Today, I want to discuss self-awareness, what it is, why you need it, and how to cultivate it.
What is Self-awareness? Do you lack self-awareness?
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung
Self-awareness is “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” An individual who lacks self-awareness will blindly follow his worst whims, fall for the most obvious of tricks, and fail to heed the feelings of others. In short, an individual who is unaware is barely useful to himself and others.
For example, if you are unaware of how offensive your jokes are to your coworkers, you will quickly gain a negative reputation. Your negative reputation will make it challenging to develop work relationships, become indispensable, and achieve your goals at your place of employment.
Another example: if you refuse to acknowledge the destructiveness of certain behaviors, such as alcoholism, to your quality of life, you will suffer. Alcoholism will reduce your chance of success and happiness. However, if you are unaware of or refuse to acknowledge your alcoholism, you’ll never overcome your addiction or live your best life.
In both instances, the individual needs an awareness of himself, the effects of his actions, and the behaviors he expresses. Without this awareness, he will blindly go through life, responding to every temporary whim. Additionally, he will lose self-respect and motivation.
Self-Awareness is Essential for Individuals
People lack self-awareness because they wish to avoid the burden of thinking, personal growth, and responsibility. They want to live in a haze. This haze allows them to blindly go through life ignoring the needs of others while participating in pointless or horrific acts. The more aware we are of the effects of our actions and thoughts, the more critical we become. Self-criticism helps individuals improve. However, if we hate the painful process of self-improvement, we will choose to lie, cheat, and manipulate to avoid having to develop self-awareness.
Although Daunting, You can learn self-awareness
“To say “I love you” one must know first how to say the “I”.” ― Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
Helping people develop self-awareness will decrease the cruelty, aimlessness, and depression people experience and enact on others. For example, if we are aware of our emotional state, we can reflect on how our anger may have hurt someone else. From here, we can apologize and try to make amends while focusing on controlling our anger in the future. Such self-improvement is not possible if we cannot reflect and judge our actions.
Being more aware of your actions is difficult. You have to be empathetic to the needs of others. You have to be honest about your behaviors. You have to be discerning about what aspects of your character to improve and when. None of this is easy. However, you’ll become stronger in the end.
Developing self-awareness is crucial to building character, increasing potential, and cultivating personal power. You’ll be able to define your place in the world, make essential, gradual improvements, and become more valuable to others. By following some of the steps below, I will help you increase your self-awareness by becoming more mindful of your behaviors, attitudes, and habits.
1. How Journaling Skyrockets the growth of Self-Awareness
Journaling is one of the best ways to gather your thoughts and analyze your actions. If you have trouble journaling, focus on writing one sentence a day about whatever you chose. This practice will help you develop the habit needed to create more detailed journal entries.
When journaling to gain self-knowledge, you’ll want to analyze moments where you were emotionally charged. Highlighting moments where you were bothered can help you understand your thought processes while under stress. From here, you can roleplay and reflect on what you could have done differently while in an emotionally straining moment.
For example, if you and a coworker got into a heated debate about a new project, then you need to write about this. How did you feel? What did you say? What bothered you so much? From here, you can begin analyzing the potential effects of your actions: how did you coworker respond? Why might they have been so passionate? How do you think others responded to your anger? Ask these questions for every moment you felt emotionally charged.
Self-Awareness means revisiting the effects of your actions
“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” ― André Malraux
Take stock of what you’ve done for the day. Keep track of your daily actions and reflect on what these actions may do for you in the future. For example, what are the consequences of finishing a project? What are the consequences of watching TV for an hour? What are the consequences of being annoyed during traffic?
Sure, getting annoyed in traffic today doesn’t seem like a big deal. But what if you kept this habit going? What can you do differently to avoid being annoyed? Maybe listen to a podcast? Leave work a little later to avoid the traffic? When you ask questions about what you’ve done for the day, you can create solutions to problems you didn’t know you had or stop bad habits you didn’t know you were developing.
Journaling is key to reflecting on your day and finding faults in your behavior. Remember, be honest, so you can create a productive method for improving your actions and attitudes.
2. Goals inform you of your responsibilities, desires, and wants
Self-awareness, like humility, is not ignoring your needs but refining them. Understand what you desire, be realistic about your desires, and respond to the world in a kind, thoughtful, and considerate way.
For example, if you have the goal to master software development, do not feel ashamed for de-prioritizing new social relationships. However, you should be self-aware of how your dreams could harm close relationships. Don’t allow your persistence and industriousness to undermine your loyalty.
