What Is Self-Awareness?
Essentially, it’s knowing the state of your internal self, your intuitions, preferences, resources, and skills. Really, it’s about knowing that there is one thing you control in this life and it’s your perception of your world.
It’s much easier to navigate difficult and unexpected situations when you are in tune with your internal preferences. Perhaps more importantly, you can improve how you react to the unexpected when you are aware of how your unconscious self reacts to these types of events.
There are a whole host of benefits when it comes to developing your self-awareness. However, perhaps the biggest one is its influence in allowing you to choose your mindset, taking the negative and spinning into a positive.
People who lack awareness will run into the same obstacles repeatedly and never understand why it keeps happening. Someone with self-awareness has the capacity to look within for an honest self-examination, which helps them get to the root of issues.
For example, people seem to avoid approaching you with questions. If you lack self-awareness, then it’s likely you just accept this or feel frustrated by it. A self-aware person will take the time to determine why that’s the case.
There is a major difference between
these two people. One of these people is willing and has the ability to get to
the bottom of the problem, while the other isn’t interested. The former has the
power of self-awareness. The power to fix the problems and to recognize when it
is they who are the problem.
Examples of Self-Awareness
You have had a tough day at work, the only thing you want is to get home and chill out. Yet, here you are, stuck in traffic again. It starts with feeling bummed out about the holdup, but it quickly escalates into agitation and then straight up anger.
Let’s sprinkle a bit of self-awareness on this situation. No, you aren’t going to magically enjoy the time you spend stuck in traffic. However, it will allow you to change your reaction to being stuck in traffic. You can make the choice to not be annoyed.
You can choose to turn the radio up and sing along. It’s an opportunity to listen to an extra episode of your favorite podcast or to enjoy a moment of meditation and deep breathing. With a bit of self-awareness, you are capable of recognizing that you’re only being delayed for a few moments. The stress you allow it to bring on you can shave far more moments off of the end of your life.
Do you enjoy streaming? Are you the type of person who binges an entire series as soon as it lands on your favorite streaming service? You’re not alone, we are all capable of it. Some days, it’s the best way to spend your time, snuggled under a blanket as the rain falls outside.
There’s a small issue, though, many people binge as a way to escape problems. They slip away from reality to ignore a deadline, a fight, homework, etc. Obviously, this is the kind of binge that isn’t healthy.
This is where self-awareness comes in. With self-awareness you can recognize what type of binge you’re on – are you just enjoying a relaxing day or are you trying to escape something?
If you don’t possess self-awareness, then you may struggle to tell the difference between a day of streaming. It all looks the same, but it’s not. If you recognize your avoidance, then it will make the decision to stop much easier.
You will possess the ability to deal
with the responsibilities before you start streaming. Plus, you can
enjoy that binge much more when you know everything you needed to deal with has
been dealt with. It’s now entertainment instead of procrastination.
Self-Awareness and Self-Understanding
You’re a complex entity. In order to become more self-aware, you have to understand yourself in all areas. There are a number of key areas that are important in terms of self-awareness, including your personality, values, habits, emotions, and your psychological needs as well.
People don’t tend to change their personality (or needs and values) as they learn about themselves. However, having an understanding of your personality will aid you in just about any situation.
More importantly, understanding your personality will allow you to seek out situations where you will thrive and avoid the situations that bring you the most stress. For example, an introverted person is going to experience far more stress in an active sales role when compared to an out and out extrovert. An introvert should look for situations that will play to their strengths.
Do you know your values? It’s important. Your top priority might be supporting your children fully while someone else’s first priority is their spiritual health. Regardless, it’s easy to lose sight of the values that speak to your very core. You likely face a variety of issues throughout your day, likewise, there is an endless stream of opportunities you are faced with.
This is a daily occurrence. They rarely involve your values, though, so it’s easy to end up focused on activities that are low on your priority list and are completely unrelated to your values. Yet, really, every decision that you make, every opportunity that you take (or don’t), can be viewed through the lens of your values.
Does taking that overtime shift really honor your value of putting your children first? It might. It might not. That’s up to you to determine, but you can’t make that decision unless you have the self-awareness to recognize your values. You are more likely to accomplish important things if you remain focused on your values.
