Knowing yourself and how to navigate life is the greatest education you can acquire because you can never be taken unawares by any eventuality. What is self-awareness?
Researchers have tried to have a straightforward definition of the subject, but they end up having different varying definitions.
Some opine it’s the ability to visualize your inner world, others see it as a makeshift state of consciousness while others say it is the difference between how we think of ourselves and how others think of us.
Definition of self-awareness
Self-awareness or self-knowledge is the experience of one’s own individuality and consciously knowing of their own character, emotions, feelings, motives, traits, and wants.
It is not driven by intuition or basic instincts but a logical, deliberate, and conscious action taken to know your own emotions and the patterns they take, and how they are connected to your behaviours.
It is not a congenital skill, but research has shown that infants begin to have a level of self-consciousness as early as one year or below.
A self-aware person can evaluate himself, manage his manage and control his emotions, and aligns his behaviour with his values.
This makes him perfectly understand how people perceive him.
Being self-aware keeps you grounded, attuned, and focused, while preparing you for relationship management which is its application in relation to others.
You have a good understanding of how your mind works. You know the reasons why you do the things you do, how you think, feel, and behave.
You are not driven by instincts and you can defend your actions.
Self-awareness vs mindfulness vs consciousness
A closer word in the meaning of self-knowledge is mindfulness. Being self-aware does not mean you have done away with your personal issues, just that you have reached a point of psychological growth where feelings or emotions do not run your life.
At its fundamental level, being self-aware and another necessary skill, self management enables you to understand that the self is different from other people.
You can understand your physical, mental, and emotional states with your internal personality which allows you to communicate with the external world.
On the other hand, mindfulness is being conscious and aware of what is happening.
Mindfulness focuses on the present, recognizing emotions, and feelings and being aware of what we are doing. It is mostly used for mental exercise to clear the mind.
While being self-aware is knowing your entire self including strengths and weaknesses for the wholistic good of your individuality, mindfulness is restricted to mental exercise either to relax the mind or for other needs.
How self-awareness is developed
An area of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex just at the frontal lobe is believed to be responsible for developing this skill in humans.
According to Scientific American, awareness with a simple brain – thinking of ourselves, thoughts, and feelings being able to identify our own images which are different ways to be self-aware all have to do with the cerebral cortex.
That’s also the same area responsible for emotions. This area becomes activated in grownups who show this skill as could be seen through brain imaging.
Also, spindle cells grow rapidly in the anterior cingulate cortex at the time of self-consciousness is thought to begin in infants which gives a kind of credence to the time of its development.
However, it is also suggested that it could not be responsible by only a part of the brain, but distributed throughout the brain network.
Signs of self-awareness
There are telltale signs of being a self-aware person and they are recognizable on the individual level by how a person responds to situations through understanding and control of their feelings and aligning them with their values.
1. You understand your feelings and express them
By naming your sentiments, you demonstrate that you are aware of your current feelings. Being conscious of your own emotions is essential for self-knowledge.
Daniel Goleman, a specialist in emotional intelligence, at least holds that view. Emotional self-awareness, as he puts it, aids us in comprehending our own emotions and how they impact our performance.
When you are aware of your feelings, whether they are positive or negative, you can move on more readily.
But being self-aware goes beyond simply being aware of your feelings. Additionally, you ought to practice speaking them out because communicating our feelings to others helps them comprehend how we feel.
We feel better about ourselves when people can relate to us. Furthermore, studies have shown that in order to understand others, we must first understand ourselves.
2. You are not ashamed of asking questions
The best approach to connect with your inner self and evaluate your conduct is by asking yourself questions.
Why did I become irate? What circumstances make me feel awful? Which personality do I want to have today? What brings me joy?
These are only a few of the queries that assist individuals in assessing their emotions, ideas, and actions with objectivity.
Just keep in mind that being self-aware involves being able to view things from several angles. And to do this, you need to use questions to probe your emotional condition.
3. You think about your own thinking
Our daily lives involve some level of thinking. When we awaken, we consider routine tasks like making breakfast.
We sometimes have to deal with severe issues and choose solutions. But how frequently do you consider how much you consider?
This process is referred to as “metacognition” in psychology. It is, to put it simply, thinking about one’s own thinking.
If you are already familiar with this process, learning that metacognition aids in increasing self-consciousness won’t likely come as a surprise to you.
Do you comprehend your own thoughts at a deep level? Do you attempt to challenge mainstream beliefs rather than embrace them wholeheartedly?
If the answer is yes, you can use your thoughts to advance and develop a better understanding of yourself.
4. When you know there is so much you don’t know
High self-perceiving individuals have little trouble accepting that they don’t know everything. We are unable to know everything.
“The more you learn, the more you discover how little you know,” Aristotle stated as much, and I firmly believe it to be the case.
Think about how diverse our planet is. Despite being the most knowledgeable student in their literature class, someone who lives in Central Europe has no idea what is being taught in schools in the far east.
That is typical. It’s normal to be ignorant of things. We should realize that there is a lot that we don’t know because of this.
Just trying to act like you know everything doesn’t work. It’s also not helpful. However acknowledging your ignorance can help you concentrate on your objectives and identify the things you still need to learn.
5. You acknowledge your errors and learn from them
Consider the most recent error you committed. Was it an unintentional event, such as accidentally spilling coffee on a crucial document, or was it a more catastrophic incident that seemed to spell the end of the world?
In either scenario, there is a good likelihood that you felt let down by yourself for the same basic reason that nobody enjoys making mistakes.
6. You view things from different angles to accommodate the opinions of others
You’re likely to concur if I ask you whether you take other people’s opinions into account when you make a mistake.
