Have you ever had a moment in your life where you did something so completely out-of-character that you’re shaken up by it? Maybe you said something thoughtless, did something selfish or made a mistake you never thought you would make.
Each one of us (rightly) thinks that we know ourselves pretty well. After all, who could know you better than… well, you? But according to a study done by organizational psychologist and executive coach Tasha Eurich, only about 10-15% of people are truly self-aware.
But what is self-awareness? How can it benefit you? And how do you start down the road to becoming a more self-aware person?
What is Self-Awareness?
There are two aspects of self-awareness that you should know about, internal and external. Internal self-awareness means understanding your own values, standards, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and motivations. It involves being able to evaluate your thoughts and actions to make sure they align with “who you are” or, in some cases, who you want to be. This type of self-awareness requires an uncomfortable (and sometimes painful) degree of honesty that most of us subconsciously cringe away from.
Marriage and family therapist Amy McManus defines external self-awareness this way, “The ability to look at your own words and actions from a perspective outside of yourself; to see yourself as others see you.” This can be pretty uncomfortable too. Other people often observe things about us that are mental “blind spots” for us. When a friend points out one of our blind spots, our gut reaction might be to shout, “I don’t do that!” And not even allow ourselves to consider the possibility that they might be right.
So if self-awareness can be awkward, uncomfortable, and even painful, why pursue it at all?
The Benefits of Self-Awareness
Becoming more self-aware might seem scary, but the benefits completely outweigh any discomfort you might feel. Here are just a few of them.
- Decreased anxiety
- Greater self-confidence
- More compassion
- Better listening skills
- Deeper and more meaningful relationships
- Increased happiness
- Expanding your creativity
- More success at your job
- Reaching more of your goals
Do you want these benefits for yourself? Let’s see how you can get started.
Self-Awareness Begins with Introspection
Self-awareness means thinking about, understanding, and contemplating your internal landscape. And introspection is the door that gets you there. The American Psychologist Association defines it this way: “The process of attempting to directly access one’s own internal psychological processes, judgments, perceptions, or states.” So how do you get direct access to your internal self? How do you open that door?
According to Tasha Eurich, we should ask ourselves the right kind of questions. Her research suggests that we should ask what not why. Why questions often cause us to fixate on the problem and view ourselves as a victim instead of dealing with it in a healthy way. I.e. “Why is this happening to me?” “Why am I feeling this way?” These kinds of questions can lead to a roller coaster of emotional responses that make us feel worse instead of better.
So, what are some healthier questions to ask ourselves?
- What am I feeling?
- What’s another perspective on this situation?
- What can I do to respond better?
What questions are solution-focused. They help us identify our emotions clearly. And they help us understand what we can do right now to make our situation better.
The Value of Having a Growth Mindset
So, we understand the benefits of self-awareness and how to get started. But how do we get past the discomfort and pain of confronting our own thoughts and feelings? Well, it’s easy to get into the perfectionist mindset. We have high standards for ourselves and that’s good!
But at times we won’t meet those standards. Instead of being crushed under the weight of “who we should be,” it’s healthier to see our shortcomings as opportunities to grow. A growth mindset will allow us to become better people every day and enjoy the road to getting there.
Do you want to become more self-aware? Then start with introspection, ask the right questions, and develop a growth mindset. The more you practice self-awareness, the less anxious, more successful, and all-around happier you’ll be.
Self-reflection, introspection, and analysis will help you learn a lot about you. You will learn why you do the things you do and what it means about where you are.
Whether you are at your happiest or lowest point, there is a place for introspection. Don’t you want to know where your emotions are coming from? What is guiding you? You can’t grow as a person until you take time to pause, reflect, introspect, analyze, and move forward.
I’d suggest you start by sitting down with a blank piece of paper and writing about how you’re feeling. Do this without allowing your mind to shift into the blame game or without slipping into negativity. I want you to reflect on what you’re feeling non-judgmentally so you can get to grips with what’s going on.
It might not sound like much, but it’s a start and it should put things in a different light. You will uncover truths that you had never before realized, both positives and negatives. You might realize you love your job, but the commute is driving you insane.