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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

What Is Self Awareness (And How to Increase Yours)

What Is Self Awareness (And How to Increase Yours)

What is self awareness?

As it turns out, self awareness can mean many different things, depending on who you ask.

In this article, we will look into the true meaning of self awareness, why it is so important to everyone of us, and what you can do to increase your self awareness to live a happy and successful life.

What Is Self Awareness?

Self awareness could be as simple as getting in touch with, and then understanding your thoughts and feelings. For some, it might mean connecting with your innermost beliefs and values and then living a life that is congruent with those values.

For people focused more on professional development, self awareness is understanding their strengths, weaknesses, personality types, and leadership styles.

According to Google’s Dictionary, self-awareness is:

“Conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.”

According to Psychology Today, self-awareness:[1]

“involves monitoring our inner worlds, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It is important, because it’s a major mechanism influencing personal development.”

Since publishing his book, Emotional Intelligence in 1995, Daniel Goleman’s idea of Emotional Intelligence (a.k.a. EQ or EI) and self-awareness have taken the world by storm. And as you can see, there are a wide array of meanings, definitions, and interpretations.

The two larger questions, in my mind, are 1) Why does self-awareness matter so much and 2) How can we become more self-aware in our lives?

Those are the two questions we’re going to dive into today.

Why Does Self-Awareness Matter?

In a study undertaken by Green Peak Partners and Cornell University, 72 executives at public and private companies ranging from $50 million in revenue to $5 billion in revenue were studied. Here’s what the study found:[2]

“The executives most likely to deliver good bottom line results are actually self-aware leaders who are especially good at working with individuals and in teams.” The study went on to say, “A high self-awareness score was the strongest predictor of overall success.”

So there it is!

Higher self awareness equates to higher levels of success. But this goes beyond our professional lives—it also applies to our personal lives.

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Goleman saw emotional intelligence as a vital factor in success, especially for children. He proposed that emotional intelligence would not only improve their learning abilities, it would also help them succeed in school by reducing or eliminating some of the most distracting and harmful behavioral problems.[3]

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Since 1995, there have been countless studies on self-awareness and EQ as a whole. Some have shown that improved EQ could help college students succeed, both academically and socially.

Other findings have shown that self-awareness can improve communication and reduce conflict in relationships, especially in married couples.[4]

As you dive into the rabbit hole of research online, you’ll find that self-awareness affects everything you do. It affects your leadership, your relationships, how you treat others, how you communicate, what you expect of people, how you respond to situations, and so much more.

Self awareness is, without a doubt, a critical skill that everyone should seek to improve upon.

And here comes the good news! Self-awareness is something you can learn.

In 2009, Delphine Nelis and colleagues conducted a controlled experiment to test whether or not it’s possible to increase Emotional Intelligence.

Participants of the experimental group received a brief empirically-derived EI training while control participants continued to live normally. At the end of the experiment, they proved that improving emotional intelligence is possible.[5]

How to Become More Self-Aware

If I’ve done my job correctly, you should be 100 percent sold on the importance of self-awareness, and you should be hungry to know how to improve on this area of your life.

That’s great because I have six strategies to help you do just that.

1. Create Space for Yourself

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees?”

Sometimes, when we have our heads down, and we’re immersed in our everyday lives, it’s hard to see what’s really going on. Life is busy, so if you want to become more self-aware, you have to create space for yourself.

I don’t necessarily mean a meditation room, although that might help.

What I mean is, you need to carve out time in your day to reflect on your life:

How are you feeling?

Are you stressed, worried, or upset? Are you filled with joy and passion? Or, are you somewhere in between? It’s important to touch base with your feelings every day; otherwise your feelings can build and emerge in unpleasant ways.

What are you thinking about?

Do you have big problems but no time to think of solutions? Could things be going better in certain areas of your life?

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What are you focused on?

What is getting the most of your time? Should that thing or those people be getting so much of your time? Are you drifting through life, or are you attacking your life plan with passion and energy?

Most people are far too busy running through the motions of everyday life that they forget to pause and reflect. But not you! You’re on a quest to become more self-aware.

Maybe you can reflect during an early morning walk or meditation. Perhaps you could reflect during an hour in the gym, on the treadmill, or on a hiking trail.

It really doesn’t matter where you create the space for yourself—all that matter is that you make the time.

I’ve tried meditation, and it doesn’t work for me. Instead, I tend to check in with myself the most while I’m mowing the lawn, jogging, lifting weights, or journaling. Those are the times it happens naturally for me. There’s just something about being engaged in repetitive activity that clears my mind.

