Self-awareness isn’t one of those things that you’re ever taught about in school, nor in college. You don’t hear about it much in your adult life either. That means that far too many of us are going through life lacking self-awareness. How can better self-awareness act as the springboard for personal growth?
When you’re more self-aware, you can set aside those limiting self-beliefs and stop playing the comparison game. You understand yourself better so you can identify how you might hold yourself back (or allow others to do it) and break boundaries!
This personal growth can occur on a personal level, such as reaching fitness milestones, or on a professional level, whether you own a business or you’re hired by one. Keep reading to learn all about self-awareness and what it can do for you!
What Is Self-Awareness?
Self-awareness is about so much more than simply being aware of yourself in your current state of your existence. That’s why I thought I’d start with a definition.
A type of philosophy, self-awareness is a full understanding of yourself down to the deepest and most profound levels.
In other words, you’re fully aware of your desires, motives, feelings, and character.
You can get to know how you’ll react in any hypothetical situation because you understand yourself so wholly.
Fostering self-awareness is not always easy, nor is it pretty. After all, we’re all complex, flawed human beings, and that means we have our good sides just as we do our bad sides.
Being self-aware does not mean you sweep the bad stuff under the rug or pretend it doesn’t exist. Rather, it means you understand and even own that part of yourself.
Sometimes, self-awareness can even set the stage for you to change some of your bad behaviors.
For example, if you know that you’re rather hotheaded, and you always get angriest when stuck in a big crowd, then you might work to reduce the triggers that make you angry.
Maybe you go to smaller events and do shopping (including grocery shopping) online to avoid the lines.
The Types of Self-Awareness
Not all self-awareness is necessarily the same. There are two types, public and private. Let’s talk more about both types of self-awareness now.
First is private self-awareness, a lot of which encompasses what I talked about in the last section.
Private self-awareness is all about how you’re thinking and what you’re experiencing internally. If someone looked at you, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell what’s going on in your head.
Let’s say you’re visiting a doctor’s office and you know you’re receiving a needle. You’re scared of needles, so you’re incredibly nervous.
Well, unless you’re fidgeting or sweating, the person sitting beside you in the waiting room can’t tell how you’re feeling. To them, you seem fine, so they would never guess you’re anxious.
Deep inside though, you’re aware of your phobias and how you’re feeling nervous.
The other type of self-awareness is known as public self-awareness.
Public self-awareness is an understanding and awareness that how you present yourself does have an impact, positive or negative.
For roughly the first five years of your life, you’ll lack public self-awareness because you’re a child.
Then, suddenly, you realize that others in the world can see you, and that’s something that never goes away.
Public self-awareness is why we hate being spotted by our neighbor when on a late-night grocery run in our pajamas. It’s why you don’t want to run into your ex unless you look stunning.
We know that other people are going to make judgments on us based on how we present ourselves, and so we want to put our best foot forward at all times.
Are You Lacking Self-Awareness? Here’s How to Tell
All of us like to believe that we’re relatively self-aware. After all, our bodies and minds are the only ones we have, so we like to believe we know them infinitely well, right?
As I said before though, becoming self-aware is not an easy journey, so some people actively avoid it. If that’s you, then you’ll recognize yourself in the following signs.
Your Life Is Full of Short-Term Happiness But Not Long-Term Happiness
I could name a dozen things that make me happy right this second, from binge-watching my favorite Netflix show to a really good gym session or a nice coffee with extra foam.
The thing about those sources of happiness though is that they don’t last. The show ends, the endorphins wear off, and the coffee gets consumed.
Then you’re left to pursue the next source of short-term happiness.
People who follow this path of short-term happiness often do it because they don’t know what would fulfill them more in the long-term.
Once you build self-awareness, you’ll still pursue short-term pleasures, but now long-term happiness as well.
You’re Overly Negative
Whether you’re very gossipy or even arrogant, these traits all tie back to perpetual negativity.
Part of it is that you don’t recognize your own faults, as you haven’t gone through enough introspection to do so.
Some people naturally are more pessimistic than they are positive, and that’s not necessarily the worst thing. If you’re aware of it, that means you can identify it as it’s happening and then rein it in before you bomb another conversation with a friend or colleague.
Those who lack self-awareness just keep digging the hole deeper and rarely even recognize it until after the conversation ends.
You Talk a Lot
Look, it’s one thing if you’re naturally chatty because that’s your personality and it’s another thing entirely when you talk just to say words.
If everything you say lacks any sense of profundity or if you talk to seem smart or important, then it’s coming from a place absent of self-awareness.
Some people are too afraid to stop talking because it will mean they have to listen to their internal dialogue, and that can be painful and difficult.
All things that are worth doing often have moments that are painful and difficult, and self-growth is no different!
How Self-Awareness Helps in Achieving Personal Development
Growing as a person is something we should always strive to do no matter how old we are or where in our lives we are. Yet without self-awareness, achieving this critical growth is so much easier said than done.
