What is Self-Awareness and How to Cultivate It?

Most people do believe that they are self-aware, true self-awareness is quite a rare quality. There are actually two distinct types of self-awareness, that one experiences and power can hinder self-awareness, and that introspection does not always make you more self-aware. 

In fact, understanding these key points can help leaders learn to see themselves more clearly.

Self-awareness is the very ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through the reflection and introspection. While it may not be possible to attain total objectivity about oneself; there are certainly degrees of self-awareness. It exists on a spectrum of evolution.

Benefits of Self-Awareness

Self- Awareness can make us more proactive, boost our acceptance, and encourage positive self-development as well. Self-awareness allows us to see things from the perspective of others, then practice self-control, work creatively plus productively, and experience pride in ourselves and our work as well as the in the flow of the general self-esteem.
It certainly leads towards better decision making (as it eliminates toxins).
It can make us better at our jobs, better communicators in the workplace, and enhance our self-confidence and job-related towards well-being. 

It is the benefits that are the reason enough to work on improving the self-awareness, but this list is by no means exhaustive and inclusive. Self-awareness has the potential to enhance virtually every experience you do have, as it is a tool and a practice that can be used anywhere, anytime, to categorically ground yourself in the moment, realistically evaluate yourself and the very situation, and help one the make good choices.

Let us look at Five Ways to Increase Your Self-Awareness

There are many ways to build and practice self-awareness, but here are some of the most effective ones:

1. Practice mindfulness and meditation

Mindfulness refers to being present in the moment and paying close attention to yourself and your surroundings rather than getting lost in thought or ruminating or more so daydreaming.

Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention on one thing, such as your breath, a mantra, or a feeling, and letting your thoughts drift by instead of holding on to them conclusively.

Both the practices can help you become more aware of your internal state and your reactions towards things. They can also help you identify your thoughts and feelings and keep you from getting so caught up in them that you lose your hold on your “self.”

2. Practice yoga (That is a day-to-day practice)

Yoga is a physical practice, but it is just as much a mental practice. While your body is stretching and bending and flexing, your mind is learning discipline, self-acceptance, and awareness. You become so much more aware of your body and all the feelings that do manifest, and you become more aware of your mind and the thoughts that do crop up.

You can even do pair yoga with mindfulness or meditation to boost your self-awareness.

3. Make time to reflect

Reflecting can be done in a multiple of ways (including journaling) and is customizable to the person reflecting, but the important thing is to go over your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours to see where you met your standards, where you failed them, and where you could possibly improve.

You can also reflect on your standards themselves to see if they are good ones for you to hold yourself to. You can try writing in a journal, talking out loud, or simply sitting quietly and thinking, whatever helps you to reflect on yourself in every possible way.

4. Journal

The benefit of journaling is that it allows you to identify, clarify, and accept your thoughts and feelings. It does help you discover what you want, what you do value, and what actually works for you. It can also help you find out what you do not want, what is not important to you, and what does not work for you.

Journaling is equally important to learn. Whether you like to write free-flowing entries, bulleted lists, or poems, writing down your thoughts and feelings it does help you to become more aware and intentional.

5. Ask the people you love

It is vital to feel we know ourselves from the inside, but an external feedback does help too. Ask your family and close friends about what they think about you. Have them definitely describe you and see what rings true with you and eventually what surprises you.

Carefully consider what they say and think about it when you journal or otherwise go on to reflect. Do not take any one person’s word as gospel or the ultimate truth; you need to talk to a variety of people to get a comprehensive view of yourself. Do remember that towards  the end of the day, it is your self-beliefs and feelings that matter the most to you!

6. Be curious about who you are

To be self-aware, a person needs to be curious about themselves. Our minds and bodies are territories for which we need the road maps. Every person has some roads they do not wish to take, and some roads they feel are worth exploring. How far will you go in your journey of understanding yourself depends on what you are ready to explore and experience.

 7. Look in the mirror like literally

People do use mirrors as a meditation tool that increases their self-awareness. When people first look at themselves, they are often very critical. How to shift the perspective and use the reflection for deeper self-awareness is the key. They do learn to track their attention, emotions and then gain new insights into how their thoughts are affecting them in real time. This sort of mimics’ face-to-face conversations that do involve deep listening and being fully present with another person. 