Find what works for you and create some space in your life. You need it!

2. Practice Mindfulness

For me, this is a tough one!

Google’s Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”

I’m bad about moving through life at hyper speed, fueled by copious amounts of coffee while trying to crush my goals as quickly as possible. Stopping to smell the roses every once in a while is just plain hard for me.

It’s easy to be so future-focused that you lose track of the present, but by creating space in our lives, we essentially carve out dedicated times to practice mindfulness.

During these times, it’s important to listen to your inner voice, tune into what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it, and to acknowledge and understand yourself better.

How many times have you been upset and had no idea why?

This has happened to me, but then later on, when my mind became clear, it was easy to see why I was upset and what I needed to do about the situation. But we can’t always wait until our mind clears on its own!

In today’s fast-paced environment, the time may never come on its own. We have to make time for it.

Find some space in your life and use it to practice mindfulness each day. Here’s a beginner guide to try: Meditation Can Change Your Life: The Power of Mindfulness

3. Keep a Journal

What better way to create some space for yourself and practice mindfulness than to develop a daily journaling habit?

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According to Psych Central,[6]

“The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. […] In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”

I had no idea! Did you?

In addition to that, journaling can help you clarify your thoughts and feelings, get to know yourself better, reduce overall stress, solve problems more effectively, and even resolve disagreements with others.

If it helps, think of journaling as practicing mindfulness on paper.

Take some quiet time to think about your inner world, how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and so on. While you’re analyzing your inner world, write down all of your thoughts as they occur to you. I call this a stream of consciousness.

If you can, do this at least once a day, either in the morning or in the evening. If you want to take your self-awareness to an even higher level, try journaling your observations every hour throughout the day.

According to the National Science Foundation, we have an average of 50,000 thoughts per day, most of which we are not self-aware enough to notice.[7] Imagine if you took a little time to practice mindfulness and wrote some of those thoughts down.

4. Become an Excellent Listener

Stephen R. Covey, the author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, once said,

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

Do you fall into that category?

For the longest time, I absolutely did. As people were talking to me, I was trying to hold onto as many of my own thoughts, replies, and rebuttals as possible. Then, moments later, I couldn’t recall a single thing I had been told.

A couple of years ago, I became aware of this phenomenon when I read John Maxwell’s Becoming a Person of Influence. There was an entire chapter on listening, and I learned that I was a terrible listener!

When you stop to listen to someone, your goal is to do a lot more than just hear their words better—you need to observe their tone, their body language, their emotions, and their attitude. You need to become acutely aware of how they feel and how you’re making them feel.

Instead of evaluating and judging what the other person is saying, connect with them, and listen and observe what they have to say. As you become a better listener to those around you, you will learn to listen to your inner voice better as well.

5. Seek New Perspectives About Yourself

Most of us think we have ourselves pretty figured out, don’t we? We spend more time with ourselves than with anyone else. We know all of our own intimate secrets, hopes, dreams, and guilty pleasures.

How could we not know ourselves inside and out? Well, I would argue that it’s tough to honestly know ourselves, at least entirely.

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Here’s why:

I think we often know ourselves as the person we aspire to be, not the person we are in the present.

My favorite show of all time is NBC’s The Office. In one episode, Michael Scott is introducing a new salesman to the staff. The new salesman is highly skilled, attractive, charming, and so on. Michael says this to his team:[8]

“I respect him, because he reminds me of somebody. Can anybody guess who that is?”

The staff takes their round of incorrect guesses, and Michael responds, “No, me. Right? Sorta like, a little younger version of me?”

In his eyes, he and the new guy were very similar, but Oscar replies, “It’s hard to judge ourselves accurately isn’t it.”

Oscar sees Michael through a completely different lens than Michael sees himself. And if you’ve seen the show, Oscar’s perspective is dead on.

It’s difficult to get pure, honest feedback free of bias and fluff, but by asking our friends, family, and coworkers for 360-degree feedback, we can gain a new perspective about ourselves that would be challenging to get on our own.

If you want to become truly self-aware, seek feedback from those you know and trust. The insights may surprise you, but the new perspective will be incredibly valuable.

6. Live and Breathe Personal Development

The last strategy I’ll leave you with for increasing your self-awareness is to consume as much personal development content as you can.

I love to listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, read books and blogs about leadership, mentorship, goal setting, high performance, building good habits, and so on. The more I dive into personal development, the more I learn about myself.

A year ago, I didn’t know about scarcity mindset or risk aversion, let alone that I suffered from both. Now that I know I suffer from these things, I can work towards overcoming them in my life.