Here is how self-awareness can facilitate that personal growth we all desire.
You’ll Make Fewer Comparisons
The everyday comparison game is all but inevitable in today’s age of social media when everyone’s curated lives appear on our feeds all the time.
You find that the comparisons don’t stop there, though. You compare yourself to your friends, your siblings, your former classmates, maybe even your colleagues at work.
You figure that if everyone in those respective groups had the same start and the same advantages, then why does it feel like you’re so far behind compared to everybody else?
Part of it absolutely comes down to a lack of self-awareness. When you don’t understand who you are deep down inside, you compare yourself to everyone and everything.
Once you take that time to carve out the path of self-awareness, you’ll have a better understanding of your personality and character.
You won’t feel like comparing yourself to every stranger you see on social media nor the people you know, as you’ll feel like it’s comparing apples to oranges anyway.
You Can Nip Self-Limiting Beliefs in the Bud
When you don’t know who you are or what you want out of this life, it’s hard to approach anything with conviction.
You just kind of go through life, accepting what’s granted to you because hey, it’s an opportunity.
If you ever see something bigger or better, you can easily talk yourself out of it because you just don’t think you’ll be good enough.
Self-limiting beliefs are hard to shake when they come from yourself, especially if you’ve been perpetuating the cycle of thinking that you can only go so far.
By working on your self-awareness, you’ll get to know the kinds of opportunities that would appeal to you. Although you’ll have doubts at times, you won’t be holding yourself back in quite the same way.
You Can Choose What Makes You Truly Happy
This goes back to my point from before about chasing short-term happiness only. It feels good in the moment, and maybe if you have a nice coffee in front of the couch, you get double the happiness, but it always fades.
Building a fulfilling life is about doing what truly makes you happy. Maybe that’s not always feasible as a career choice but can be a hobby or a part-time job.
Tips for Increasing Your Self-Awareness
Are you ready to embark on the oft-difficult journey that is building your self-awareness? Your life will be so much better off for it, that’s for sure!
Here’s how it’s done.
Ask for Others’ Opinions
Talk to a few people you know separately and ask them a question that they might find difficult to answer. Ask them how they truly see you.
Tell them that it’s in your best interest that they don’t sugarcoat anything. Even if the answer is a hard one to hear, you want to hear it nevertheless, as it will help you become self-aware.
As you gather answers, look for common threads. Do people think you’re too negative? That you lack self-esteem? That you come across as too arrogant?
Then take some time and ponder whether those things are true about yourself. Are you perhaps posturing in front of certain people to try and be perceived in a specific way? Or are you really a touch arrogant?
Acknowledging negative things about ourselves is never fun but is the first step to bettering our personal growth through self-awareness.
Spend More Time with People and Note How You Feel and Behave
It’s time to put the smartphone down and get out there and be with people, be those your friends, family members, or colleagues.
As you have regular hangout time, try to be more self-aware. Don’t change how you’re behaving, but just assess it more.
Consider not only your behaviors but your feelings as well.
This will feel awkward to do at first, and you might even get a little too into your own head at first. The more you do it, though, the more natural it will feel.
With time, you’ll notice that even before you see your friends and family that you’ll have a good gauge on what you’re thinking and feeling.
Start a Journal
If the idea of being self-aware in the moment strikes you as a little too daunting, then you can always journal.
In the journal, you’d document what you did that day, how you felt, how you were perceived, and how you behaved. You might also wish to note how you wished you felt and behaved.
Over time, you’ll have a log of your various feelings and triggers. You can use this information to better understand yourself.
For example, perhaps you feel stressed when you know you’re having a meeting at work where you have to speak. Your stress levels are higher before the meeting and immediately after.
You can’t help that you have to speak at work, but you can take a public speaking class to help you get over your anxieties.
What to Do When You Hear That You’ve Changed – How to Own Personal Growth
Naturally, upon becoming more self-aware, you’re going to have friends, family members, and/or colleagues accuse you of changing.
But you haven’t changed, not really. You’ve just better learned yourself, and that’s helped you reprioritize how you treat others and how you present yourself to the world. You’re still the same you but better.
If you remember my post about being accused of “changing” when you begin prioritizing a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise, then you’ll recall how I talked about that the people who accuse you the loudest are often the unhappiest with themselves.
It’s the same situation with your newfound self-awareness. These people who are saying you changed liked you better when you were less self-aware, probably because you were bitter, negative, and angry like them.
You can always invite others to join you on the journey of self-awareness, but don’t be surprised if some people turn you down. Some like being blissfully unaware, even if they are limiting their own self-growth.
All you can do in a situation like that is focus on your own growth moving forward!
Self-awareness is admittedly difficult to cultivate, but what’s far worse is going through this life without any sense of self-awareness at all.
I hope this article motivated you to look introspectively and try to better understand yourself. It will be worth it!