“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ― C.G. Jung
Do you know who you are? Most of us would answer “of course I do”. However, even though you spend all your time with you, you may even be aware of some of your faults, but you may also have suppressed some flaws that you find unacceptable. The truth is surprisingly very few of us have self-awareness, so conditioned and influenced are we, we have forgotten our true selves, who we are at our core.
The answer to who you are, is not defined by the job you do, how much money you make, the school you go to, the clothes you wear or anything material for that matter. It is discovering what makes you tick, what triggers you, your talents, your faults, your true passions, your life purpose, knowing these things enables you to live your life to its full potential.
Because of our conditioning, we hide aspects of ourselves, uncovering these hidden aspects, shedding the conditioning and removing your limiting beliefs is no easy feat. Finding out who you are takes time and effort, it is the first stage to becoming the person you want to be, reaching your true potential and most importantly loving and accepting yourself fully. We cannot accept ourselves until we truly know ourselves.
What is self-awareness?
The Oxford dictionary’s definition of self-awareness is“conscious knowledge of one’s own character and feelings”.
It sounds so simple doesn’t it, but we are complex beings, which is why men and women are still trying to figure each other out.
Having self-awareness is knowing the real you at your core; how you think and how you behave. But deeper than this, is the understanding of why you think the way you do, why you respond to certain situations the way you do and the true reasons behind your behaviours.
A shocking revelation for me was when I wasn’t being very nice to a friend, I was sarcastic, critical and downright rude. Of course at the time I blamed my friend for making me ‘feel’ like that. But when I really reflected on my behaviour, I realised, it was because this friend hurt my ego. They didn’t say anything that was untrue, but it touched a nerve in me ‘ouch’!
Looking back, I wish that I had responded differently. Had I been self-aware, I would have behaved differently. I would have recognised, it was my hurt ego that caused me react negatively. Another revelation for me was realising my ego was protecting me from the ‘truth’ and at that time I believed my ego felt ‘attacked’, verbally of course and I responded accordingly.
So how did this self-awareness in me come about, I’m not entirely sure but I had been meditating for a few weeks before I started to become more self-aware, I was doing a lot of self-reflection by looking back at the day and asking myself “what could I have done better?”. I was trying my best to ignore my ever so vein ego, but my ego had a lot to teach me.
Benefits of self-awareness
Now we know what self-awareness is, what use is it to us? The benefits are astounding and can change so many aspects of your life for the better. If you want to improve aspects of your life, you need to know your starting point, who YOU are!
It Increases Emotional Intelligence
Having sound emotional intelligence makes your life a little easier and less stressful. It improves your relationships, because you don’t let irrational emotions bubbling over into an explosive rage (Guilty Your Honour!). Good emotional intelligence means you can master your emotions, you still feel them, but are more accepting of them, you understand why you’re feeling them and are more forgiving of yourself and others.
Now, I don’t need to spell it out why emotional intelligence is good for you, but I will. It improves relationships with friends, family, colleagues and significant others, now who wouldn’t want better relationships?
Being self-aware also helps you to understand others and can make you more forgiving and less judgemental of their behaviours too.
Can be a Catalyst for Change
Self-awareness can bring to light aspects of your self that you may wish to change or accept. For example, if you are prone to depression, self-awareness can make you see on a deep level the root cause to your depression. Maybe, it’s something in your life that does not satisfy you, a job, a relationship, debts you have, or something in your past. Having awareness of these can bring about change, why are you in debt? have you mismanaged your money? do you overspend? If you overspend, why do you overspend? Is it because you have a job which does not align with what you really want to do in life or are there other underlying causes?
Answering these questions and more, can bring clarity to the problems you have in life, giving you a better understanding of yourself and with this understanding you can start to make changes to bring about a purposeful life where you can fulfil your full potential.
As well as being aware of your strengths it can also bring awareness of your weaknesses, thus highlighting areas of your personality or life you need to work on. Don’t be afraid of your weaknesses, we all have them, only fictitious characters are perfect.
Knowing who you are, what your values are mastering your emotions, working on your weaknesses and flaws, basically improving your self will all contribute to an increase in your self-confidence.
To understand yourself fully, can make you a stronger person, you make decisions based on your values and this makes life and interactions with others easier. You believe more in yourself because you know exactly who you are and what you stand for, this gives you good judgement in situations and interactions with people.