The more you learn about the world around you, the better you can begin to understand yourself, and that’s why self-awareness is so incredibly critical to success.

Final Thoughts

The impact that self awareness has on success is undeniable, but mastering self-awareness is going to take some effort from you. Are you up for it? I think you are!

You’ve got this!

More Tips for Increasing Self Awareness

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psychology Today: What Is Self-Awareness, and How Do You Get It?
[2] American Management Association: New Study Shows Nice Guys Finish First
[3] Positive Psychology Program: What is Emotional Intelligence? +18 Ways To Improve It
[4] Fatherly: How to Become More Self-Aware in Your Marriage
[5] Delphine Nelis: Increasing emotional intelligence: (How) is it possible?
[6] Psych Central: The Health Benefits of Journaling
[7] National Science Foundation: Thoughts
[8] The Official Quotes: The Sting

More by this author

Austin Bollinger

Austin is the founder, blogger, and podcast host at Daily New Years. He's on a mission to help people identify, set, and crush their goals.

The Ultimate List of 29 Goals for Living a Fulfilling Life What Is Self Awareness (And How to Increase Yours) What Is Self-Actualization? 13 Traits of Self-Actualized People How to Develop Mental Toughness and Stay Strong

Trending in Self-Understanding

1 10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self 2 How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment 3 What Is Self Awareness (And How to Increase Yours) 4 How Self-Reflection Gives You a Happier and More Successful Life 5 Being Self Aware Is the Key to Success: How to Boost Self Awareness

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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self

10 Self-Exploration Practices to Discover Your True Self

Discovering your true self is a lifelong journey. It doesn’t happen in one day or one revelation, but it is still worth the pursuit. When you find your true self through self-exploration, you know what you’re meant to do and are no longer afraid. Rising up with authenticity, you can overcome anything.

What is your true self? Is it the person you were as a child? When you felt the happiest? When you learned that important life lesson? When you achieved that goal? When you helped that stranger? Or when you acted according to your values regardless of others’ expectations?

The answer is all of these things make up your true self. The key isn’t discovering your true self. It’s remembering.

Here are some self-exploration practices to help you get started.

1. Act Authentically

When you act authentically, you are stepping into your true self. You are walking with wisdom, rather than worry. People come to you because they know you’re the real deal. You are flawed but fierce. You are enough as you, where you are, with what you have.

When you are authentic, you make choices that come from character. When you stay true to who you actually are, you learn that nothing can bring you down. That’s because you aren’t looking for external validation, and when you know what you have, you can do more with it.

When you act authentically, you are also acting in the best interests of everyone around you, because you care more about the right things. A better you means a better world.

2. Use Self-Affirmations

Say the following: “I am enough. I am strong. I am a victor, not a victim. I have what it takes. I will overcome. I will keep going, even when it seems impossible. I am not perfect, but I am human. I am allowed to rest, not to quit. I am not alone. I am good. I am grateful. I am at peace.”

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When you say these things, you accept them as true. You feel them, and you become them. You discover your true self in finding your power through self-exploration.

When you tell the world who you are, obstacles and opposition will move out of the way. When you are confident, you see opportunities, lessons, and wisdom. It makes you proactive, rather than reactive.

3. Confront Your Inner Critic

If all anyone did was listen to the negative voice in their head, nothing would ever get done. Einstein wouldn’t have discovered the Theory of Relativity and more if he listened to his teacher once tell him that he didn’t have what it took. The world would be robbed of that one person, who would change so many things.

The inner critic comes from fear of the unknown, of not being good enough, or of loss and lack. However, fear doesn’t have to decide what happens. You can overcome fear by not listening to your inner critic.

Instead, you can thank your inner critic and say, “I think what COULD happen…” and spin it into a positive sentiment. Fear can make sure you wear your seatbelt, practice before performing, make good choices, etc., but it doesn’t have to control you.

It may not go away completely, when you confront your inner critic, but you can reassure it and ultimately release it.

4. Don’t Hide Your Imperfections

It’s easy to wear a mask and say, “This is who I want people to think I am.” Instead, it’s more fulfilling to take off the mask and say, “This is who I actually am, and I am proud of that person.”

Through self-exploration, you can live freely by owning who you are. That will make you more responsible and more impactful. When you tell your story and say your truth, people will listen and be inspired to find their own truth. Self-discovery can then spread.

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5. Find Who You Are NOT

If you want to find out who you are, find out who you are NOT. What part of your past has defined your present? What about your culture, religion, family, friends, people around you, etc? What is truly you and what is them? You’ll never be finished discovering yourself, but you can use differentiation[1], where you separate yourself from what isn’t you by finding the sources of your views to become independent.

