Initially, the concept or idea of ‘self-awareness’ to some can appear rather gushing and elusive, in which case can present as holding little value. Especially if you already feel that you are not lost and have an idea of who you are already.
However, having a true conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings is a very different ability altogether. And until we are truly tested through life events, experiences, situations and challenges then many of us don’t really know how we will react, cope and protect ourselves.
Many people can often be wrapped up in busy schedules, placing all of their energies into frantic family lifestyles, professional careers or both! If this sounds like you then true self-awareness may be reduced. This ability of self-awareness is what you notice in life, what you pay attention to and what information do you gather about the world around you. Are you moving through life as it happens, reacting and responding to external stimuli on a daily basis? Or are you truly experiencing life for all its worth?!
A good example of such is your drive to work this morning. Have you ever experience a drive to work, or anywhere for that matter and you arrive at your destination with no real recollection of the journey; can you remember the traffic lights you went through or the turns you made, whether you indicated or not, remember a particular song on the radio and so forth. You may well have arrived at your destination guided by total autopilot. Being more self-aware can improve your experiences and develop you cognitively and emotionally.
The Many Benefits
There are many benefits to becoming more self-aware, in recent years research states that higher levels of self-awareness are linked with personal development, healthy relationships, and effective leadership.
Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence, with self-awareness being made up of emotional awareness, true self-assessment and self-confidence. Understanding these elements can transcend your understanding of emotions, your personal strengths and weaknesses, and having a strong sense of your own worth. According to Daniel Goleman, emotional self-awareness is a leadership competency that shows up consistency throughout research. These life leaders are attuned to their inner signals, recognizing how their feelings affect them and their daily functioning (1).
Developing your self-awareness means evolving your own understanding of personal needs, aspirations, limitations and patterns of behaviour. The more you understand yourself the more opportunities you have to adapt to life’s changes and challenges. Improved self-awareness allows you to collect information, data and facts about yourself which can be used to make personal improvements based on that information.
The more you pay attention to your emotions, how you tick and the data you gather on yourself, the better you’ll understand why you do the things you do and think the things you think. The more you know about your own habits and behaviour patterns the smoother the process is to amend these habits and improve them. Exposing yourself to change, and allowing yourself the opportunity to do things differently will create the most positive impact; this can take some experimentation to see what works for you.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your own feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
The art of mindfulness stems from not ignoring your feelings but instead exploring them. Acknowledging your state of mind, or physical presence whether it is restlessness, fatigue, exhaustion, overthinking, anxiety and so on requires being in the here and now. Providing time and space to identify and accept these feelings requires awareness. So mindfulness and awareness always complement each other. Mindfulness is the process of relating with individual situations directly, precisely and definitely. Mindfulness and awareness work together to bring acceptance to your living situations and experiences as they truly are. Life situations and events are the food of awareness and being mindful; we cannot adapt and evolve as individuals without the depressions and excitements that go on in our lives. In which case, it can be strongly advised to stop ignoring your thoughts and feelings as they will never sincerely disappear. Alternatively, do start exploring them and being more mindful through a practice of self-awareness.
Practice Makes Perfect
Knowing our true selves is difficult, there is the person we think we are, the person others think you are and the person you truly are. This true self is only deeply discovered during real experiences where our character and inner belief systems are robustly tested. Making a start towards developing your self-awareness is a step in the right direction, here’s’ how to begin.
- Plan – Creating your own plan creates accountability. The whole purpose of self-awareness is self-improvement! So within this plan, you can set goals, wants and desires. That way an emphasis on change can be laid out in front of you and from these strategies can evolve a programme for self-improvement.
- Diary – Keeping a diary allows you to review and adapt your journey, your plan and more importantly your progress. Keeping a note of your thoughts, behaviours, changes, sleep patterns and so forth is a great way to make you more aware of what you’re doing and where problems might be coming from. A diary gives you a starting point, so over time, you are able to review and evaluate your progress from a point of reference. Just like an exercise programme a diary is a crucial element of evaluating progress and limitations, allowing you to make the necessary adjustments to improve.
- Be Brave – Use the support network of your most trusted friends and family to develop a review of yourself. This could be at your workplace with your boss or colleagues regarding your performances or a more personal review at home. Ask others for feedback, or trusted friends to describe you, explain that you are looking for open, honest, critical and objective perspectives to help with your personal development. We have to listen to the feedback of our peers, friends and family members to enable us to look deeper into the ‘honest mirror’. From here we can increase our self-awareness and emotional intelligence moving forward.
Through my personal experiences, I have always held a strong interest in human suffering and satisfaction; this greatly influenced my career path. 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.