What exactly does it mean to have self-awareness? Why is it so important as a character trait? How does one cultivate self-awareness?
I have worked very diligently over the last decade to cultivate my own self-awareness. I am still learning. I am still growing. I have become more self-aware as I realize my place in the world.
“Self-awareness is how an individual consciously knows and understands their own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” (Wikipedia)
“In effect, self-awareness is the recognition of one’s own emotional state at any given point in time,” says John Duffy, a clinical psychologist, and author. “The argument suggests that we are, far too often, wholly unaware of the emotional state we are currently in, and the degree to which that state influences our behavior and thought process. To the degree that we can manage our emotional states, we are better able to manage these other elements of our lives as well.” (Dr. John Duffy)
Self-awareness can also be the ability to look at your own actions and words from a perspective that is outside of yourself, to be able to see yourself as others actually see you.
Self-awareness brings the world in for assessment against one’s own feelings and behaviors. It requires the ability to actually think about what you are thinking
We often tend to think we’re self-aware, but WE ARE NOT!
I believe that we are often wrong about how self-aware we truly are.
A lot of people feel that they know and understand themselves better than they actually do. People may even avoid building up self-awareness because it requires looking at oneself with complete honesty. When we get that real with ourselves it can bring up feelings of shame. No wonder so many people keep the self-awareness work on the back burner and just choose to judge and comment on other people’s lives and problems instead of dealing with their own.
Self-awareness is an essential practice to cultivate. It is a key component to truly living a fulfilling life. Lack of self-awareness keeps us from successfully navigating our future challenges.
Here are some tips to cultivating your self-awareness.
1. Let your defensive walls come down.
When we initially see something we don’t like about ourselves, our knee-jerk reaction might be to put up a wall around it and defend ourselves from it. This is why self-awareness can be so challenging. It’s often hard to face who we really are with complete honesty.
Do your best to let go of the self-judgment and the primordial desire to protect yourself. You have to be willing to see yourself in a less-than-positive light. Self-awareness develops when you are willing to let go of defensiveness and be open to seeing yourself in a way that is different than how you have ever looked at yourself.
2. Delve in to who you REALLY are.
In order to be self-aware, one needs to be really curious about themselves. Every person has paths that are there for them to explore. Some paths are straight lines while others are full of turns and switchbacks. Some people are willing to walk down some paths but not others. When we are curious about exploring all the paths that lead to learning about ourselves, we open ourselves up to a deeper understanding of who we truly are.
3. Keep a journal of what brings up negative and positive feelings.
Journaling is an amazing tool to begin developing mindfulness and awareness of the self. As you are journaling, pay attention to your day. Literally, ask yourself how you are feeling. Note what may have caused any negative feelings to have surfaced. Then think about and write down what made you feel happy or positive.
4. Get out and be with people and ask them how they “see” you.
We need face-to-face contact with other people. We have to have reflections to develop our sense of self in relation to other people. We can miss this essential human mirroring if we are isolating and spending too much time on screened devices instead of spending time with other humans.
Use this face-to-face time to actually ask people we care about how they see us. Getting someone else’s perspective on our behaviors helps bring awareness to areas of our lives that may be invisible to us.
5. Keep investigating and learning about yourself and others.
There is a ton of knowledge out there that you can research on self-awareness and mindfulness. Don’t stop learning. We keep uncovering more and more layers of ourselves as we develop and grow. Self-awareness will help all of your interactions with others and keep you looking at situations from a 3rd party perspective. This is extremely important when someone is sharing something vulnerable with you. They don’t need your advice, they need you to look at it from afar, as an outsider, just as you have along your path to self-awareness.
Hold the space for yourself to discover who you really are and hold the space for others to be exactly who they are.
We don’t know what we don’t know until we learn it.
Sending lots of love. ~Heidi