Self-awareness involves understanding your stress triggers, your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It is important, because it’s a major mechanism influencing personal development.
Your life can get out-of-control pretty quickly if you are unaware of how you react and are affected by different triggers. For example being with someone who always wants to ‘fix’ the problem rather than just listen, Eventually you may get frustrated with all the solutions offered rather than just the friendly ear you needed, someone to empathise. Or maybe it’s the impact of social media posts on your self belief?
How do you increase your self-awareness?
Self-awareness requires self-reflection and perhaps really understanding your personality traits, your values and beliefs. An honest, non-judgmental self-analysis isn’t easy. You may tend to berate yourself for your failings, focus on the one negative rather than the 10 positives. We all have a unique mix of “good” and “bad” traits, but we are largely unaware of them. In order to self-reflect objectively, you need to quiet your mind and open your hearts, be kind to yourself for your imperfections and give yourself a pat on the back where you deserve one.
Increasing self-awareness requires an open mind, time, attention and focus. Knowing ahead of time that you can change in positive ways through deeper self-awareness makes it worth working on those personal qualities you most value.
Why does self-awareness matter?
High self-awareness is a solid predictor of good success in life, perhaps because a self-aware person knows when an opportunity is a good fit for them and how to make an appropriate opportunity work well. Quite frankly, most of us are running on “autopilot,” hardly aware of why we succeed or fail, or why we behave as we do. Our minds are so busy with daily chatter that we usually only self-reflect when something goes awfully wrong.
Maybe you have had a bad appraisal or an interview didn’t go well? It’s at this point you start to question why. Our response in challenging situations is often to get defensive, make excuses, or blame another person, because you don’t want to see our own part in the disaster. If you can observe yourself during such incidents, it will be a good start to self-awareness.
How do we build self-awareness?
Here are some suggestions to start building self-awareness:
The mind tends to wander along with our feet, so with a little conscious nudging (and walking), you can examine your part in something that is happening in your life now — at work, in social situations, in your relationships, or within the family. How many times have you caught yourself analysing an event and talking yourself through it whilst walking somewhere? It works!
Mindfulness is similar to self-awareness in that they both relate to consciously directing our thoughts inward in order to become more aware of our inner state of being, to observe our thoughts and beliefs, and to notice what triggers our emotions as they rise and fall. Mindfulness includes focused attention in the moment to whatever one is doing, and involves practices such as meditation or a quieting of the mind.
Becoming a good listener
“Getting out of ourselves” by focusing on another person is a good antidote to stop downward spirals of self-destructive thinking. By being open to someone else, we can learn to listen objectively, even lovingly, to what that person wants to or needs to share. This, in turn, helps teach us how to listen to our own inner dialogues and opinions objectively and lovingly as well.
Write your life story
Sometimes certain phrases come out automatically to reveal attitudes or opinions that we don’t even realise we subscribe to, or even know where they came from. Over the years of being submerged in a family, a school, various jobs, and a social milieu, we absorb prevailing ideas from our environment, and some of these get buried in our subconscious. Taking time to write your life history can unearth some of these. Then you can start to deal with them
Very often the opinion we hold of ourselves is based on what others think, or more correctly, on what we think others think about us. If we were criticised often as children, we may develop a case of low self-esteem and sensitivity to rejection as a result. On the other hand, if we were praised as a “prince or princess,” we are likely to develop high self-esteem, whether deserved or not. So much of our beliefs are buried in the subconscious, where they can do irreparable harm if not examined and re-calibrated to more correctly reflect who we really are.
Take your MBTI personality test.
Coaching my clients I find this is one of the most powerful ways to really start to understand yourself. That is why it is an integral part of my Powerpod programme, and all my Leading Ladies undertake the test when they join. Plus we have a laugh guessing each other’s too.
Understanding your personality can improve your self-esteem because you will know who you are and what you believe, which empowers you to move forward through life with a strong rudder to guide you along your chosen path.
By writing your thoughts or stream-of-consciousness ideas, you begin opening up to those vulnerable places within. Journaling isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but if you like to write, try it out.
Writing sometimes reveals what contemplation does not, so this method of self-exploration may assist you in expanding your self-awareness. It is why writing your life story is so effective. Telling your story, releasing your woes on paper, dreaming up your fantasy situation — these are ways your subconscious can speak to you, revealing what’s really “the matter.
Let your mind be free and let it reveal some of your buried wounds that are crying out for healing. Work with some of these ideas to explore what’s behind them with the intention of knowing yourself more intimately.
360 feedback from others
Since we are our own best audience, we may miss something in our self-appraisal. That’s where the objectivity of others can be most helpful in self-assessment. If you have the courage, ask a friend or acquaintance their opinion of you, or ask about how you managed some project you worked on together or how you handled yourself in some quirky situation.
Constructive criticism is best, of course. Be resilient and willing to hear what they have to say. Communication in relationships is extremely important, but you must be open to listening to each other, even when what is said is said imperfectly or is uncomfortable to hear. When you find something that needs some re-tweaking, make a mental or written note to yourself to look at it later when you have some time alone for your self-care.
Create an action plan
If you wander through life without purpose or direction, chances are you will end up nowhere in particular. You really need some idea about what is important to you and what you hope to accomplish. What will your goal be? Maybe your goal is to get a promotion, set up a side hustle or full out launch your own business leaving corporate life for good. To achieve this you need a plan. A plan that takes into account your strengths and weaknesses, your learnings about yourself so your next step is the right step.
It’s your time to shine is a free guide I created to help you on this journey. Please feel free to download your copy here :