What is Self-Awareness?
“I attract every looser within 5 miles”. “I sound like a cat in heat when I sing.” These are the little nuggets that most of us are aware of. They’re the things we feel comfortable basing self-deprecating humor on. However, they don’t scratch the surface of impactful self-awareness. In this post, we uncover:
1) What self-awareness is.
2) The problem with not being self-aware.
3) How to become more self-aware.
4) how you can use your self-awareness to create fulfillment in every aspect of your life.
The dictionary defines self-awareness as the conscious knowledge of one’s character, feelings, motives, and desires. The study of self-awareness traces to Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund’s (1972) landmark theory. According to Duval and Wicklund, “when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior, to our internal standards and values.”
Many experiments show that when people aren’t self-aware, their actions don’t match their standards and values. (Having an affair, though you value trust and loyalty, for example). Self-awareness is thus a necessity in bridging gaps between our actions and our standards and values. In situations where our actions don’t match our standards and values, we set the stage for false truths and self- limiting beliefs. Both negatively impact self-awareness.
Your emotional intelligence (the capacity to be aware of, control, and express your emotions, and handle interpersonal relationships in a thoughtful manner), relies on your depth of self-awareness. Your self-awareness is thus a significant factor in mutually healthy interactions. So, while self-awareness can initially sound like a selfish pursuit, it increases the value you bring to your interactions with those around you.
Self-awareness continuously evolves as you encounter new people, places, ideas, and experiences. It’s fragile in the sense that every unique experience tests our self-awareness. Unlike the pass or fail standard of school, these tests always teach us something new about ourselves. It’s the best tool for success since we’re our unique asset. Here’s a look at why you need to jump into your self-awareness journey now!
The Problem With Not Being Self-Aware Today
We often confuse what we enjoy watching others do, with what would fulfill us. The trickery of what appeals to the ego vs. what appeals to the soul is where self-awareness gets sticky. There are so many influences, pulling us from one want, need and must-have, to another.
Running on autopilot (not reflecting on our real needs and wants), we spend time and money chasing the wrong things for the wrong reasons. The beauty and curse of self-awareness are that it’s not set-in-stone, (a one and done deal). It’s fluid, complex, and contextual.
Today, it’s not just interactions with friends, family, and coworkers, influencing our self-awareness. Social media scratches our voyeuristic itch. With easy access to how others live, it’s easy to chase things that appeal to us aesthetically, but don’t translate into our unique requirements, for actual fulfillment.
We also invite others to share our most mundane and “private” moments. Strangers on the other side of the Earth, leaving a comment (or an emoji), on our picture, penetrates our self-awareness deeply. Seemingly insignificant interactions cause ripple effects (or tsunamis), influencing our perceptions of every aspect of our lives.
Gary Vaynerchuck speaks about Instagram celebrities, wanting to transition their half-naked content, (which gets them 20k likes), to content that aligns with who they are. A simple “like” from total strangers has the power to keep many trapped within the confines of an identity they’ve outgrown. Perhaps an accidental false identity they created, chasing likes and followers. Their self-awareness so lacking that “likes” become their validation, for online personas that don’t even resonate with them.
Social media doesn’t have to harm self-awareness. Having a higher degree of self-awareness helps create healthier social media experiences. For example, I follow many women who are in the fitness industry. I also enjoy watching the glam “Kardashianesque” fashion and makeup tutorials.
At a point, I began beating myself up for not meeting the physical examples of accounts I followed. I quickly realized what I was doing to myself. There’s a line between being inspired and unhealthy comparison. In a moment of self-awareness and reflection, I caught myself and made the necessary changes.
Stepping back, and realizing the difference between things you enjoy visually, vs. the things that truly resonate with you, help you enjoy a healthier relationship with social media. Though I work out, I’ll never kick carbs to the curb, or do cardio and weight training twice a day! I also have no intention of performing an hour-long makeup routine daily! I do like taking away the tips and tricks that will fit into my life.
Social media is excellent for seeing a variety of options and meeting a variety of different people. Your self-awareness will help you enjoy social media, rather than feel the need to compete with it.
A weak foundation, (like the Instagram models I mention above), can’t support healthy self-respect and self-worth. It’s extremely easy for someone lacking self-awareness, to believe false truths, and self-limiting beliefs about themselves and their world. Low self-awareness, bites us in the ass, in every aspect of our life, in different ways.
If you believe that monogamy’s impossible, (false truth), you may think that you’ll never attract a faithful partner, (self-limiting belief). What’s the result? You act out a self-limiting behavior, (which can go a variety of ways).
You can end up cheating on your partner, (since you expect they’re likely already doing it). Believing that relationships end in deception, you may decide to have flings, (denying yourself the chance to create a genuine bond, finding the steady partnership you desire). You can also choose to close yourself off to dating (convinced that it’s a waste of time).
More disturbingly, you can land a partner who doesn’t cheat but is verbally abusive and demeaning in other ways. Your mind, (in a stunning performance of mental acrobatics), can forgive this toxic behavior, because “at least he/she isn’t a cheater. Lacking self-awareness, we often do this type of internal bargaining, wrongly justifying, undesirable situations in many aspects of our lives.
A person armed with self-awareness isn’t easy to manipulate or degrade. Being fully aware of your strengths, allows you to easily out-maneuver someone trying to “put you in your place,” or bring you down. Equally as important is being aware of your weaknesses. Acknowledgment and acceptance of your shortcomings put you in control. You’re steps ahead of any attempts to use your weaknesses against you. (Particularly important if you come across abusive and narcissistic people, using manipulation tactics).
