Self-awareness. What is it? What does it do? Is it really that important? How can it provide you with a better life? All very good questions and the answers are to be found in this post. Learning how to increase self-awareness can really change your life for the better. Not convinced? That’s okay, read on and you will be!
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What is the meaning of self-awareness?
Self-awareness, fundamentally explained, is the realization and experience of your body and mind in its own existence. Yeah, let that one sink in for a while.
It’s one of the aspects of human consciousness and is about understanding your thoughts, behaviors, predispositions, etc. In other words, developing self-awareness is about understanding you and what makes you do the things you do and why.
So you might wonder, what’s the difference between self-awareness and self-consciousness. Well, when doing some research about the definitions, you won’t get a whole lot wiser. Some experts say this, others say that.
But in my experience, self-consciousness often has a negative connotation to it and is similar to external self-awareness. This is about your awareness of how others perceive you. Whereas internal self-awareness – the type of awareness this post will focus on – is often positively experience (but definitely not always, as we’ll dive into shortly).
You might have seen a show or read a piece somewhere, where people say they performed badly because they were self-conscious when performing. This is what I mean with the negative connotation.
Now for (internal) self-awareness; you might initially think that becoming self-aware is great. You’re now aware of yourself (right?). So that brings a lot of opportunities with it. Although it definitely does, I really want to highlight also that It’s not for everyone and could potentially hurt your psyche. I’ll explain how in the ‘what to look out for’ section later in this post.
So to summarize what self-awareness is: it’s learning to pay attention to your body and mind using the information it gives you about your thoughts, behaviors, predispositions, and other psychological factors that make you do the things you do.
Why you should learn how to increase self-awareness
”If learning how to increase self-awareness might hurt my psyche, why would I want to do it?”, I hear you asking. While it can be harmful for a specific group of people, the benefits can be absolutely life-changing. That’s what makes this ‘practice’ worth doing, or at least looking into.
There honestly are a lot of (potential) benefits to developing self-awareness. I’ll go into the benefits but first I think it’s important to tell you that becoming self-aware is all about improving your quality of life.
By understanding yourself, you’ll be better able to understand the world around you, since it’s formed based on your perception. So if you know where certain frames of mind come from, and how to possibly alter them, you’re in a very good position. A position that allows you to create the life you want and become truly happy with yourself and your life!
At the very least, that’s what self-awareness is to me as a big part of self-improvement. I’m sure you can relate to this to some degree and if not, I’d love to read your take on this in the comments below or on one of my social media channels!
Now, for the benefits of developing self-awareness… I’ll try to limit this to the most impactful ones and explain a bit as well.
1. Understanding your reaction and motivation
Becoming aware of your beliefs, values, emotions, needs, etc. – and your reaction to them – gives you a greater understanding of what you want in life.
This allows you to focus on the stuff that matters to you. Which, in return, enable you to tap into the Intrinsic Motivation you have for those activities.
It can also improve your decision-making, confidence and creativity, through this process!
2. Coping with stress
Nearly every aspect of life has some kind of stressful aspect to it for a lot of people. For good reason, because it indicates some sort of possible danger to us. The downside, however, is that we tend to experience more stress than is relatively necessary or fitting to the situation.
Developing self-awareness allows you to take a step back and see where the stress is coming from. You can then redefine the stress to a fitting amount having objectively looked at its cause and effect.
3. Improving your relationships
When you learn how to increase self-awareness, you’ll begin to see that you’re often blaming something or someone when you’re having a bad experience of any kind. When you’re blaming yourself or others, you’re not taking responsibility and this can have a bad influence on your relationships.
So by recognizing that change is in your hands and that there’s no one to blame, your relationships will improve!
I think these are the most important and impactful benefits, but they’re definitely not all! I actually think that nearly every aspect of life can be improved upon through learning how to increase self-awareness. Here are some more benefits:
- Improved communication
- Increased productivity and creativity
- More self-control
- Increased happiness
- Your ability to reflect, learn and grow improves, thus making you wiser and more skilled
How self-aware are you?
You’ll only really discover how self-aware you were by improving and looking back at your old beliefs and thought-patterns. Despite this, having a hard and critical look at yourself can grant you immediate insight as to how self-aware you are – in a general sense. This can give you a starting point from which to focus your efforts on developing self-awareness.
Look outside and you will see yourself. Look inside and you will find yourselfDrew Gerald
So how self-aware are you? Answer the following questions as honest as possible and you’ll get a general idea:
- How often do you criticize others (and yourself)? What is it you criticize most and why?
- To what extent are you living in the present? In other words: how often are you having worries about the future and regretting and/or missing the past?
- To what extent do you recognize your thoughts, behaviors, and prejudices as such? And are you able to recognize and identify the cause and effects of these factors?
- Do you take responsibility for things that happen to you without putting blame on, or judging, anyone (including yourself)?
- Are you able to confront yourself about the shame and fear you (might) have?
These are just a handful of questions to get you started and don’t represent an accurate test to assess your level of self-awareness. They will get you thinking in the right direction, though.
I strongly encourage you to ponder some more about topics that are similar to the questions I asked you here.
In my opinion, becoming self-aware is mostly a shift in mindset. These questions, and others you are going to ask yourself, help shift your mindset in more desirable ways.
If you’re serious about adopting positive and strong mindsets, I encourage you to check out the Social Mindset Mastery guide.
It teaches you how to rewire your brain by instilling five positive mindsets. It’s a powerful and clear guide of which I can personally say that it has changed my life! This guide has enabled me to slowly but surely begin to experience life more positively with regards to my attitudes (mindsets).
Click the link to check it out! Also, don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Would love to connect!