Lastly, you can only be aware of how your goals (“master software development”) affect your life if you have goals in the first place. Without goals, you’ll wander throughout life aimlessly and will be of no use to anyone. A person without wants is not a person but a victim ready to be manipulated by the first power-hungry tyrant who comes along.
Self-awareness is borne from innovative and meaningful habits
You must understand there is nothing virtuous about being small. Self-awareness is not the absence of personal value. It is the acknowledgment of self-worth and the conscious, moral exercise of that value. Set clear expectations for yourself. The clearer you are with your values, the better you can understand how those values affect others.
I want to be frugal with my money. My frugality means there are plenty of people who are disappointed about my financial choices — tough luck. I am aware of the effects of my actions (disappointed salespeople), but I stick to my values because my values are more critical than richer salespeople.
On the other hand, I want to be more industrious. However, my working may affect my relationship with my wife because I don’t spend as much time with her. I value my relationship more than productivity, so I will make adjustments to spend more time with her. I am aware of my actions’ effects on my wife and adjust accordingly.
I cannot become self-aware of my goals if I don’t have any. Therefore, understand your aims, your desires, your preferences, and what you want out of life. Your personal values will set the foundation for helping you develop self-awareness so you can treat others with more respect.
3. How criticism and feedback develop self-awareness
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Gustav Jung
The final and best way to develop self-awareness is to seek criticism. Other individuals can help you spot flaws in your behaviors and provide you with the knowledge you need to make improvements. Self-awareness is about ensuring your actions do not unjustly harm others. Therefore, asking individuals about the effects of your actions can help you create the information you need to make crucial and necessary improvements. Here are questions you can ask others:
- What can I do to make your life easier?
- Is there a moment where you felt I wasn’t listening to you?
- What can I do to give you more time and attention?
- Has my [enter bad habit] been a problem as of late?
These questions provide indirect ways to receive feedback. Simply asking people for criticism rarely works. However, if you ask out of curiosity and from a place which benefits the other person, then you’ll receive better results.
How to receive and accept criticism
How should you go about receiving criticism? To start, always make sure you thank the person for their time. No matter who they are, let the individual know you respect their opinion and appreciate their honesty.
During the conversation, be sure to take moments to repeat what you’re hearing. When you repeat what your conversation partner has said and ask them if you heard correctly, then you can be confident you’re receiving the information. Active listening is crucial to ensuring you understand the criticism you are receiving.
Lastly, it’s always easier to receive criticism from people who are close to you. Therefore, ask loved ones to give you a precise evaluation, so you can improve and achieve virtue. However, you can always study the body language of other people. Analyzing how your words and actions are received can help you develop the awareness necessary to make improvements.
For example, if you tell an off-color joke and a coworker squirms, you need to take this as a sign they didn’t like your humor. With this information, you should better tailor your jokes to appeal to the whole room which will help you gain allies in the workplace.
Self-awareness and humility rise from individualism
No matter how self-aware you’re trying to become, weak individuals will always despise you. It pays to acknowledge the pettiness and abusive nature of others. If someone never warms up to you, no matter how virtuous and respectful you are, then stop trying to court them. They are a lost cause and should enjoy their misery alone.
With self-awareness, you can increase your confidence in knowing specific conflicts and problems are not your fault. Sometimes, people will dislike you because you have different values than them. However, if you’re respectful, virtuous, and aware of the kindness of your words, then you can shrug your shoulders and agree to disagree. You cannot please everyone, but you can become a more virtuous and considerate individual.
Being self-aware and critical of your actions comes from understanding yourself and your needs. Just because you’re individual-focused doesn’t mean you have to be an ass. However, you cannot become self-aware unless you have a concept of the self and value who you are and what you need.
Become aware of the effects your actions, behaviors, and ideas are having on your internal and external world. There are benefits to self-awareness. Therefore, never live in a land of delusion and craziness. The more self-aware you are, the easier you can respond to criticism, repair bad behaviors, and live your best life.
- Of the three techniques above, which do you find the hardest to practice? Why?
- Of the three techniques above, which do you find the easiest to practice? Why?
- What do you want out of life? Don’t think too hard about this question – simply write down everything you’d want out of life. Keep this list and study it frequently.
- Finding True Happiness by Father Robert Spitzer, SJ Father Spitzer makes a compelling case for how caring for others can increase happiness. Through self-awareness, he argues, we reach a better understanding of the joys of living.
- What Is Self-Awareness? by Stephen Warley
- What is Self-Awareness and Why is it Important? [+5 Ways to Increase It] by Jessie Zhu
- 30 Wise Quotes By Carl Jung To Help You Boost Your Self-Awareness
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.