By Zainab Jada
Conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings.
The ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection.
The ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards. If you’re highly self-aware, you can objectively evaluate yourself, manage your emotions, align your behaviour with your values, and understand correctly how others perceive you.
Self-awareness doesn’t develop all at once. The process begins in childhood, as kids start being able to recognise and name their emotions, strengths, and challenges, and likes and dislikes. And it keeps developing over time.
Becoming self-aware is the first step to personality development and lasting inner change. Self-awareness is actively seeking to understand oneself through introspection.
When people are self-aware, they understand their strengths and challenges and know what helps them thrive. They also understand that how they see themselves may be different from how others see them.
There are two types of self-awareness:
Private self-awareness is when people are aware of something about themselves that others might not be — like being anxious about reading out loud.
Public self-awareness is when people are aware of how others see them. This doesn’t start happening until the age of 5. Before then, most kids don’t realise that other people aren’t always thinking and feeling the same way.
People with solid self-awareness skills can:
1. Recognise their strengths and challenges
2. Understand and talk about their needs and feelings
3. Recognise other people’s needs and feelings.
4. See how their behaviours affect others
5. Develop a growth mindset and learn from their mistakes
When people understand themselves better, it’s easier for them to build positive self-esteem.
Self-awareness gives them a way to look not just at their challenges, but also to see what they’re good at.
Benefits of Self-Awareness
It can make us more proactive, boost our acceptance, and encourage positive self-development.
It allows us to see things from the perspective of others, practice self-control, work creatively and productively and leads to better decision-making.
It can make us better at our jobs, better communicators in the workplace, and enhance our self-confidence and job-related wellbeing.
These benefits are reason enough to improve self-awareness, but this list is by no means exhaustive.
Self-awareness has the potential to enhance virtually every experience you have, as it’s a tool and a practice that can be used anywhere, any time, to ground yourself in the moment, realistically evaluate yourself and the situation, and help you make good choices.
Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness
Mindfulness refers to being present in the moment and paying attention to yourself and your surroundings rather than getting lost in thought, meditating, or daydreaming.
Make time to reflect/spend time with yourself
It’s not easy to reflect on yourself when you’ve got the radio blaring, you’re out to dinner with friends, or you’re glued to your phone.
Give yourself the space and time necessary to self-reflect by avoiding distractions. Try to give yourself 30 quiet, distraction-free minutes a day.
Reflecting can be done in multiple ways and is customisable to the person reflecting. Still, the important thing is to go over your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to see where you met your standards, where you failed them, and where you could improve.
You can also reflect on your standards themselves to see if they are good ones for you to hold yourself to. You can try writing in a journal, talking out loud, or simply sitting quietly and thinking, whatever helps you reflect on yourself.
The benefit of journaling is that it allows you to identify, clarify, and accept your thoughts and feelings. It helps you discover what you want, what you value, and what works for you. It can also help you discover what you don’t want, what is unimportant to you, and what doesn’t work for you.
Whether you like to write free-flowing entries, bulleted lists, or poems, writing down your thoughts and feelings helps you become more aware and intentional.
Become a better listener and ask for feedback
You’ll become more empathetic and understand people better when you learn to listen to your friends, colleagues, and managers without evaluating or judging them. Listening, by the way, isn’t the same as hearing; like mindfulness, the practice of listening takes purpose and control. Listening to the important people in your life should give you a true sense of how they perceive you.
By listening attentively, you improve at better understanding your thoughts and emotions.
Listening to others, and yourself, are critical to becoming self-aware.
Additionally, it’s essential to ask for feedback from the people you work with or lead. It’s impossible to have true, complete self-awareness if you only turn inwards. Gaining different perspectives on who you are will help you see a truer, more complete picture.
It’s vital to feel we know ourselves from the inside, but external feedback helps too. Ask your family and close friends about what they think about you. Have them describe you and see what rings true with you and what surprises you.
Carefully consider what they say and think about it when you journal or otherwise reflect.
Ask “What?” instead of “Why?”
When people assess their current state, emotions, and environment, they all too often ask, “Why?” Like, “Why am I feeling so sad? Why did my boss give me that feedback? Why isn’t my project going the way I’d hoped?”
“Why” questions could leave you feeling depressed and anxious while being entirely unproductive.
Rather than asking “Why,” highly self-aware people ask, “What?” “What” questions are more productive and focus on objectives and future goals rather than past mistakes.
For instance, let’s say you’re feeling frustrated at work. “Why am I feeling awful?” will likely only leave you feeling more depressed, forcing you to ruminate on negatives. On the other hand, “What are the situations at work making me feel bad?” guides you to recognise factors outside your control that don’t align with your passions or goals and helps you strategise how to fix those situations.
Let your walls down
When we see something we don’t immediately like in ourselves, our first reaction could be to defend ourselves from it, which is partly why self-awareness is so challenging.
Try to let go of judgement and the instinctual urge to protect yourself.
You become self-aware through a willingness to let go of defensiveness and an openness to seeing yourself differently from what you have always assumed. Often this means you must be willing to see yourself in a less-than-positive light.
IN A NUTSHELL
Self-awareness plays a critical role in understanding ourselves and how we relate to others and the world. Being self-aware allows you to evaluate yourself about others.