What to look out for when becoming self-aware
Life’s not all fun and games as you probably have realized. The same is true for developing self-awareness as it’s a big part of life when you start to dive into it. That’s the reason why we should be careful when trying to improve ourselves. There’s always the chance of digging yourself deeper when you’re not ready for certain changes.
So if you already have low self-esteem, you’re probably better off taking care of that before you focus on self-awareness. The same is true for people who are prone to overthinking and over-analyzing to a relatively high extent.
Becoming (self-)aware of the things in your mind and how these influence your life can make your self-esteem drop or make you overthink even more. You’ve got to be able to handle it before taking this on!
Sometimes you get confronted with very real and possibly scary things that you might need to deal with to truly go on with your life. Facing your demons is the toughest, but also the most defining thing you can do in your life. It builds character and often is a huge stepping stone for creating the life of your dreams!
How to increase self-awareness
With all these definitions, benefits, disclaimers, and the rest out of the way, let’s finally talk about how to increase your self-awareness.
To be honest, increasing how self-aware you are doesn’t have to be all that hard. You’ve just got to put in the time and make some of these methods a Habit. So how to increase self-awareness? Here are six ways!
My favorite way of developing self-awareness is through meditation. It not only increases your self-awareness, but it also helps to cultivate a bunch of other important life qualities. Happiness, gratitude, better cognition, stress reduction, and so on.
But how do you meditate for developing self-awareness? First, I’d recommend you do two half-hour sessions every day. One in the morning and one in the evening. I know not everyone can find the time to do both, but you should make the time to do one of these sessions.
If half an hour sounds like a hellish task, simply begin with 5 or 10 minutes and try to build your way up. Meditation is a practice and I hope that you know by now that, as such, it can be trained to improve. This means that you might suck at the beginning (whatever that means in terms of meditation) but with practice, you’ll get there!
What does the meditation session look like? Well, you can go about this in so many different ways and I’ve explained two of them in this post about Mindfulness.
The most important thing is that you begin to practice and focus on awareness. Don’t be too worried about doing it right. Just make sure that you’re stepping away from any ideas, your inner dialogue, judgment, or anything alike. Simply observe and let whatever comes to mind go in a peaceful manner. Then, meditation will naturally increase your self-awareness over time.
Another great way for increasing self-awareness is journaling or simply writing. You can do this in a variety of ways as well but I’ll recommend just one, to keep it simple.
Get in a relatively comfortable mood, you shouldn’t be overly stressed or experiencing an overwhelm of emotions. If you are overly stressed or overwhelmed by something, you can still journal, but then it wouldn’t be as much for self-awareness but more for stress relief or relaxation.
Grab a pen and paper (don’t type, writing is more effective) and set a time. 5-10 minutes for example. Start writing down everything that comes to mind. Make sure that you do not stop writing until your time is over.
This is a method that I’ve come across in several books and guides and it holds more power than you might initially think! Think of it as a brain dump. After you’ve emptied your brain on paper you can read back and try to discover common patterns in your thoughts and beliefs.
Also, try to do this daily or at least three times a week. It will definitely help you to become more self-aware!
This method can be done by simply asking yourself a bunch of questions. It’s helpful if the questions actually have something to do with yourself, though. Some example questions you could ask yourself:
- Who am I now and who do I want to be in X years? (you can ask this question in a general sense, but also for specific areas of your life; relationships, career, health, etc.)
- What is most important to me?
- Am I acting in line with my values?
- How am I perceived by others?
- What am I not doing and why?
I hope this gives you a good idea of what kind of questions to ask yourself. I encourage you to make your own list of questions and periodically answer them so you can compare the answers and see where you stand.
Periodically could be once every month or quarter for one specific list, but you can also do it once a year as a big round-up review of your own thoughts and beliefs!
4. Asking for feedback:
We all have blind spots in our thinking about ourselves and about our behaviors and so on. An effective way to counter this is to simply ask for feedback or otherwise have someone to hold you Accountable for what you do.
Ask people who you know are going to be (sometimes brutally) honest with you. Let them tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. Also, be sure that you’re able to receive this kind of feedback so you won’t jump into a defensive mode when being confronted with it. It’s not all fun and games, remember that!
Ask for feedback multiple times, preferably periodically as well, and to multiple people. This will increase your chances of becoming more self-aware!
Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.Frank A. Clark
5. Doing personality tests:
I see this as comparable to asking for feedback. Only now it’s back to an individual level. While I think the other methods offer more than doing personality tests, this is always good to keep in the back of your mind as an additional activity for increasing self-awareness, not as a fundamental one.
There are a buttload of personality tests out there, both free and paid. I cannot advise you on these, but as always, I encourage you to do your own digging to find what suits you best!
Reflect upon the outcomes of these tests and decide for yourself if it’s accurate or not. And if not, why does the test show this? Run through it with someone that knows you well and come to new insights!
6. Professional help/counseling:
Working with a professional such as a coach, for example, is valuable for EVERYONE. There doesn’t necessarily have to be something wrong with you to call in help. Actually, there’s something wrong with all of us, so we should all get help! We’re humans after all, which means we’re not perfect and we can’t do everything by ourselves.
There’s enough reason for everyone to ‘justify’ working with a coach, psychologist, counselor, or any other professional of similar types. So if you’re having a hard time developing self-awareness, why not have someone help you with it? There’s enough reason to do so for the simple fact that you want to improve certain aspects of your life!
Specific to developing self-awareness I’d recommend a life coach of sorts or possibly a metaphysical practitioner to help you out. A psychologist could also be a good option, but always make sure to have done your research on the person you’re going to see. Always!
That’s it! You now have a good starting point and know how to increase self-awareness. Practice diligently and, over time, you will begin to see results. A shift in mindset, better ways of thinking, letting go of old habits, it can all happen!
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I wish you all the best!