What is a Self Awareness?
Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of yourself, of your own thoughts and feelings, as well as how those thoughts and feelings affect others. Self-awareness is important because it allows you to understand why you think and act the way that you do, which leads you to becoming more flexible in changing your behaviour if needed. How can we improve our self-awareness?
Although a difficult concept, there are a few things that you can do to improve your own level of self-awareness.
1. Feedback from others Self-awareness is not something we can easily learn on our own; it requires input from those around us as well as looking at ourselves and seeing what the reality (versus the distorted view we sometimes have of ourselves) is. One way to get feedback from others is to actively seek it out. Whether this means asking for constructive criticism or doing an anonymous online quiz about self-awareness, other people’s perspectives will give you a more realistic picture of how you come across and the areas that you may need to work on.
2. Self-monitoring Another way to learn about yourself is through self-monitoring, or keeping track of how you act and behave, as well as your own thoughts and emotional reactions. When you are aware of what actually takes place in your life, it helps you to work out where any problems might lie so that you can improve things.
3. Monitoring your emotional state One aspect of self-awareness that can be difficult to improve on is being aware of our emotions and how they affect the way we think and act. Tracking your own emotional state throughout the day, even if only for a few days, can help you to see patterns in when you feel certain ways e.g. are you more likely to be stressed at 4pm or 7pm?
How does self-awareness help us in our day-to-day lives?
Self-awareness is important because it helps you to see how your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours affect others. If you are able to recognise when you need a break from a stressful task, or notice when you are becoming angry about something, this will enable you to take action to help yourself avoid problems.
Self-awareness also allows you to be more empathetic towards others because it gives you the ability to imagine how others may be feeling in a similar situation. By being self-aware throughout your day, noticing the thoughts and emotions you have, as well as what triggers those emotions, you can start to make small changes in your daily life that will improve how you deal with stressful or emotional situations.
Examples of self awareness:
-A man plays catch with his daughter every evening in the garden after dinner, but realises that he finds it more enjoyable when she throws the ball to him. He begins to wonder why this is and thinks back over previous evenings playing, noticing that on occasions where she has thrown the ball for herself or fallen down whilst running towards it he has become irritated. He realises that he is projecting his own feelings of failure onto her because he has higher standards for her performance than he does for himself.
-At school, a child becomes upset when their teacher corrects them in front of the class. They feel embarrassed and lash out at their teacher, telling them to leave them alone, and refuse to participate any further. They realise that the teacher trying to help them is affecting how they think and feel (e.g. making them anxious) and as such try not to let these feelings escalate into full-blown anger during future sessions.
Why is Self-Awareness Important?
Self-awareness allows you to step back and evaluate the way you think, feel, act and behave. It helps your brain gather information about itself so that it can process this information into helpful insights for problem solving. Self-awareness is also an essential element of emotional intelligence (EQ) which is crucial for effective communication, conflict resolution and working well in teams.
Why do some people struggle with self-awareness?
There are many reasons why someone may not be very aware of themselves and their surroundings:
-They may not possess the correct self-awareness skills to recognise what is going on around them
-Their brain may have developed in a way that means they receive too much information, making it difficult for them to filter out the unimportant elements of their environment and focus on those that are important to them. This would mean that certain behaviours can be seen as ‘automatic’ and not under their control.
-They may not have the desire to think about themselves, or they may already know what is wrong with them (e.g. they are ill, or struggling in some way) but refuse to do anything about it
How can we improve our self-awareness?
Self-awareness is something that can be practiced at any time during the day, it just takes dedication and a desire to see things from an outside perspective. Here are some ideas on how you can enhance your self-awareness skills:
1. Be mindful of the present moment by living in the now . By focusing on what is happening in the here and now, you can begin to see how these actions and events affect your thoughts and feelings.
2. Try to practise mindfulness by using all of your senses when in a situation . Whenever you go into a new situation, take note of everything that is going on around you: what do you hear? What do you feel (touch)? What do you see? By using all your senses, this will allow you to take in more information which can be processed by the brain into helpful insights.
3. Try not to judge a situation based on past experiences or personal beliefs . For example, if someone is late for work and they have a habit of being unreliable, they may instantly get angry with them for being late. However, this person may have just had a flat tyre or been held up in traffic – it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unreliable.
4. Try to imagine how other people would see a situation. This can be done by stepping back and looking at the situation from different perspectives: how would their friends and family see it? How would a stranger see it if they were stood next to you? If their boss found out about what happened, how would they react?
5. Try to understand the motives behind someone’s actions before reacting . Before being aggressive or defensive towards someone, ask yourself ‘why are they acting this way?’ By understanding the motives behind their actions, you can begin to understand what is really going on and how best to address it.
6. Notice when a certain situation or individual makes you feel a certain way . Try to work out the differences between the way you think and feel about a particular event or person so that you can identify if your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful (e.g. you may find it difficult to communicate with someone at work, but instead of becoming defensive or actively avoiding them you can try to look at their behaviour from another perspective and see if there is anything that you can do differently).
7. Ask yourself ‘why’ five times when something happens . By constantly asking yourself why a certain event has happened, or why a certain person is doing a particular thing, you will be forced to confront any concerns you have.
8. Try assessing how well your surroundings fit with your expectations . By comparing what you expected to happen against what actually happens, this will allow you to gain insight into whether things are going as planned or if they are not.
9. Always try to be aware of the possibility of your thoughts turning into assumptions . Whenever you make a decision, always ask yourself ‘what is the evidence for this? How do I know this?’ By challenging your assumptions, you will begin to learn how accurate they are and whether there are any gaps in these beliefs that need filling.
10. Always try to be aware of your judgements . Whenever you make a judgement about how someone is feeling or what is happening in their life, ask yourself ‘are my judgements based on facts or assumptions?’ By constantly questioning and checking these judgements, you will slowly begin to establish more confidence in them and they will become more accurate .
11. Try to see any patterns that may exist between your thoughts, feelings and reality . If you notice that your negative thoughts are always followed by certain behaviours or events then it may be helpful to challenge these unhelpful thoughts before they can affect you in a damaging way.
12. Always try to reduce the amount of time you spend worrying about possible future events . By reducing the amount of time you spend thinking about the future, you will be able to focus your energy on what is happening now and make the most out of each moment.
13. When making any significant decision, always try to weigh up both sides of an argument . By identifying both positive and negative aspects for each decision, you will be able to make a logical choice that is more likely to benefit you.
14. Always try to clear your head of all thoughts when making any significant decision . By allowing yourself some quiet time away from other thoughts, this will allow you to focus on what the best thing is to do in the current situation without letting anything cloud your judgement.
15. Always try to acknowledge when you are in control of a situation . When you feel like you have no control, try to work out why this is and what would happen if things did go your way. By increasing the amount of control that you think you have over certain events, this will allow you to take back some of your power and empower you .
16. Always try to keep an open mind about other people’s experiences . By trying to put yourself in another person’s shoes, this will allow you to understand their behaviour and any difficulties they may be dealing with. This should hopefully prevent misunderstandings and conflicts arising between the two of you.
17. Try to think about your life in terms of peaks and troughs . By realising that there will always be good and bad times, you can learn how to deal more effectively with both.
18. Always try to see things from the perspective of other people whenever possible. Understanding where someone else is coming from can help you to understand their behaviour or attitude towards you. This should hopefully help to prevent any misunderstandings or conflicts arising between the two of you.
19. Try not to think about how your actions will affect other people . By focusing too much on what other people may be feeling or thinking, this will only cause feelings of guilt and undermine any confidence you have in yourself.