A habit is basically just a behavior that you carry out routinely, automatically. In an ideal world, you would possess healthy habits, ones that allow you to interact with others, cope with your stress load, and live well. Unfortunately, it’s pretty much a guarantee that you possess at least one habit that doesn’t serve you well.
For example, a manager who makes major decisions without discussing the matter with anyone else will likely impact the employees who are impacted by those decisions. A manager with self-awareness would understand the need to hear their thoughts and weigh the options before making that final decision.
Self-awareness of your emotions is a measure of your emotional intelligence. It’s important that we understand our feelings, as well as what is causing them, in what way they impact your actions and thoughts. That’s what emotional self-awareness is.
Once, you felt excited about your job, but now you don’t. Can you reignite your passion for your career? It would be difficult to do so if you don’t understand what is required internally to get excited. Yes, that’s a bit of an oversimplification.
Let’s use your vehicle as an example. You fill it with gas, you check the oil, you check tire pressure, and you expect it to start when you turn the key. A mechanic, however, has a deeper understanding. So, when the ignition turns over and your car won’t start, a mechanic has a deeper understanding with regards to why this may be the case.
You might not understand the internal process a car goes through to start, but a mechanic does. The same can be said for someone with emotional self-awareness. They understand their internal process; therefore, they have greater control over their emotions.
There are a number of psychological needs driving your behavior, including affection, achievement, power, and esteem. Understanding which of these needs holds the largest influence on your behavior, however, is key to knowing how this affects your relationships. For example, people with a high need for great status are attracted to jobs that provide them with that status. They seek out those positions within the social circle, their organization, and are drawn to things that symbolize the status they have achieved.
They want the respect, perks, and
privileges that come with that status, perks that low-status people don’t and
can’t have. They are motivated by that need over all other needs. Our needs
cause our motivation and when we don’t satisfy those needs, whatever they are,
it causes stress, frustration, and conflict. What psychological need takes
precedence for you?
10 Key Benefits of Self-Awareness
With a bit of self-awareness, you can identify the gaps in your skills in every aspect of your life. It will also help you find the situations in which you will shine. It helps you manage stress, motivate yourself and others, and develop your skills as well. The benefits are endless, let’s dig deeper.
Deep Understanding of Yourself
This is something that will continue to grow. When you are aware that you function best with seven hours sleep under your belt, then you will go out of your way to ensure you get it. You will know precisely what to do in order to ensure you get a good night’s sleep. It is this knowledge of yourself (not just your need for sleep) that will aid you in every area of your life.
It Makes You Proactive
Forget firefighting and having to react all of the time. Self-awareness invites a proactive mindset. You will no longer cast yourself in the role of victim or ask why me? Rather, you will find the best way to achieve your goals, you will take active steps in order to advance your career. Self-awareness positions you in a place of strength.
Most professionals will tell you that one thing a successful leader needs is thick skin. A thin-skinned leader takes everything personally, and it’s no way to live a happy life. This isn’t just something that’s effective for leaders, though, we could all stand to have thicker skin.
When it comes to your weaknesses and strengths, your talents, flaws, and abilities… you should already know it all. You don’t need someone else to point it out, but even if they do point it out, you don’t take it personally. If someone can’t recognize your worth, that’s their problem. Self-awareness means never wasting your energy or time trying to change the minds of others when it’s not necessary. Some people won’t like you and that’s okay.
Mistakes Facilitate Growth
People with self-awareness don’t beat themselves up over making mistakes. They recognize that mistakes facilitate growth, even if you make the same mistake more than once. There’s always a lesson to be learned. Like most things, life is a process and perfection is an illusion.
You Know Why
You should never be shocked by your behavior because with self-awareness you know why you behave the way you do. Of course, you can surprise yourself in other ways, like completing a marathon that you didn’t believe you could really do. What we’re talking about is behavior. Your behavior doesn’t come out of left field.
You’re honest, both about who you are and in how you deal with others. You hear what people say to you. There is no need for you to create an exhausting fake persona to protect your real self. You can just be you. There’s less conflict within relationships when people are self-aware and open about who they really are.
It’s easy to miss what is happening right now when you’re busy holding onto pain and wrongdoing of the past. Self-awareness helps you understand the importance of making peace with the people and the pain of your past.
More importantly, not giving it the power to hurt you over and over again. You can be grateful for the good times someone brought to your life and let go of the pain they may have brought. Self-awareness makes you strong enough to move forward.