8. Substitute some screen time with people time

The average amount of time we spend alone gazing at our screens now surpasses our time in face-to-face contact. It is often said that we do need reflections to develop our sense of self in relation to others. As we spend more time alone and on our devices, we miss this essential human mirroring. The symptoms leading towards the lack of mirroring are becoming more apparent in our society: it does increase anxiety, lack of empathy and intense self-objectification (this is the selfie craze). There is often a call if not an urgent cry for greater self-awareness plus self-reflection.

9. Angry at someone? Do take the ‘third-person’ perspective

Please do make a good note that ultimately the benefits of self-awareness are to serve not only you in emotional management, but also to serve your relationships.

Let us look at what speaks to us towards the importance of catching yourself when a situation or a person agitates you. 

Please take a good note of this: If you catch yourself raising your voice, you may feel justified due to being upset. However, for the person with you (second person), the experience will be quite different. Trying to imagine yourself in that person’s place that will improve self-awareness, reduce defensiveness, and quite possibly go on to improve your relationship with that person as well. 

Third person is particularly far more effective for people who are overly self-critical or who tend to be self-destructive. 

Now the key essential is that what would you advise if you were a caring friend watching your behavior? That would be taking a third person perspective for sure. That is exactly the point of view that you need to consider as well.

Types of Self-Awareness (This is a crucial getaway)

Psychologists often break self-awareness down into two different types, either public or private.

Public Self-Awareness

This type often emerges when people are aware of how they appear to others. Public self-awareness often emerges in situations when people are at the center of attention, such as when giving a presentation or talking to a group of friends.

This type of self-awareness often compels people to adhere towards social norms. When we are aware that we are being watched and evaluated, we often try to behave in ways that are socially acceptable plus desirable.

Public self-awareness does often lead to evaluation anxiety in which people become distressed, anxious, or worried about how they are going to be perceived by others.

Private Self-Awareness

This type happens when people become aware of some aspects of themselves, but only in a private way. For example, seeing your face in the mirror is a type of a private self-awareness.

Feeling your stomach lurch when you realize you forgot to study for an important test or feeling your heart flutter when you see someone you are attracted towards are also examples of private self-awareness.

Self-Consciousness

Sometimes people can become overly self-aware and veer (change direction suddenly) into what is known as self-consciousness. Have you ever felt that more often everyone is watching you, judging your actions, and waiting to see what you will do next? This heightened state of self-awareness can leave you feeling awkward and nervous in some instances.

In a lot of cases, these feelings of self-consciousness are only temporary and arise in situations when we are “in the spotlight.” For some people, it is seen that excessive self-consciousness can reflect a chronic condition such as social anxiety disorder. People who are privately self-conscious have a higher level of private self-awareness, which can be both a good as well as a bad thing.

These people tend to be more aware of their feelings and beliefs, and are therefore more likely to stick to their personal values. They are also highly likely to suffer from the negative health consequences such as increased stress and anxiety.

It is an imperative to note that the people who are publicly self-conscious have a higher level of public self-awareness. They tend to think more about how other people view them and are often concerned that other people might be judging them based on their looks or also their actions. As a result, these individuals tend to stick towards group norms and do try to avoid situations in which they might look bad or feel embarrassed.

Importance of self-awareness

We have to understand that the personality defects are most likely to reduce one’s capacity to grow and develop as human beings. Personality defects are one of the main reasons why we are unhappy. Due to one’s destiny one has to experience pain, then the personality defects are one of the main mediums through which we experience this form of perpetual unhappiness. More importantly for those who are genuinely seeking spiritual growth, personality defects can severely restrict their capacity to grow regardless of which spiritual path they may want to follow. 

Once an individual experiences better mental health and stability (i.e., with less personality defects) it is easier for him or her to make rapid spiritual progress and achieve an ideal personality by practising Spirituality.

As we do practice becoming more aware of ourselves and how we are perceived by others, we learn that there are many more shades of our characteristics to a minute level. We are then in a better position to overcome our personality defects and understand where our strengths do lie. 

In summary

Becoming self-aware is the first step in overcoming any kind of problems that one can live with. Self-awareness can be achieved through observing one’s own mistakes, asking others for feedback, observing others mistakes objectively and through some dreams.

Whenever one becomes emotionally unstable, restless or upset one must become alert as on deeper introspection, it usually provides insight into some personality defect that has been triggered.

We must then be open to learning about ourselves and have the courage to take feedback from others. By this we can objectively analyse our mistakes and find practical solutions to change for the better.

About Author :

Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, “It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to everyday.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India. 

Trishna is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai.

Trishna fancies the art of creative writing and is dappling her hands in that too, to soak in the experience and have an engagement with readers, wanderers and thinkers. 

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