Are you self-aware?
Are people who lack self-awareness the source of hate and unhappiness in the world that needs to be eradicated? Are people incapable of loving others without first loving themselves? The answers to these questions are debatable. One thing is sure, though: The ability to understand ourselves correctly is what enables us to connect with other human beings. We need this connection to participate in society and our sense of well-being. If we want to understand ourselves better to develop rewarding relationships with others, it helps immensely if we’re self-aware.
The good news is that everyone—you too!—can become highly self-aware by following a few simple steps outlined in this article. All it takes is a little bit of time and effort, as well as a willingness to adopt new habits that will help you develop self-awareness.
To begin with, here are some concepts worth thinking about:
- There’s a difference between being self-aware and having egotistical knowledge about yourself. Self-awareness means understanding the emotions, sensations, and inner dialogue that influence our everyday life reactions, attitudes, and behaviors. This is often confused with knowing all there is to know about oneself – including one’s good qualities – but without truly understanding why we do what we do.
- Rather than focusing on your strengths or positive character traits become aware of the feelings that trigger certain reactions. This allows you to understand how your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are interconnected.
- One of the primary barriers that inhibit self-awareness is what’s known as our “negativity bias.” Our brains are designed to pay more attention to negative stimuli than positive ones. So not only do we tend to give more credence to negative thoughts, but everything bad (pain, loss, threat) tends to stick in our memory banks much longer than something equally potent but good (pleasure or relief).
- If you want to develop self-awareness, it helps if you’re interested in learning about yourself. Don’t just ask yourself whether you’re happy with who you are; ask why you’re unhappy and keep digging for answers.
- If you want to develop self-awareness, it also helps if you’re willing to let go of your comfort zone. It’s easy to remain where you are and avoid discomfort, but this is how we stay the same. Be open to experiencing new sensations and an altered perspective that may come with getting out of your “safety” zone.
Highly Self-Aware People listen more than they talk.
Highly self-aware people tend to be good listeners. They’re not always talking because they know it’s important to listen to others to understand them better. And when they do talk, they’re more likely to be authentic and genuine because they want to make sure that their words are actually helpful rather than just self-serving.
Being a good listener is essential for building strong relationships. Highly self-aware people understand this, so they make an effort to listen attentively and thoughtfully to the people around them. This not only makes those people feel appreciated and heard, but it also helps the highly self-aware person learn more about themselves and others.
Self-awareness allows people to recognize the biases in their thinking. And when they’re able to do that, it becomes much easier for them to avoid projecting those biases onto others. For example, someone who believes that women are more emotional than men may not realize this about themselves until they practice enough self-reflection. But once they do realize it, there’s no way that they can continue making that claim without acknowledging how sexist it is.
Similarly, what you say communicates something about your values and beliefs even if you don’t intend for it too. When you make a joke or use slang or terminology, other people will form an impression of you based on whether or not they think these things align with their values. So, if you want to make sure that your words are sending the right message, you need to be aware of those values.
Highly Self-Aware People are curious about their own minds.
Self-aware people have a habit of thinking about their own patterns of thought. They notice that they keep doing things and then wonder why. For example, they might find it odd that every time they think about starting an exercise routine, something comes up to stop them—and then they start wondering if this is just a coincidence or whether there’s some sort of pattern at play.
They don’t usually sit down once a week (though you could) to review their thinking processes in a decision journal. I mean, keeping a decision journal is fine. Still, the thinking type that leads to greater self-awareness is more observational than analytical, more curiosity-driven than results-focused.
Just like a good scientist is curious about the world and lets their natural curiosity and observations guide later theorizing and experimentation, self-aware people are curious about their own minds. They want to know how they work, why they think the way they do and their implications for their lives.
This curiosity drives them to learn more about themselves and try new things. For example, a self-aware person might decide to start meditating after noticing that they easily get frustrated. Or they might try out a new diet after realizing that they always seem to binge eat when they’re stressed out.
The point is, by being more aware of their patterns of thought, self-aware people can start making changes in their lives for the better.
Highly Self-Aware People Respect the Value of Time
Highly self-aware people realize the importance of time and use it wisely. They know that everything is temporary and that opportunities will pass. This creates a sense of urgency to get things right on the first try, learn new skills quickly, and make the most of any moment.
Self-awareness allows people to be more present at the moment, appreciate life’s simple pleasures, and savor relationships. Highly self-aware people respect the value of time and use it to their advantage. They live with purpose and are always working towards their goals.
If you want to be more like those who highly respect time:
- Start by being more mindful of your own thoughts and actions.
- Be aware of how you spend your time and what you could be doing to make the most of it.
- Choose reasonably how you use your time because it’s one of your most precious resources.
- Live with purpose, and don’t waste a moment.