When you differentiate, you do not discount or minimize the effect other things have had. You just become aware of it, and what you are aware of, you can bring into the light of acceptance, where you can do something to change it.

What are your unique goals, interests, values, and ideas? Once you figure out what you are not, start there. Self-exploration is a journey of understanding how you have been shaped and molded through life and by what.

It’s okay that things have influenced you, but have you ever asked yourself why? If you can answer that question, you can start to find out who you are and set yourself free from the things you aren’t.

6. Log Your Life

Journaling is a great tool for self-exploration. All you need to do is write down your thoughts, either as free writing or following prompts. If you can’t think of anything to write, start simply: Write down your mood and the date.

What causes you to feel better or worse? What are your triggers? What makes you triumph?

When you discover what makes you tick, you learn how to better manage yourself and your life. You have a safe space where you can be your true self, and only share entries if you feel comfortable. You can pour it out daily, or just check in.

You can also observe what’s around you, letting your mind go and flow. Focus on your feelings, and allow pauses and moments for reflection before resuming writing. Let the end of it come naturally, when you feel like you have nothing else to say.

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As long as you keep some sort of log, you can learn how your mind operates, and you can pick up unhealthy patterns, which will help you regain control of your life.

You can check out more benefits of journaling here.

7. Focus on What Is Right With You

Maybe your mind ruminates on what you don’t like about yourself and what you think others don’t like. Maybe you feel like opportunities pass you up because you are not worth it. If that is you, know that you’re not alone. Everyone has a negativity bias[2] where they tend to believe more in the bad at first then the good.

Recognizing your mind may lie to you is the first step in seeing the truth. When you focus on what is right for you, you counteract those thoughts telling you that you have nothing to offer. If you have control over what you think, you have greater control over your situation.

Have you ever given yourself a compliment? Why not try one now? You can personalize it, but you can say things along the lines of, “I like how you care for other people. You have a great attitude. You always rise when bad things happen. I love you.”

8. Find Solace in Solitude

Sometimes, unplugging and getting away is the best thing for self-exploration. If you step outside into nature and invest in yourself, then you will feel better and be better.

Use time to meditate and focus just on yourself, not the world around you. Listen to your own thoughts, not what others are saying. When you check in, you know yourself again.

Recharging may not change everything or stop that difficult circumstance, but it can help you develop the mindset and energy to face it through your inner strength.

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9. Practice Self-Care

Often, when people try to relax, they worry with guilt and anxiety. You may be on vacation, but your brain is still at work. If you give yourself permission to relax, you will see that you fight your battles even better and can really dive into self-exploration.

Breakthroughs will happen in self-care more than in self-sabotage. When you try some self-care, it’s not just about pampering yourself. It’s taking the time to do what you need to do in order to be who you need to be.

Self-care looks different to each person. For some, it may be using essential oils and taking a bath. For others, it may look like hiking into nature, away from your problems and troubles. Whatever self-care looks like for you, know that you deserve it.

10. Try Mindfulness

Being present and in the moment is a great way to discipline your mind into not catastrophizing. When you fail, you don’t say, “I’m a failure.” Mindfulness[3] helps you stop judging yourself by just observing your thoughts and stopping negative thought patterns.

Imagine your thoughts are like leaves flowing past you in the cool breeze. As each thought comes up, place it on a leaf and let it pass. You don’t have to be attached to each one. Instead, work on breathing deeply, which activates the Vagus nerve[4] and releases tension and stress. As you breathe out, notice those leaves getting farther and farther from you, until they are in the distance.

You can be mindful at work, when your boss is talking over you and you want to raise your voice. You can be mindful with your kids, when they are asking for their sibling’s toy and you just want to give in to make it stop. You can be mindful when you are in the most stressful situations, and it gives you a pause to reassess the situation.

Whatever the situation, you calm down so that you can act with a clearer head and make choices that will bring the best results.

Conclusion

Self-exploration looks different for each person, but authenticity always brings you back to yourself. When you are exploring who you are, you must start with what matters to you. You have to assess your values and that will give you the criteria for living.

Self-discovery is about self-love, most of all. When you love yourself, you have more to give, and you find happiness in the process.

More Tips for Self-Exploration

Featured photo credit: Jonas Svidras via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Psych Alive:  Psychological Differentiation
[2] Very Well Mind: What Is the Negativity Bias?
[3] Psychology Today: Mindfulness
[4] Mayo Clinic: Vagus nerve stimulation

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