What is Self-Awareness? (and how you develop it)

“People need to know that they have all the tools within themselves. Self-awareness, which means awareness of their body, awareness of their mental space, awareness of their relationships – not only with each other, but with life and the ecosystem.” —Deepak Chopra

Self-awareness seems to have become the latest buzzword in both personal and leadership development.  And this is really good news!  Recent research suggests that when we understand ourselves, really see ourselves, we are more confident and creative.  We make better decisions, cultivate stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively.  We’re better at our jobs and get more promotions. We’re more effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies.   Unfortunately though, research on this subject suggests that 95% of people think they are self-aware, while only 10-15% actually are.

In my last post, I discussed the four components of emotional intelligence, and having and cultivating self-awareness is one of the four components of emotional intelligence (EQ).  As simple as it sounds though, it is a skill requires our undivided attention, time and patience to develop and practice.  While feeling happy is great, knowing why you feel happy and what caused you to be happy is an indicator of a person who is self-aware.  When we’re equipped with this self-awareness, we become better at cultivating more of what invigorates us in our lives, while eliminating, minimizing, or effectively navigate those circumstances that don’t.

Knowing why you’re feeling the way you are in any given situation requires each of us to pay attention. While we are generally aware and pay attention to all the external events in our lives, sometimes we often neglect to observe ourselves. We often don’t’ explore why we see what we see or why we feel what we feel.

More specifically, having self-awareness  involves:

  • Being able to observe ourselves, accept and recognize what we discover and be honest about how we feel, why we act certain ways in particular situations, and the change that we may need to take.
  • It is being able to pay attention and be honest about our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations, and emotions. When we choose this approach, we choose to welcome a life of quality, fulfillment, and contentment.

What self-awareness isn’t

To further understand self-awareness, I find it helpful to look at what it isn’t:

  • Being passive aggressive
  • Being controlling
  • Blaming others
  • Being defensive
  • Unconscious behavior changes

In other words, not being self-aware involves not noticing how our behavior adversely affects those around us and how it can sabotage the relationships we are trying to build.

Benefits of having self-awareness

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung

  1. You let go of things that don’t serve you.

Letting go of things that no longer serve you is easier once you understand their negative effects.  Thus, they become less desirable.  This makes your ambitions, dreams, and goals much easier and more clearer.

  1. Become more at peace with yourself

When you take the time to listen to how you are feeling and investigate why you are feeling what you are, you become more in tune with your most authentic self. You begin the journey of searching out what piques your curiosity and thus gravitate toward moments that will cultivate more peace and harmony in your life.

  1. Become better able to communicate with clarity

By understanding yourself, especially the “why”, you can clearly communicate with others your joy, your sadness, your frustration, your hopes. And when you speak clearly, others who truly are listening will come to know who you truly are.

  1. Decision making is simplified

Knowing what you want is the most significant part to making the best decision. And when we finally discover what we want, we can say no quickly to the rest.

  1. Clear purpose and direction

While we can always appreciate different paths that others take, when we know the direction we need to take and why we are on it, it is easier to stay focused and not stray.

  1. An enriched life experience

Key to reaching self-awareness is getting clear on your why. Magnificent power is given to each of us when we answer with clarity the “why”. When knowing what enlivens us, what makes us shrink in fear or what peaks our curiosity, we can then seek out what will enrich us, what will heighten our experience and thus what will enrich our lives.

  1. Find true fulfillment and contentment

Living an enriched life is discovering what fulfillment and contentment are. Being fully present in the moment, in the lives we have created for ourselves and wanting to be there, and then having the chance to experience this similar moment every day in varying degrees is to attain fulfillment. We can only do that if we are honest with ourselves about what we feel and why in any given situation.

  1. Optimism rises

Optimism will rise as we begin to see evidence that applying what we learn about ourselves to life truly does lead us down a path that enlivens our lives. And when we see a fulfilling life is possible, we begin to believe again that life can be a truly amazing gift.

  1. Reduction of guilt and regrets

Due to the ability to make better decisions, the guilt and the regrets are diminished. When we confidently make decisions, being aware of how we feel and how our decision will effect others, we know the outcome, by and large, before we leap. Once we leap we accept that not everyone will applaud, but we won’t regret it and we will be able to let go of judgment from others as we own our decision.

  1. Improve relationships

Self-awareness is a key component of having emotional intelligence, and as was discussed here, developing our EQ improves our relationships because we are cognizant of our actions and how they affect those around us, and we know how to handle ourselves effectively as we can observe accurately what we feel and why.

  1. You become more self-confident!

A healthy balance of self-confidence and humility is the most attractive quality a person can have.  Striving to be your best and most self-confidence self inspires and enhances the lives of others in your life.

How to develop self-awareness:

“Every human has four endowments – self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… the power to choose, to respond, to change.” —Stephen Covey

  • Accept the responsibility of changing responses and behaviors to external stimuli: people, situations, life.
  • Reflect on the outcome in each situation and contemplate your role. Pause and examine everything quietly before you judge yourself and others.
  • Become curious about yourself. Be eager to learn new things about life and yourself in general.
  • Practice self-care, including your physical and emotional health
  • Develop high emotional intelligence
  • Change your mindset. Turn off the old mental chatter that continues to explain and justify everything in your life in the exact same way.

Seeking to develop these soft skills and personal attributes will not only enhance our life, but of those lives around us.  They enable us to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.  At times however, the process to become more self-aware will be uncomfortable, but the unease and discomfort is normal, but temporary if you stick with it.   The reward is an enriched, quality life.

Photo by Leah Kelley from Pexels

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