- Every day is an opportunity to get closer to your goals.
Highly Self-Aware People Know Their Strengths, Weaknesses, and Motivations
A self-aware person is aware of their innate abilities and capabilities in various life areas. They realize that everyone has different likes, dislikes, inclinations, and motivations. Some of this is due to genetics (nature), some of it is due to environment and upbringing (nurture).
Self-aware individuals have a high bar for the standards they set for themselves. If these standards aren’t met, they know where weaknesses lie so can take steps to correct them. Those who are highly self-aware play up to their strengths and downplay/correct their weaknesses. The following characteristics describe people who possess high levels of self-awareness:
1) Accepting constructive criticism: Highly self-aware people aren’t defensive when they offer constructive criticism. They know that it can benefit their personal growth and listen to the feedback before making any changes.
2) Honest about strengths and weaknesses: Highly self-aware People aren’t shy about admitting their strengths and weaknesses. They aren’t afraid of what others might think of them and are confident enough to own up to both.
3) Aware of motivations: A self-aware person knows what motivates them and why they do the things they do. This includes understanding their desires, fears, and goals.
4) Empathetic: Highly self-aware people have a lot of empathy for others. They can understand how someone else feels and why they are acting a certain way.
5) Seek feedback: Highly self-aware Individuals always want to improve their lives, which means they constantly seek feedback on where they can improve and how they can better themselves.
6) Self-deprecating humor: They use self-deprecating humor to cope with emotional discomfort. When something goes wrong, instead of dwelling on it, these individuals will crack a joke about their mistake or situation that diffuses the tension and brings fun back into the conversation or environment.
Highly Self-Aware People Create Clarity Rather Than Confusion
Self-aware people are highly effective because they create clarity rather than confusion. Other people may get mired in the details and lose sight of the big picture, but self-aware people keep their eyes on the prize. They know what’s important and stay focused on their goals.
This focus enables them to make quick decisions and take decisive action. They don’t waste time on things that don’t matter, and they don’t let others derail them from their course.
They also have a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to play to their strengths and delegate tasks outside their area of expertise.
And because they are self-aware, they are less likely to be defensive and more open to feedback. This allows them to learn and grow quickly, essential for any leader.
So if you want to be more effective, start by becoming more self-aware. Ask yourself what’s important here? What are my goals? What are my strengths and weaknesses? And stay focused on the big picture. It will help you create clarity rather than confusion.
Highly Self-Aware People Understand the Difference Between Pleasure and Fulfillment
The human brain is incredibly adept at getting us to do what it wants, and in many cases, we don’t even realize we’re being manipulated.
One large area where the brain strongly influences our behavior is in motivating us towards pleasure and away from pain. This reward-based motivation system was designed by evolution to get us to “do stuff,” and not just lay around all day because there might be lions outside waiting to eat us.
But much of the time, our programming conflicts with the world we live in now. When we engage in behaviors that give us pleasure, they leave us feeling hollow or empty instead of fulfilled. We may feel guilty for engaging in these pleasures, or we may feel like we need to engage in them more and more to get the same high.
This is where being highly self-aware can be incredibly helpful. Highly self-aware people understand the difference between pleasure and fulfillment, and they know that just because something gives them pleasure doesn’t mean it’s good for them or that it will make them happy in the long run.
They also know that there is a big difference between what feels good in the moment and what makes them happy over the long term. This understanding allows them to make choices that reflect their values and bring them lasting happiness rather than short-term pleasure.
So if you’re someone who struggles with knowing the difference between pleasure and fulfillment, the following may help you understand what self-awareness is and how it can be beneficial:
- Pleasure is usually triggered by something immediately gratifying – like food, sex, drugs, alcohol – while fulfillment comes from achieving meaningful long-term goals.
- Pleasure can become addictive; we keep craving more and more of that pleasurable experience to get the same high. Fulfillment doesn’t need to escalate like this – we can feel fulfilled simply by accomplishing our long-term goals. The work it takes to reach those goals may require a lot of discipline and effort, but those things are fulfilling because they allow us to be who we want to be and live the life we want to live.
- Pleasure is often based on short-term gratification, while fulfillment builds over time. We may not be able to see the immediate payoff of our long-term goals, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth pursuing.
- Pleasure can be isolating, while fulfillment often brings people together. When we’re focused on seeking pleasure, we can end up withdrawing from the world and pushing away the people who care about us. But when we’re focused on fulfillment, we tend to be more connected to others and have richer relationships.
- Lastly, pleasure is often surface level while fulfillment goes deeper. We may be superficially happy when focusing on pleasure, but we’re not necessarily fulfilled. Fulfillment comes from a sense of meaning and purpose, which goes much deeper than just feeling good.