What Does Self-Awareness Mean? (And How to Increase Yours)

Do you want to be happier, have more influence, be a better decision-maker, and be a more effective leader? Self-awareness, then, is the most important muscle you need to develop. It’s what will keep you on target to be the best version of yourself and the best leader you can be.

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness, it turns out, may mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask.

In this post, we’ll look at what self-awareness really means, why it’s so important to everyone, and what you can do to improve your self-awareness so you can have a happier and more successful life.

Getting in touch with, and then comprehending, your thoughts and feelings could be the first step toward self-awareness. For some, this may include connecting with your deepest beliefs and values and then living a life that reflects those values.

Self-awareness is the knowledge of one’s strengths, shortcomings, personality types, and leadership styles for those who are more focused on professional development.

According to Google’s Dictionary, self-awareness is:

“Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.”

According to Psychology Today, self-awareness:

“involves monitoring our inner worlds, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It is important because it’s a major mechanism influencing personal development.”

Daniel Goleman’s concept of Emotional Intelligence (a.k.a. EQ or EI) and self-awareness has taken the globe by storm since the publication of his book Emotional Intelligence in 1995. As you can see, there are many different interpretations, definitions, and meanings.

In my opinion, the two major questions are:

1) Why is self-awareness so important?

2) How can we become more self-aware in our daily lives.

Those are the two questions we’ll be discussing today.

Two states of self-awareness

There are two distinct kinds of self-awareness, public and private.

Public self-awareness

Being aware of how we can appear to others. Because of this consciousness, we are more likely to adhere to social norms and behave in ways that are socially acceptable.

While there are benefits to this type of awareness, there is also the danger of tipping into self-consciousness. Those who are especially high in this trait may spend too much time worrying about what others think of them. 

Private self-awarenes

Being able to notice and reflect on one’s internal state. Those who have private self-awareness are introspective, approaching their feelings and reactions with curiosity.

For example, you may notice yourself tensing up as you are preparing for an important meeting. Noticing the physical sensations and correctly attributing them to your anxiety about the meeting would be an example of private self-awareness.

When self-awareness tips into self-consciousness, we are reluctant to share certain aspects of ourselves. We develop a persona that lacks authenticity.

Benefits of self-awareness:

  • It gives us the power to influence outcomes
  • It helps us to become better decision-makers It gives us more self-confidence — so, as a result, we communicate with clarity and intention
  • It allows us to understand things from multiple perspectives
  • It frees us from our assumptions and biases
  • It helps us build better relationships
  • It gives us a greater ability to regulate our emotions
  • It decreases stress
  • It makes us happier

What’s the self-awareness gap?

Self-awareness is a staple in contemporary leadership jargon. Although many leaders will brag about how self-aware they are, only 10 to 15 percent of the population fit the criteria.

Many of us grew up with the message that you should not show your emotions, so we attempt to ignore or suppress them. With negative emotions, that doesn’t go very well for us.

We either internalize them (resulting in anger, resentment, depression, and resignation) or we externalize them and blame, discount, or bully others.

Lack of self-awareness can be a significant handicap in leadership. A study conducted by Adam D. Galinsky and colleagues at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management found that often, as executives climb the corporate ladder, they become more self-assured and confident.

On the downside, they tend to become more self-absorbed and less likely to consider the perspectives of others. 

In a separate study, Canadian researchers looked at brain activity in people who are in positions of power. They found physiological evidence to conclude that as power increases, the ability to empathize with others decreases.

They become less able to consider the needs and perspectives of others. Fundamentally these leaders don’t think they need to change and instead require a change from everyone else.

Why Does Self-Awareness Matter?

72 executives from public and private companies with revenues ranging from $50 million to $5 billion were analyzed in a study conducted by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University. The findings of the study are as follows:

“Self-aware leaders who are especially excellent at interacting with individuals and in teams are the CEOs most likely to generate good bottom-line results.” “A high self-awareness score was the biggest predictor of overall success,” the study continued.

So there you have it!

Higher levels of self-awareness correlate with greater levels of success. But this applies not only to our working life but also to our personal ones.

Emotional intelligence, according to Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence, is a critical aspect of success, particularly for children. He claimed that emotional intelligence would not only help kids learn better, but it would also help them succeed in school by lowering or eliminating some of the most distracting and damaging behavioral issues.

There have been numerous studies on self-awareness and EQ in general since 1995. Improved EQ has been found to assist college students to excel academically and socially.

Self-awareness has also been demonstrated to increase communication and lessen conflict in relationships, particularly in married couples.

How to Become More Self-Aware

If I’ve done my job well, you should be convinced of the value of self-awareness and eager to learn how to improve this aspect of your life.

That’s fantastic since I have six techniques to assist you in achieving your goals.

1.Make Room for Yourself

It’s sometimes difficult to recognize what’s actually going on when our heads are down and we’re absorbed in our daily lives. Because life is hectic, you must make time for yourself if you want to grow more self-aware.

I don’t necessarily mean a meditation room, tho one could be beneficial. What I mean is that you must schedule time in your day for refining.

How are you feeling?

Are you concerned, stressed, or angry? Do you have a lot of joy and passion in your life? Or do you fall somewhere in the middle? It’s critical to check in with your sentiments every day; otherwise, they might pile up and manifest in unpleasant ways.