How Self-Awareness Creates Fulfillment in Every Aspect of Your Life
Most of us juggle multiple titles in our daily lives. Entrepreneur, parent, employee, significant other, student, son/daughter, caregiver to an aged parent (just naming a few). Increasing your level of self-awareness can easily be the difference between hitting a wall, and hitting your stride.
Self-Awareness in Entrepreneurship
Multiple research shows that self-awareness is a crucial trait of successful business leaders. A study by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University examined 72 executives at public and private companies with revenues from $50 million to $5 billion. They find that “a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.”
From “Wantrepreneurs,” to full-fledged Entrepreneurs, self-awareness is a major factor in:
- What products or services you’ll offer.
- Where you fit within your company.
- How you hire and utilize the talents of others.
- Risks you’re willing to take.
- How you interact and build relationships with your clients and team.
- What goals you set for your company, and so much more.
Self-aware Entrepreneurs who encourage a culture of self-awareness among employees is well ahead of the competition.
Self-Awareness in Parenting
According to Shefali Tsabary, (author of The Awakened Family: A Revolution in Parenting), the issues that show up in children, such as anxiety, behavior problems, and resistance, result from parents, who aren’t sufficiently enlightened, awake, or conscious. The idea being that parenting should focus on developing a parent’s maturity (and less on children themselves). Family therapists have found that many of children’s behavioral problems resolve, when parents alone, receive counseling. Two ideas that stick out are:
- “Just because a parent gets triggered, doesn’t mean that a child is wrong. It doesn’t confer the legitimacy of an adult to “fix” a child.”
- “Most parenting books teach how to manipulate children out of feeling what they’re feeling; to stop a behavior rather than to teach how to negotiate feelings in constructive ways.”
Self-awareness in parenting, allows you to parent confidently. You’ll have more faith in the natural and messy process of your child’s growth. Your self-awareness allows your children to grow, developing their crucial self-awareness.
Self-Awareness in Romantic Relationships
It’s normal to seek counseling for a marriage that tanks, after years of emotional, mental, and spiritual turmoil. The more you deal with your false truths before you enter a relationship, the more “luck” you will create within your romantic relationships. Understanding what you want in a partner, (as well as what you bring to the table), increases your odds of finding fulfillment in love. Being self-aware also allows you to be a partner who uplifts your significant other.
According to an article in The Huffington Post, “the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the number of casualties lost during war”.
Self-awareness allows you to recognize toxic people quickly. It prevents you from making excuses (like “it’s his/her sense of humor,” or that’s how he/she shows their love”). Diane Lass, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Family Justice Center in San Diego, states that “emotional abuse almost always escalates to physical violence.”
In the case of toxic relationships (and friendships), your self-awareness, (tied to your self-respect and confidence), will help you draw and enforce boundaries. You’ll know what you’re willing to accept at a healthy level, vs. what becomes heavy on your positive mindset. You’ll have the confidence to keep negative people at a distance and feel empowered to cut them out entirely if necessary.
Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness
Because your self-awareness is ever-evolving, it’s a necessity to drown out the noise and turn your focus inward deliberately. The following are my favorite two methods to focus on, to increase self-awareness.
Dig Into Your Past
One of the most seductive and unfortunate pieces of advice gurus offer is to leave your past behind you. After hitting a short stride in your fulfillment, you take a nasty tumble, (over an object that seems to have come out of nowhere). This is how your past behaves when you don’t deal with it. I call it the Michael Myers curse. Just when you think the dust from your past has settled, it creeps up like a horror movie villain, and you can’t manage to outrun.
There’s a systematic way to dig through your past, (like an archaeologist carefully digging through valuable, precious clues. I go into this at length in my upcoming book titled Who the F@*k Are You?! Get Self-Aware to Stop Getting Your Ass Kicked, and Live a Kick-Ass Life! We buy into the warnings about looking at our past, keeping us tripping over our own feet. How else are you supposed to identify habits that continue to sabotage you? What else alerts you to the patterns you must break to be successful and fulfilled? How do you connect that the reason you date broken people, is rooted in having to “parent” a broken mother/ father, growing up?
These connect the dot “Ahaa” moments, sure as hell don’t come from ditching decades worth of experiences. It comes from rolling up your sleeves and reflecting on your past, forming new perceptions and perspectives.
Your past is the ultimate key for understanding your unique inner workings, empowering you to affect your present and future positively.
Journal Your Progress
Keeping a journal has substantial benefits. One 2005 study found that “expressive writing” such as journaling, is uniquely therapeutic. Participants who wrote about traumatic, stressful, or emotional events were significantly less likely to get sick and less severely affected by trauma, than their non-journaling counterparts.
When you begin digging into your past, you’ll experience those brilliant “Ahha” moments. Preserving, organizing, and making sense of those discoveries is possible through journaling.
In journaling, you’ll find your truth and your voice, giving them permission to scream as loudly and as unapologetically as you dare. When you hit a roadblock on your path of self-awareness, it becomes easy to lose your way back. You’ll have a proven record and layout, easily accessible, to get your focus back on your growth. Journaling will force you to get honest with yourself, which is incredibly liberating. That honesty allows you to create a life you love.
Tools For Developing Self-Awareness
- Join our community, and be inspired to create a life you love.
- I’ll be announcing my book, Who the F@*k Are You?! Get Self-Aware to Stop Getting Your Ass Kicked, and Live a Kick-Ass Life this Spring. Make sure to sign up on the homepage for your insider info and perks.
- Your Self-Aware Life University on the Teachable platform, with the first course The Art of Positive Self-Talk.
- Join me on Instagram and Youtube for tips and inspiration.
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