From Change Your Story - Change Your Life: Know Thyself!
Self awareness is defined by Merriam-Webster as the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals. Psychologist Daniel Goleman proposed a popular definition of self-awareness in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, as
“knowing one’s internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions."
I remember in graduate school, one of my fellow students was mimicking how some of the people in our class walked. It was amazing how she could embody the vast variety of styles that we each had. You could immediately see the person that she was imitating. However, when she imitated me, I was surprised and a little put off. She imitated me by bending slightly forward and walking really quickly. It looked like someone who was driven and task focused.
Although I had to admit to myself that it was probably how I usually came across,
I didn’t like it at all!
Her imitation of me was one factor in many that enabled me to raise my self-awareness and begin slowing down and participating more mindfully in life.
"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known". 2 Corinthians 13:5.
“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” Ralph Emerson
“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” André Malraux
We usually see ourselves like through a mirror dimly. None of us have a perfect awareness of ourselves. It is something that must be intentionally improved upon. I suggest being kind, curious and compassionate toward yourself in the process.
So why would self-awareness by important? Becoming self-aware is the first step in having control over your present and your future experiences. Much of how we experience life is out of habit and habit by definition is automatic. This means that we may be operating under the same assumptions that we developed as children and not even realize that it's affecting our experiences, emotions, and behaviors. My "drivenness" was something that I had believed was necessary since childhood and I had no idea that it was showing up in the way I walked. This old narrative was affecting not only how I felt in any given moment, but what I was communicating to others as well.
Jessie Zhu wrote a blog for Positive Psychology in which he offers
5 Ways to Cultivate Self-Awareness
Create some space for yourself. When you are in a dark room without windows, it is fairly difficult to see things clearly. The space you create for yourself is that crack on the wall where you allow light to come through. Leave yourself some time and space every day – perhaps first thing in the morning or half an hour before sleep when you stay away from the digital distractions and spend some time with yourself, reading, writing, meditating, and connecting with yourself.
Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the key to self-awareness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Through mindfulness practice, you will be more present with yourself so that you can “be there” to observe what’s going on inside and around you. It is not about sitting cross-legged or suppressing your thoughts. It is about paying attention to your inner state as they arise. You can practice mindfulness at any time you want, through mindful listening, mindful eating or walking.
Keep a journal: Writing not only helps us process our thoughts but also makes us feel connected and at peace with ourselves. Writing can also create more headspace as you let your thoughts flow out onto paper. Research shows that writing down things we are grateful for or even things we are struggling with helps increase happiness and satisfaction. (Source) You can also use the journal to record your inner state. Try this at home –choose a half day on a weekend, pay close attention to your inner world – what you are feeling, what you are saying to yourself, and make a note of what you observe every hour. You may be surprised about what you write down!
Practice being a good listener. Listening is not the same as hearing. Listening is about being present and paying attention to other people’s emotions, body movement, and language. It is about showing empathy and understanding without constantly evaluating or judging. When you become a good listener, you will also be better at listening to your own inner voice and become the best friend of yourself.
Gain different perspectives: Ask for feedback. Sometimes we can be too afraid to ask what others think of us – yes sometimes the feedback may be biased or even dishonest but you will be able to differentiate them from real, genuine and balanced feedback as you learn more about yourself and others. Research has shown conducting 360-degree feedback in the workplace is a useful tool to improve managers’ self-awareness (Source). We all have blind spots, so it is helpful to gain a different perspective to see a fuller picture of ourselves.
We all have gaps in our self-awareness. One very humbling approach to minimizing these gaps is to consider how others see you. What is the most common complaint that people make about you? Can you begin to explore this without judging yourself or the other person?
Just be curious.I still occasionally hear a comment that someone is hesitant to interrupt me because I seem busy. I’m gonna keep working on that. What will you work on?
I am currently publishing a book titled I'm Not Good Enough: How the Stories You Tell Yourself are Ruining Your Life. By following my blog, you will be notified when it is ready for purchase. I would love to hear from you. Please scroll down to the bottom of this page (past the banner of recent posts) to leave a comment.