What are you thinking about?

Do you have a lot of difficulties but no time to think about how to solve them? Is it possible that things could be going better in some aspects of your life?

What are you focused on?

I’ve tried meditation, and it doesn’t work for me. Instead, I tend to check in with myself the most while I’m mowing the lawn, jogging, lifting weights, or journaling. Those are the times it happens naturally to me. There’s just something about being engaged in repetitive activity that clears my mind.

Find what works for you and create some space in your life. You need it!

2. Practice Mindfulness

This is a difficult one for me!

Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state obtained by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly noticing and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and body sensations,” according to Google’s Dictionary.

I have a nasty habit of rushing through life, powered by huge amounts of caffeine, and attempting to achieve my objectives as quickly as possible. It’s difficult for me to take a moment to smell the roses every now and then.

It’s easy to become so focused on the future that you lose sight of the now, but by making space in our lives for mindfulness practice, we effectively carve out devoted moments to do so.

Listen to your inner voice, tune into what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it, and acknowledge and understand yourself better during these times.

How many times have you been furious with no apparent reason?
This has occurred to me before, but once my mind was clear, it was easy to realize why I was upset and what I needed to do about it. But we can’t always wait for our minds to clear themselves!

The moment may never come on its own in today’s fast-paced world. We must set aside time for it.

Find a place in your life where you can practice mindfulness every day. Here’s a beginner’s guide to getting you started: The Power of Mind: How Meditation Can Change Your Life.

3. Keep a Journal

What better approach to make time for yourself and cultivate mindfulness than to start journaling every day?

According to Psych Central,

“The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. […] In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others, and the world around you.”

I was completely unaware! Did you do it?

In addition, writing can assist you in clarifying your ideas and feelings, getting to know yourself better, reducing overall stress, solving problems more effectively, and even resolving conflicts with others.

Consider journaling as a form of mindfulness practice on paper if that helps.

Consider your inner world, how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and so on during some quiet time. Write down all of your thoughts as they come to you while you’re evaluating your inner world. This is what I refer to as a stream of mind.

If possible, try to do this at least once a day, in the morning or evening. Try recording your observations every hour throughout the day if you want to increase your self-awareness even further.

According to the National Science Foundation, humans have 50,000 ideas every day on average, the majority of which we are not aware of. What if you spent some time practicing mindfulness and writing down some of those thoughts?

4. Become an Excellent Listener

Stephen R. Covey, the author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once said

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Are you one of those people?

For a long time, I was certain that I did. I was attempting to retain as many of my own thoughts, responses, and rebuttals as possible while others spoke to me. Then, a few moments later, I couldn’t remember anything I’d been told.

When I read John Maxwell’s Becoming a Person of Influence a few years ago, I became aware of this phenomenon. Listening was the subject of an entire chapter, and I discovered that I was a lousy listener!

When you stop to listen to someone, you want to do more than just hear what they’re saying—you want to notice their tone, body language, emotions, and attitude. You must become intensely aware of how people feel as well as how you make them feel.

Connect with the other person instead of evaluating and judging what they say. Listen and observe what they have to say. You’ll learn to listen to your inner voice better as you become a better listener to people around you.

5. Seek New Perspectives About Yourself

Don’t we all think we’ve got ourselves pretty well figured out? We devote more time to ourselves than to others. We are fully aware of all of our personal secrets, hopes, dreams, and guilty pleasures.

How could we not be familiar with ourselves on the inside and out? Well, I would argue that knowing ourselves completely and honestly is difficult.

This is why:

I believe we often conceive of ourselves as the person we want to be rather than the person we are right now.

The Office on NBC is my all-time favorite show. Michael Scott introduces a new salesman to the team in one episode. The new salesperson is well-trained, beautiful, and engaging, among other qualities. To his crew, Michael says:

“I admire him because he reminds me of somebody.

“No, me,” Michael says after the staff makes its round of wrong guesses. Right? Is it possible that I’m a younger version of myself?”

He and the new person appeared to be extremely similar in his view, but Oscar responds, “It’s hard to judge ourselves accurately isn’t it?”

Michael views himself from a different perspective than Oscar sees himself. If you’ve seen the show, Oscar’s point of view is spot on.

It’s tough to get unbiased, non-biased criticism, but by asking friends, family, and coworkers for 360-degree evaluation, we can gain a new perspective on ourselves that would be difficult to obtain on our own.

Seek input from others if you want to become fully self-aware.

6. Live and Breathe Personal Development

Consume as much personal development content as you can, which is the last method I’ll leave you with for enhancing your self-awareness.

I enjoy listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, and reading books and blogs about leadership, mentorship, goal-setting, high performance, habit-building, and other topics. I’m learning more about myself as I go deeper into personal growth.

I had no idea what scarcity mindset or risk aversion was a year ago, let alone that I had both. Now that I’m aware that I have these issues, I can try to overcome them in my life.

The more you study about the world around you, the more you’ll be able to comprehend yourself, which is why self-awareness is so important.

Final Thoughts

Self-awareness has an unquestionable impact on achievement, but mastering self-awareness will require some effort on your part. Are you up for the challenge? I believe you are!

You can do it!

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