Improving your self-awareness

Self-awareness is knowing how external stimuli affect internal reality. Basic mindfulness involves recognising emotions and their effects. Self-aware people can:

  • Identify and label their emotions.
  • Know why they feel a certain way.
  • Learn how emotions affect their behaviour and that of other people.

People who are self-aware have a strong sense of identity; they know who they are and what their goals and interests are.

3 types of self-awareness

There are three types of self-awareness: emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence.

Emotional self-awareness. Being emotionally aware means being aware of how you feel. For example, are you happy, sad, scared, or something else? And being aware of your feelings means knowing how they might affect the way you think, act, and do your job.

Accurate self-assessment. Self-assessment involves knowing your emotional strengths, weaknesses, and limits. For example, you know you may yell when frustrated, angry, or stressed.

Self-confidence. Knowing your emotional tendencies boosts self-confidence. Self-confident people don’t let surprises shake them. They know who they are and can communicate effectively.

The importance of self-awareness

Without self-awareness, we ignore our emotions and become victims. If we don’t acknowledge our emotions, they may control our decisions, influence our actions, and hurt our performance.

With self-awareness, we can stop negative behaviours, cope with stress and emotions, understand our motivations and values, empathise with others, strengthen our relationships, and become more assertive.

5 Tips for Improving Self-Awareness

So, what can you do to become more self-aware? The first step is to listen and ask questions.

Feel and accept your emotions

Emotions give us information, so we shouldn’t try to hide them or hold them in. Instead of trying to fight them, focus on how you feel. Give them names, sit down with them, and let them do what they need to do. Ask yourself, “How do I feel right now?” and “Why did I choose this label?” on a regular basis. When you recognise and accept something, you become aware of it.

Keep a reflective journal

Practice emotional reflection. Keep a journal of your day’s events. What did you do? “Working late today made me angry and bitter.” After getting home, I ignored my family. You’ll notice patterns in a journal. You’ll recognise emotional triggers and responses.

Notice your physical reactions

Our bodies store emotion. Anxiety causes sweaty palms, a fast heartbeat, and tight muscles. By recognising these reactions, you can understand your internal signals before noticing the emotion. Make it a habit to do body scans when you’re relaxed or returning home from a stressful day. Ask yourself, “How are my breathing, heart rate, and muscles? Are they different from normal?”

Reflect with “what” questions

When we reflect on our emotions, we tend to focus on “why” rather than “what.” “Why did I yell at everyone?” we wonder. “Why was I so nervous?” However, when asked “why,” we frequently invent our own answers and place blame. “I have an anger problem,” we say, or “I’m just a nervous person.” Instead, try to figure out what is going on to increase self-awareness. For example, you might ask: “What about the experience made me nervous? What did this situation have in common with previous encounters?”

Seek regular feedback

Sometimes our thoughts and actions clash. Others may perceive your assertiveness as bullying. Ask senior leaders, peers, and subordinates for feedback often. By asking for and accepting feedback, you’ll learn how others see you.

The key takeaways

Self-awareness is knowing how external stimuli affect internal reality. Being emotionally aware means being aware of how you feel and how that might affect the way you think, act, and do your job.

There are three types of self-awareness: emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence.

Ask yourself, “How do I feel right now?” and “Why did I choose this label?” on a regular basis.

Make it a habit to do body scans when you’re relaxed or returning home from a stressful day.

Ask senior leaders, peers, and subordinates for feedback often. By asking for and accepting feedback, you’ll learn how others see you.

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