Self-awareness is the key to personal development. Without it, you will never know what areas of your life need improvement. You may be stuck in a job you hate or in a relationship that no longer serves you. You may not even know why you feel unhappy or unfulfilled. If you want to start making positive changes in your life, you first need to know yourself. In this article, we will discuss the importance of self-awareness and how to go about developing it.
Types of Self-Awareness
There are two distinct types of self-awareness: public and private.
Public self-awareness is knowing how we can appear to other people. Because of this consciousness (or awareness), we are more likely to follow social norms and behave in socially appropriate ways. While there are benefits of being aware of your body language, there is also the risk of becoming too conscious of yourself. People who are extremely high in this trait may spend too long worrying about what others think about them.
Private self-awareness is having the ability to notice and reflect upon one’s internal states. Those who have private self-awareness approach their emotions and reactions with curiosity. For example, you might notice yourself tensing up before an important meeting. Being aware of your own physical feelings and correctly attributing them as anxiety about the meeting would count as private self-awareness. When self-awareness becomes self-consciousness, people become hesitant to share certain aspects of themselves.
The Benefits of Self-Knowledge
Research by Tasha Eurich indicates that when we look inward, we can clarify our values, thoughts, feelings, behaviours, strengths, and weaknesses. We are able to recognize the effect that we have on others. Her research also found that people with self-awareness are happier and have better relationships. They experience a sense of personal and social control as well as higher job satisfaction. When we look outward, we understand how people view us. People who are aware of how people see them are more likely to be empathetic to people with different perspectives.
The benefits of self-knowledge include:
- It helps us to be more effective decision makers.
- It makes us feel more confident, which means we can communicate with clarity, and we can express our intentions clearly.
- It helps us free ourselves from our assumptions and biases.
- It gives us a better ability to control our emotions.
- It decreases stress and makes us happier
Why most of us don’t have self-knowledge
According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, “Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make better decisions, build stronger relationships and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal in our daily life.”
What are some of causes of lack of self awareness? People fail to observe and understand themselves because they don’t know how to. They fail to understand their interactions with others and the effects of their actions because they don’t know where to look.
“According to our research,” says organizational psychologist and researcher Tasha Eurich, “with thousands of people from all around the world, 95% of people believe that they’re self-aware, but only about 10 to 15% really are.” She cites three reasons for this misconception. The first reason is that we naturally have blind spots. We are wired to operate on autopilot, unaware of how we’re behaving externally or internally. Secondly we tend to be happier when we look at ourselves in a more positive way. She calls the last element the “cult of myself,” the idea we’ve become increasingly self-centred as social media has grown in popularity.
Fear is holding us back
Something that stops us from having a deeper self-knowledge and awareness in our daily life, is fear. Here are a few examples of what people fear in their daily life, that holds them back from being the type of person they assume they are.
Fear of being vulnerable
Self-awareness is an important personal trait that helps people grow and develop. Those who aren’t self-aware are afraid of being vulnerable.
They are concerned that they will be judged negatively by others, which makes them feel self-conscious and unable to express themselves. Because they’re so busy focusing on their own lives and their own needs, they have trouble tuning into the needs of others and genuinely connecting with the friends and family around them. Which, in turn, makes them question their self-worth.
Fear of change
Change is scary. We’re creatures of habit, and we often shy away from positive changes in our lives because we’re afraid of the unknown. We tend to focus on our strengths and overlook our weaknesses. Every time we have an experience that changes our perspective, we learn things about our self that we didn’t realize before.
But we shouldn’t be scared because change is unavoidable, and we can control our reactions if we look inside ourselves and become more self aware.
Fear of the truth
Humans seem to be naturally hard wired with the reluctance to look in mirrors because they might immediately see something they don’t want to see about themselves. People are afraid of looking even if they know there is nothing wrong. It’s the idea that there ‘could’ be something.
They may also be feared of whole-heartily looking at themselves and becoming more self-conscious. Then this is turn may make them decide to change something.
Fear of being wrong
Humility is underrated. Sure, it seems like a good idea at first, but we can’t know for sure if it’s actually worth anything until things go wrong. But sometimes, things don’t go right, and we never want anyone to know. This leads to us not being able to be honest with ourselves because instead of seeing ourselves as we really are, we put on a false persona so that others would believe how great we are and they wouldn’t notice our faults.
People fear being self conscious because it means admitting and acknowledging their mistakes. It also implies that change is required. Essentially, it can be uncomfortable. It’s easier to ignore the problem and pretend everything is fine. However, if you refuse to accept what is wrong with yourself, you will never be capable of developing a positive relationship with others, and it will hurt you and them in the long run.
What’s your personality?
Key areas for self awareness include our personality traits, values, habits, emotions and the psychological needs that motivate our behaviour. We usually don’t alter our personalities, values, or needs based on how we are but rather what happens around us. So, an understanding of our personality traits can help us identify situations where we will be able to thrive, and help us identify situations where too much stress might occur. For example, if you’re an introvert, you might experience more stress in a job where you need to be outgoing than someone who is more extroverted. So, if you are highly introverted, you should either learn skills to cope with the demands of the situation that requires extravert-type behaviour patterns, or you should find a position that is more compatible with your personality. Awareness of your personality helps you analyse decisions to achieve career success or your dreams in life. Having strong self-knowledge allows you to follow the career path you want while also understanding your own personality and what you are capable of in a healthy period of time.
Your level of self awareness deeply affects your worldview. If you think that the world is a dangerous place where people can’t be trusted or want to hurt you, then you’ll live your life in a certain way. On the other hand, if you see the world as one where people can be trusted, then you’ll behave differently. Your worldview colours everything that you do in life and can lead you down a certain road which can be beneficial or detrimental.
To improve your self-awareness and enjoyment of life, take some time asking yourself where your assumptions about life come from. Identify the beliefs that keep you from living in a happier way and take action to shift these beliefs in a more positive direction For example, if you think that you can’t talk to someone, consciously decide to give them the benefit of doubt and communicate with them so they can connect with you. It takes deliberate effort to shift your worldview, but it can help you lead a much more meaningful life. What will you do to create a positive worldview and in turn work towards your dreams in life?
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the best way to know yourself?
This is a hard question, and there is no general answer. It is an individual answer that is different for everyone. Take a minute to self-reflect and think about your personality and what is hindering you from your desired career path and having strong self-knowledge.
How can I treat myself better?
This is easier said than done when you have your unconscious mind being your inner critic, but try to silence it and acknowledge your achievements, follow your passions and give yourself optimal time in order to get there. Its all about perspective, give your self time to rest and don’t be too hard on yourself.
What does the VITALS acronym stand for?
Six key elements of self-knowledge are found in the acronym VITALS and it stands for: Values, Interests, Temperament, Activities, Life Mission, and Strengths.
MindOwl Founder – My own struggles in life have led me to this path of understanding the human condition. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy before completing a master’s degree in psychology at Regent’s University London. I then completed a postgraduate diploma in philosophical counselling before being trained in ACT (Acceptance and commitment therapy).
I’ve spent the last eight years studying the encounter of meditative practices with modern psychology.