In today’s interconnected world, we can easily use our smartphones to communicate with dozens of people every day. Yet, we spend very little time with the person who is most important for our lives and well being: ourselves.
Developing self awareness can help us connect with ourselves and grow as individuals.
But what is self awareness?
Before we start, let’s make sure we understand what we are talking about.
Developing self awareness is basically getting to know yourself better. Being aware of body, mind, and what is going on with them. It involves, among other things, understanding:
- how you think and feel in different situations,
- your motivations for doing what you do,
- how you respond to things that happen to you,
- how you deal with the different people you interact with,
- the best way to recover from crisis and difficult moments,
- among others.
In short, a self aware person has a good understanding of how his or her mind and body works, and how they are affected by the people, things and events that happen around you.
However, being self aware is not always easy.
But wait, shouldn’t I know a lot about myself just by being… well, just by being me??
That is a good question!
Don’t we already know ourselves?
It feels like just by being ourselves we should automatically understand a lot about who we are, right?
But that is not always true! As we mentioned before, we actually spend very little time trying to learn more about ourselves and investigating what we do, think and feel.
And there are different reasons for that:
- People in general have very short attention span, and we are constantly looking for distractions that take our attention away from important things (including us)
- Most people spend their day-to-day lives in an “autopilot mode”. We think and feel in response to what happens to us, but only rarely stop to pay attention to how we are actually responding to our environment. Even less often we ask ourselves if it makes sense to be feeling in a certain way, and if there’s anything we can do to change that.
- We are highly biased when it comes to ourselves. Some people will think very highly of themselves: they’re always right, no matter what. Other are the opposite, and will think they’re always wrong and inappropriate. Very few people will actually think critically about themselves and how they are interacting with others.
- We are all averse to pain, and will usually avoid analyzing ourselves and our actions if that means dealing with uncomfortable bits of our personality, admitting mistakes or facing our limitations.
And the list could continue!
As you can see, there are many common habits and behaviors that prevent us from being more self aware.
But is it something we should care about? Is it really worth it making an effort to becoming developing self awareness?
We think it is, and we’ll show you why!
Consequences of low self awareness
The fact that most people have low self awareness basically means that they don’t know themselves very well.
This can create difficulties related to:
- Identifying and understanding emotions and thoughts
- Dealing with the same emotions and thoughts in a mature way
- Understanding what drives and motivates them
- Understanding what generates frustration or stress,
And this, in turn can lead to consequences including:
- Difficulty to understand other people and their motivations,
- Increased stress in relationships, as we put unnecessary emotional load on our partners,
- Blaming ourselves for things we have no guilt or responsibility for,
- Not taking responsibility when we should
All of which generates stress and anxiety, and makes it much, much harder for us to promote positive changes in our lives.
After all, how can we develop ourselves if we don’t know ourselves first?
A quick example
It might sound surprising, but quite often we don’t know exactly what we are feeling.
Are we stressed? Angry? Tired? A bit of everything? And knowing how to identify and separate each of these can actually make a big difference in our relationships and wellbeing!
Imagine that we know we are more likely to be angry when we are tired or hungry.
Just by knowing that, we can avoid unnecessary fights with our family, friends and partners. Whenever a discussion starts and you realize you are hungry or tired, stop immediately and say: “Listen, I understand what you are saying, and I’d love to continue talking, but I am very hungry/ tired now, and that is putting me in a terrible mood. Can we continue this conversation after dinner/ in the morning?”
Very simple, all it takes is knowing yourself a bit and acting based on that knowledge. And the result is avoiding A LOT of head- (and heart!) ache!
One more example
In the same scenario , did you notice that we suggest a calm and polite answer even though you’re in the middle of an argument? Does that seem unrealistic to you? Well, it doesn’t have to be!
Being more self aware allows you to separate emotions and thoughts from actions. Just because you feel angry doesn’t mean you have to act aggressively. You can identify what you are feeling but consciously decide to act in a different way that you think is more appropriate.
Sure, it takes some practice and effort to start doing that, but at some point it becomes a natural reaction.
This is an essential skill in emotional intelligence and is a consequence of increasing self awareness. There are practices that can help you develop this skill, and we’ll talk about them in the end of the post.
Benefits of knowing yourself
But this was just one of the outcomes of being more self aware, and there are many, many more!
So what are the benefits then of developing self awareness? Just to name a few:
- Better understanding of your feelings and emotions
- It becomes easier to define meaningful values and goals for yourself
- Improved emotional balance, which:
- Leads to healthier relationships
- Allows you choose how to react to your emotions and thoughts
- Improved emotional balance, which:
- Better understanding of your motivations, and how to use them to get things done
- Improved ability to deal with the inevitable hardships of life
Basically, developing self awareness will allow you to develop a more proactive posture in life.
Being aware of ourselves allows us to understand how we interact and respond to our world, including people, objects and situations around us. If you stop to see what you are thinking and what you are feeling, you can decide how you want to react to them, instead of being forced into reactions over which you don’t have any control.
The reality is that we can’t always control the things that happen to us in life, but you can choose to react to those things in the best possible way.
Self awareness is the base for a well balanced life, and its benefits actually go beyond the personal sphere, extending into our professional lives. It has been shown, for example, to be one of the strongest predictors of success among executives is… you guessed it: self awareness!
So now that we understand the benefits of becoming more self aware, how can we do that?
How to develop self awareness
By now we know that developing self awareness is, without a doubt, a key concept for any journey of self development.
So, how do we do it?
As always, practice is the key. You can read as much as you want about self awareness and personal development, but without taking action and putting some of that theory into practice it will be very hard to see any results.
And luckily, there are several habits and practices which help you increase your self awareness.
We already have a couple of suggested practices to get you started, but don’t worry: we will still add many more! (So remember to come back to see what’s new!)
Let’s get to work: