my core values. It helped explain why I became furious and lashed out when others lied to me.
#7. Develop Your Emotional Intelligence
Self-awareness is a part of emotional intelligence (EQ). Think of it as having a “sixth sense” or being more in touch with your intuitive side. Developing emotional intelligence skills helps you to become a better version of yourself and have more meaningful relationships.
If you’re wondering how, well, for one, you’re able to express your emotions in a healthy way. You can genuinely acknowledge others and agree that their welfare is just as important as yours. Losing selfishness leaves room to actively listen to, care for, and love others.
Greater EQ not only enables you to transcend beyond yourself, but it becomes easier to perceive and regulate your own emotions. You may also notice an increased ability to connect with the emotions of others and respond with compassion and empathy.
#8. Work on Being Accountable
Accountability generally means owning your mistakes and overall accepting responsibility for your actions. As a self-aware and accountable individual, you’ll find it easy to say, “I messed up, I made a bad decision,” and even explain why you hold that view without defending or justifying the misstep.
Accepting responsibility is a form of transparency and builds trust. The chance for conflict decreases because there won’t be an argument over who did what or why.
Honestly, there’s nothing more irritating than a defensive person who won’t take responsibility for their actions. Arrogant and narcissistic people came to mind. In fact, a lack of accountability is one of the common narcissist traits.
Choose to not fall into the category of humans who lack accountability by learning how to be more self aware and putting what you've learned into practice.
#9. Practice Mindful Meditation
Mindfulness refers to the art of living in the present and having clarity of thoughts. Mindful meditation is a bit different from the traditional form of meditation. According to Chopra, “Where meditation is usually practiced for a specific amount of time, mindfulness can be applied to any situation throughout the day.”
Paying attention only to the present moment, wherever you are, helps you to witness life as it’s unfolding. You’re actively in tune with or aware of your thoughts and feelings as they are happening. You can literally stop yourself from saying or doing something that you shouldn’t with that level of self-awareness.
Mindful meditation can be practiced anytime, even while doing the dishes. Start by bringing your attention back to your SELF and checking in with your mood or mental capacity to do something.
You may determine you aren’t in the best frame of mind to have that conversation with your spouse or make that significant financial investment. You may avoid a quarrel and financial losses.
#10. Journal for Self-Recognition
One of the most critical things to ask yourself as you journal for self-awareness is, “Who am I?” The response should reflect your SELF, in terms of personality. Who you are is essentially the sum total of your personality type. Generally speaking, your personality is shaped by nature (genetics) and nurture (how you were raised or socialized).
Online versions of the Myer & Briggs personality inventory help you to identify your personality strengths and weaknesses. Earlier I mentioned developing intuition in relation to how to be more self aware.
For example, people with an INTJ personality type are able to track patterns in their behavior and how they affect life outcomes.
Whatever your personality type, you’ll gain valuable insights as to why you behave a certain way. From there, you can make adjustments that can help you grow and improve.
51 Self-Discovery Questions to Ask Yourself While Journaling will help make your self-recognition process easier.
#11. Embrace Your Intuition
“Let your conscience be your guide,” is an age-old saying that makes sense in this context. Submitting to the guidance of your conscience calls for you to rely more on your intuition, or what is generally called your gut instinct. Intuition tells you when something isn’t right.
Let’s say you’re making certain remarks in a conversation with a friend and they react puzzled, embarrassed, or offended. Right away, something should click in your mind. Intuitively, you may recognize you said something inappropriate.
With that awareness, you can immediately adjust your communication so as not to embarrass or upset anyone. Find out if you’re an intuitive empath.
Why Is Self-Awareness Important?
Sherrie Campbell, psychologist and author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person, said “Self-awareness keeps us grounded, attuned and focused.” Living consciously aware of yourself also plays a key role in how successful you are in all areas of life.
Deepening self-awareness is a lifelong process that requires continuous self-reflection. As mentioned earlier, there are two parts to it, and they fit together like a puzzle. While you can live a relatively satisfactory life of personal inner consciousness, you’ll still experience relational dissatisfaction from being unable to emotionally connect with others. Dr. Tasha Eurich, author of Insight, sums it up like this in an article published by Well+Good:
“A person could have the clearest understanding of themselves possible and yet have absolutely no idea how they’re coming across…” “or, on the flip side, they could be so focused on how they’re seen by others that they don’t really know what they want or who they are on the inside.” And in both cases, the gap in self-knowledge leaves ample room for misunderstandings.”
Final Thoughts on How to Be More Self Aware
Know thyself. By expanding self-awareness, you become more capable of self-regulating your emotions in different settings. You can be truly attuned to your own feelings as well as those of others.
The positive changes will be noticeable in the way you carry yourself and navigate interpersonal relationships with ease… and greater self-confidence. 7 Ways to Live Consciously in an Unconscious World offers further insight into intentional living through self-awareness.
- 12 Self-Awareness Activities for Kids & Young Students
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- 9 Self-Awareness Examples You See Throughout Life