Makes You a Better Leader
Self-awareness makes you a better leader because when you become aware of your own weaknesses, you can delegate to those that have strength where you don’t. Furthermore, having emotional intelligence greatly improves your relationships with others, giving you the foundation to developing a great team.
Self-awareness can also reduce stress, who wants a stressed leader? We all want a calm, relaxed effective leader, who we can rely on when the pressure is on, in other words a self-aware leader.
My favourite of favourites, meditation can bring about so many positive changes and I believe a major contender for self-awareness.
Now you don’t have to tell me how difficult it can be to meditate when your mind is racing and you have a ‘To Do’ list bigger than Kilimanjaro. Difficult or not, for me meditation is key to self-awareness, particularly mindful meditation where you allow thoughts to come and go without judgement.
The fact is there is no right or wrong way to do meditation, just doing it (even for 5 minutes) daily or whenever you can, will give you more self-awareness that not doing it. You can’t lose, only benefit, so give it a go.
Write a list by trying to describe yourself, your attributes, your talents or what you are good at, what are your accomplishments (no matter how small), your personality traits, your flaws that you are already aware of (have 2 or more people described you in a certain way during your lifetime) and any thing that you need or want to improve on. Be as honest as possible, you may write an initial list and revisit it a few days, or a few weeks later to review and revise if you feel it’s needed. Take your time, it is not a race.
It may be helpful at this point to get the opinion of a close friend or family member, make sure you completely trust them. Ask them to describe you, the same questions as before, make sure you don’t get all sensitive if they say something you a) are not happy with or b) strongly disagree with, just let them open up and make sure they feel comfortable being completely honest with you, they will only do this if they know you are open and non-judgmental towards them. So ensure you are relaxed and in a good frame of mind, if something has upset you that day, then don’t do it then, you could even meditate beforehand.
This list will be your starting point.
Now try and go back to your childhood, what did you enjoy doing, what made you happy, who made you happy and what was it about that thing or relationship that made you happy. Can you relate any of your childhood happiness to this current time in your life, what did you do then that you still do now? Are there any similar behaviours you had then that you still do now? Good or bad.
Once you have collated the above information, reflect on it alone without judging yourself. You could even discuss it with that trusted friend who gave you feedback about yourself. What would you like to change or improve upon? What do you need to accept about yourself?
You could make this an annual review of yourself, to see where you started from and the progress you have made.
I find personality tests fascinating, as long as you give completely honest answers, I find the results are spookily accurate. Myers Briggs is probably the most famous, but there are lots of free personality tests online, give them a go, you may discover new things about yourself or it may show just how self-aware you are.
They may reveal things you was not aware of in your personality, they may give you insight into why you are uncomfortable in certain situations and why you enjoy some activities.
The results are fascinating to read, do a few to compare results and again use these to reflect on your behaviours.
Keep a Journal
A daily journal is an excellent way to become more self-aware. If you struggle to do it daily, do it once a week. Write down what happened that day (or week), how you behaved, responded, would you have done anything different.
This is not to punish yourself for making mistakes (we all make them), it is to understand and learn about yourself, what makes you feel good, what makes you feel bad. You can use it to write down your goals or ideas. Use it to write any thought that come into your head or what is predominant in your mind at that particular time in your life. Write your thoughts and feelings too. What went well that day, what did not go well.
Choose a time that suits you, many prefer to write in their journal each night.
Writing in a journal may not bring about self-awareness by itself, you need to use it to do some self-reflection. If you write daily, review it once a week, if you write weekly, review it once a month, schedule time in your planner to do this.
Having a journal and doing regular self-reflection can highlight patterns in your emotions or behaviours, which have become so normal, that you have no conscious awareness of them. If you write in each journal entry the dominant emotion of that particular day, you may find that you are pretty anxious most of the time, but this has gone on so long it has become second nature to the point where you hardly notice it. Once you become aware of these patterns, you can then take actions steps to minimise or resolve them.
If you do these practices regularly, you will discover things about yourself that may surprise you, for example, you may not have considered your self a creative person but discover you actually are and tuning in to this creativity gives meaning and enjoyment to your life. Be open to discovering the real you, don’t be so fixed on what society says you are or what you interpret from others.