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 of self-awareness, that most of us are aware of. They’re the things we feel comfortable enough basing our self-deprecating humor on, but they just barely begin to scratch the surface of the potential for impactful self-awareness. Let’s take a look at what self-awareness is, the problems that arise with low self-awareness, how to become more self-aware, and how you can use your self-awareness, to create fulfillment in every aspect of your life.
The dictionary, (ahem, I mean Google search), defines self-awareness, as the conscious knowledge of one’s own 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 personal standards and values. (Having an affair, though you value trust and loyalty, for example). This makes self-awareness a necessity, in bridging gaps between our actions, our standards and our 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 major factor in mutually healthy interactions with your family, friends, coworkers, clients, and significant other. So, while self-awareness can initially sound like a selfish pursuit, it actually increases the value of the interactions and connections with those around you.
Your self-awareness continuously evolves as you encounter new people, places, ideas, and experiences. Self-awareness has a degree of fragility in the sense that with every new experience, it’s being tested. Unlike the pass or fail standard of school, these tests always teach you something new about yourself. It’s one of the most worthwhile journeys, and you are ready to take it head on! 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 we ourselves, actually want to do. This is the tricky part of self-awareness today. There are so many influences, pulling us from one want, need and must-have, to another. Because we run on autopilot, (not taking time to reflect and evaluate our true needs, wants, and feelings), it becomes easy to spend loads of time and money, chasing the wrong things, for the wrong reasons. The beauty and curse of self-awareness, is that it’s not set-in-stone, (do it once and you’re done). It’s fluid, complex, and contextual, rather than a static object, that you can simply grab and examine.
Today, it’s not just exchanges with friends, family, and coworkers, influencing our self-awareness. Social media has allowed us to become totally voyeuristic. With open access to how everyone lives, it’s easy to chase lifestyles, relationships, careers, physical appearances, ect., that may feel good on the surface, but don’t translate into each of our unique requirements, for actual fulfillment. We also invite others in, to share our most mundane and “private” moments. A stranger 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.
For example, Gary Vaynerchuck speaks about the amount of young female Instagram celebrities, wanting to transition their sexy, half-naked content, (which gets them 20k likes), to their knowledge of health and fitness, (which may only get 5k likes). A simple “like” from total strangers, has the power to keep many trapped, within the confines of an identity they’ve outgrown, (or an accidental false identity they created, chasing likes on their pictures). 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 have a negative impact on self-awareness. Having a higher degree of self-awareness, actually 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 expectations of what I was constantly looking at. 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 looking at, vs. the things that truly resonate with you, helps 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 intentions 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 great 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 like you’re in competition with it.
Building your self-respect, and self-worth, on a weak foundation, (like the Instagram models I mention above), can be quite dangerous. 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, different ways.
If you believe that monogamy’s impossible, (false truth), you may believe 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 ways). You can end up cheating on your partner, (since you expect they’re likely already doing it). Believing that relationships end up in cheating, you may decide to just have flings, (denying yourself the chance to create a true 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 possibly 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. Acknowledgement and acceptance of your shortcomings, puts 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, care giver 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, examining 72 executives at public and private companies with revenues from $50 million to $5 billion, it was found that “a high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success”.
From “Wantrepreneurs”, (you know you want to work for yourself, and are exploring your opportunities), 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.
- Your interaction and relationship building, 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 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 progress along their own path, and develop their own self-awareness, freely.
Self-Awareness in Romantic Relationships
It’s considered 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 your wants, and needs 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 amount of casualties lost during war”. Self-awareness allows you to recognize toxic people early on, rather than make 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 own positive mindset. You’ll have the confidence to keep negative people at a distance, and feel empowered to cut them out completely if necessary.
Self-Awareness as a Daughter/Son
Our parents can become the easiest, most convenient targets of blame and resentment, for our perceived shortcomings. If you can’t accept responsibility for your life, the very people who were once totally responsible for your survival, may seem worthy of blame. One of the most liberating things we can do for our parents, ( as well as ourselves), is acknowledge that we’re just as imperfect after having children, as we were before having children. Accepting, and forgiving our parent’s imperfections, allows forgiveness for our own. It’s also becomes easier to take responsibility for our problems, empowering us with the ability to fix them ourselves, (rather than blame our parents, (expecting them to fix something they may not even know is broken).
Increasing your self-awareness as a daughter or son doesn’t just benefit in facilitating your ability to empathize with and forgive your parents imperfections, but it may become a necessity as they age. Many of us have or will at some point, find ourselves in a role reversal as our parents age. Becoming a caregiver to those who once sacrificed much of themselves for you, isn’t an easy lifestyle change for families to navigate. Being self-aware about your needs, and limitations, makes you better able to care for your loved ones, in a meaningful capacity.
Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness
Because your self-awareness is constantly influenced, it’s a necessity to have ways to deliberately to drown out the noise, and turn your focus inward. The following are my favorite 2 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 leaving your past behind you. After hitting a brief 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, you can’t manage to outrun.
There’s a methodical, deliberate way to dig through your past, (like an archaeologist carefully digging through valuable, precious clues of the past). 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 people who are broken, 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 digging up your past, to form new perceptions and perspectives.
Your past is the ultimate key for understanding your unique inner workings, empowering you to positively affect your present and future.
Journal Your Progress
Keeping a journal has solid benefits. One 2005 study found that “expressive writing” such as journaling, is especially therapeutic. Participants who wrote about traumatic, stressful or emotional events were significantly less likely to get sick, and were ultimately less seriously 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. The journaling you do becomes a reminder of your ability and success in this pursuit. 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.
Tools For Developing Self-Awareness
- On this site, we aim to build a community of self-awareness warriors, taking fulfillment, happiness, and life head on. Join our community!
- 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 between October and December. Make sure to sign up on the homepage for your insider info and perks on that book.
- Your Self-Aware Life University on the Teachable platform, with the first course The Art of Positive Self-Talk, launching mid September.
- Join me on Instagram for self-awareness inspiration, via IGTV, posts and stories.
- Stay tuned for more exciting self-awareness stoking updates!
Don’t forget to join below, for exclusives and freebies. Grab your free chapter from my soon to be released book, to discover the 9 Essential Habits of Highly Successful, Self-Aware People, so you can create your own success and fulfillment now.