You have your limits, you know where they are, and you know how to enforce them. That’s what self-awareness brings to your life. When faced with situations where your boundaries are being crossed, you have the strength to ask what went wrong and how you can change it.
With self-awareness, there’s a deeper understanding of what steps are necessary in order to achieve the goals and dreams you have for your life. When you recognize your weaknesses, you can take steps to change that. Self-awareness makes you bolder, more confident, and it’s the foundation that you need to take the risks necessary to achieve greatness.
Being Fully Present
If you have a rich fantasy world in your head, then chances are you’re not being honest with yourself. You’re not going to make the changes to chase your dreams and improve your life if you spend too much time in your head, unless you’re somehow processing that fantasy into some kind of productive real-world results. Self-awareness allows you to be more present.
You are focused on yourself and what
you need to do, yes, but you still have energy and time for others in your
life. You know who you are, you know why you behave, you extend compassion to
yourself and others. Your compassion comes from knowing your self-worth.
Prepared to Deal with Things Beyond Your Control
The benefits of self-awareness do not stop there. Self-awareness makes you better at dealing with the things that you cannot control. There are a lot of things in our lives that are completely outside of our control. You do control how you react in these situations, though.
When you control your reaction to situations and circumstances, you do so because you have an awareness of your internal preference, state, and resources. When you know how these situations impact your state of mind, then you can react differently to them. You get to decide whether getting stuck in traffic makes you angry or whether you are agitated or upset in other situations. It won’t always be easy, but it’s a major benefit that stems from self-awareness.
Additionally, a high level of self-awareness will allow you to anticipate how events influence you and your state of mind. You can better direct your life when you know how external factors impact your life negatively.
Self-awareness doesn’t just give you a better insight into your own emotions, it also improves your ability to understand the emotions of others. You know how you will react to certain situations, but you also recognize the behavior of others and have a good sense of how they will react to events and circumstances.
It’s easier to get a feel for what is going on in their mind when you recognize this. Which means you can manage your own situations as well as that of others. If you are a parent, it means knowing how your children will react and being able to mitigate that. For a manager, it means knowing the strengths and weaknesses of employees and playing to their strengths.
Beyond that, your self-awareness can also influence the people around you, more specifically, their state of mind. When you are self-aware you can actively influence the mindset of others.
No, we’re not talking about
manipulating people. Rather, people often mirror the behavior of others.
Emotions can be contagious. Just think about how a boss in a bad mood can
switch the mood of the office. You choose your mindset and you choose your
mood, that can influence others in a big way. When you actively choose to find
the positive in a bad situation, it will change how others react to difficult
events, situations, and circumstances.
If you are reading this and you’re thinking about your lack of self-awareness, that’s okay. You can improve your self-awareness, and there is more than one method by which to do so.
One way to do this is by keeping a journal. A journal is a great way to explore what’s going on in your mind on a daily basis. It will uncover patterns and let you get to know yourself. It will force you to consider your unconscious habits, why do you do the things that you do and how do they affect you? You can write anything and everything in your journal, from career goals to your personal hopes. Just take time out of your day to write in your journal.
Another excellent way to improve your self-awareness is to seek out opinions that you don’t necessarily agree with. Search them out and analyze them. This will force you to look at how self-awareness plays a role in how we interpret our own realities.
When you read a multitude of opinions on a particular subject, you can put your own feelings aside and try to see why others formulate opinions that differ from your own. Your experiences color your perception and our personal narratives play a major role in that. The same can be said for others as well.
Finally, take a moment to ask yourself why? We are all running a mile a minute in this busy, modern world. We rarely take the time to slow down and just be. It’s time to do that. When you do, ask why you enjoy life, why you hate life, why you want to be with others constantly, why you want to be alone, why you do what you do, just… why?
You might not know the answers right away, but it’s still important to ask and think about them. When you force yourself to think about it, you’re forcing yourself to improve your self-awareness.
The more you question, the more familiar you will be with what is running your daily life. This gives you a better idea of how you react and how you should react, unconsciously and consciously. Asking why improves your self-awareness as it forces you to think about what you do and why you do it.
This might be a good place to start in your journal. Regardless of how you choose to improve your self-awareness, what you will find is that it benefits you and your life in a multitude of ways.