Understanding your own needs, habits, and failings is impossible without improving self-awareness. Also called self-knowledge, self-awareness is the basis for self-improvement. The theory is, if you collect data about yourself you can improve based on that data.
Examining yourself intellectually is only part of the process of self-awareness. Most of all, learning to be aware of your feelings is crucial to seeing the whole picture.
Paying attention to your emotions, how you work, and your habits allow you to understand what makes you tick. Questioning how you do things and recognizing your biases and assumptions helps you to think about your life and your goals in new ways. Armed with this information, you gain the courage to improve your life and your chances for success.
Our self-awareness depends on our ability to notice and acknowledge our own failings. Unfortunately, this is sometimes hard to do. We all have a self-image we’d like to maintain.
Let’s say you majored in language. Your life and work are all about communication. Yet, your significant other storms off after an argument complaining that you never listen. Is it possible that your self-image as a good communicator is flawed? Self-awareness helps you admit that maybe there’s something you still need to learn about communicating.
Only by recognizing your failure to communicate and seeking the cause of that failure can you improve your ability to communicate. Without improving self-awareness, you’ll miss the opportunity.
What Is Self-Awareness?
Psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund, who developed the theory of self-awareness, saw the process as becoming “objective evaluators of ourselves.”
A more popular definition is that of psychologist Daniel Goleman, from his book Emotional Intelligence. Goleman says self-awareness is “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions.”
A definition of emotional intelligence is “the ability to monitor your own emotions as well as others, to distinguish and label different emotions correctly, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior with yourself and others.”
Self-awareness is more than just gathering knowledge about yourself. It’s about paying attention to what’s going on inside you and being conscious of how you react to experiences. When you know how you experience something you become aware of your preconceptions. Only then can you free yourself from them.
Why Self-Awareness Matters
Self-Awareness creates the possibility of improving yourself, your life, and your success in the following ways:
Self-aware people are more likely to react consciously to events in their lives. This means they can have a more positive outlook and better perspective on their mental wellness and they are more likely to be compassionate towards others and themselves.
Success in Leadership
Successful leaders have the trait of self-awareness. In a recent Cornell University study of executives at both public and private companies, a high score in self-awareness strongly predicted success.
Avoiding Unconscious Bias
We’re all conditioned by our experiences to think in biased ways. For example, confirmation bias is common. It tricks us into interpreting information to confirm what we already believe. This can lead to bad decision-making. Remember, don’t believe everything you think. It may not be true and it may not be helpful.
In a TED talk, Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner in behavioral science, discusses how our experiencing selves and our remembering selves differ, and how that affects the stories we tell ourselves and the decisions we make. Without improving self-awareness, we remain unconscious of what we are doing and how we feel.
How to Become More Self-Aware
Spend Time With Yourself. Take some time away from daily distractions to exercise, write or meditate. Connect with yourself.
Practice Mindfulness. Pay attention to what you’re thinking, how you feel. Don’t judge. Just be in the present moment, observing.
Keep a Journal. Writing helps you process what you’re thinking. It also connects you to yourself. Let your thoughts flow. Write down what you’re grateful for. Record your inner state. Write what your intentions are for yourself for the day.
Be a Good Listener. Don’t just hear other people. Be present. Pay attention to their emotions and body language. Understand and empathize, don’t judge. Listening to others will help you listen to yourself.
Ask for Feedback. Someone else’s perspective can help you clarify your own. Even biased or dishonest feedback can be useful if it helps you learn more about yourself.
Self-Awareness, Your Growth, and Your Success
Improving self-awareness means paying attention to your inner state, your thoughts, and your emotions. It matters for your personal growth and your success in life. Moreover, recognizing your blind spots and your personal biases will help prevent the mistakes that come from relying on these misleading beliefs.
Making the effort to become more self-aware will pay dividends in your personal and professional life. If you need help feeling successful, contact me for a free phone consultation.