That prejudice, in particular, has an impact on how we make decisions. It’s difficult to see things from other people’s views in reality. However, it is feasible!
I’m not advocating that you adopt other people’s viewpoints and alter your convictions in response to their ideas.
People become self-aware instead by believing what they do, but only if you value other people’s viewpoints as well.
7. You take corrections and accept criticisms
What happens to you when someone corrects you?
It depends on who is criticizing me, I used to say in response. However, I now see that it truly makes no difference.
Just pause, analyze their words, and accept criticism whether it comes from someone you feel lacks authority over you or from someone you believe to be competent. Looking at yourself from others’ viewpoints provides a chance to understand yourself better, even if you are right.
Here is a video ‘Who am I”, by ideapod.com, describing self-awareness:
Lack of self-awareness
Humans and even animals live by cues and communication. Humans most times don’t need to communicate to know what is obtainable.
We use body language, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and all our sense organs to know how to act accordingly in a given situation.
People who lack self-awareness are completely deficient in this skill. They just exist and react to situations by instinct.
This means they are at the mercy of their emotions as any overwhelming emotion would take them by storm.
Signs of lack of self-awareness
There are always obvious patterns the behaviours of people who lack self-awareness take. Here are some of them:
1. People who are not self-aware are always defensive
People who are not self-aware don’t recognize that their actions or behaviours are causing discomfort.
When they are called out, they become defensive as if they are being attacked whereas they are the ones offending.
They are difficult to handle because they can’t see beyond themselves nor do they step out of their tight shoes.
For instance, when someone oversteps his or her bounds, instead of apologising, he or she might say something like, “oh, I was only trying to help.”
In other scenarios, that defensiveness could even translate to blaming others for any negative circumstances.
2. They are not trustworthy
A person who’s not aware of how they’re being perceived by others is more likely to be unpredictable.
And unpredictability can quickly breed distrust. It is very tough to connect with such people on the path of trust because you cannot have a grip on what they are capable of or even their goals and plans.
That’s why information is withheld from them and they are sidelined in important situations because they don’t show to have the capacity to handle crucial situations.
3. They have empty arrogance
Arrogance can be described as the overestimation of self-worth. It is one of the telltale signs of the absence of self-knowledge.
Such persons try so hard to make themselves the center of attention while battling so hard to hide their failures which are, however, glaring.
They seek validation either by implication or by force. This is because they are too laid back to put in the work and acquire credit.
4. They lack empathy and are selfish
Because people who are not self-aware are almost thoughtless, they don’t read the room and instead, let their own feelings and emotions obtrude in an embarrassing manner.
They can’t take cues from body language to know the best possible way to react or comport themselves, because they are not even aware of their own emotions.
They do not recognize their role in a situation and how to position themselves. They are just ignorant people who think it’s just about them.
Components of self-awareness
You can actually improve your emotional intelligence by developing greater awareness of yourself through the following components of self-awareness:
Self-concept as a component of self-knowledge is how you perceive yourself and how poised you are willing to recreate yourself.
It comes from your personal experiences in life, how far you can push yourself, and expectations in the future.
It also covers your abilities which if healthy, you will challenge situations head-on and are likely to achieve set goals that promote overall quality of life.
Your thoughts are tied to your emotions. It is hard to separate the two. You must first understand your thoughts before you are able to understand your emotions and control them. Controlling them shows you are self-aware.
When you control your thoughts, you control your life because emotional intelligence itself is embedded in thoughts and emotions.
Feelings are the conscious experience of emotional reactions. Emotional experiences and physical sensations such as hunger and pain trigger feelings. Self-knowledge is possible with the help of feelings.
For instance, you know when you are inadequate because you feel so. You also know when you are hungry because you feel it.
The body is the platform for the display of feelings and emotions. It is in the body that you experience physical responses to feelings and emotions.
Physical changes like goosebumps, tight chest, and knots in the stomach are all expressions of feelings or emotions.
These are cues sent by your body to either take action. A person who is keen on self-awareness will not ignore them.
Emotions are the most powerful factor in communication and how you interact with others. However, it’s one thing to have emotions, and it’s another thing to recognize and be aware of your emotions.
People who are high in emotional intelligence can identify their emotions and what is causing them while people who are low in emotional intelligence are erratic, unruly, rude, and poor in communication.
Sometimes emotions are vague and unexplainable. This is because they manifest in the subconscious mind.
They can only be felt through the emotional experience it gives rise to, though it might emanate from thoughts, desires, beliefs, or actions.
Why is self-knowledge important?
- It makes you have a clear understanding of your personality
- It helps you identify your strength, weakness, thoughts, and beliefs
- It allows you to understand other people and how they are different from you
- It helps you classify yourself and exhibit the matching self-confidence
- It will determine how far and in which direction you go in life
- It builds stronger relationships and connection
- Higher performance
- Effective leadership
Types of self-awareness
Across the studies observed, there are two main types:
- Private or internal
- Public or external
Private or internal self-awareness
This type has to do with your own values, passions, how you fit into your environment, and your aspirations.
It also has to do with your reactions, thoughts, weaknesses, strengths, and how they affect others.
Privately conscious people have a heightened level of private awareness which can either swing to good or bad.
They tend to keep their feelings and beliefs very close to their hearts. They are more inclined to be faithful to their personal values, but they are more likely to be hurt by anxiety and stress.
It is essential for preening self, self-appraisal, self-scrutiny, and boosting your self-image. It is in privacy we have dialogues with ourselves and either encourage or discourage ourselves.
Public or external self-awareness
This type is understanding other people’s views about you in terms of the same factors in private self-awareness above.
Research shows that people who are aware of other people’s views of them are more empathic and consider the perspectives of others.
Also Read: The Journey to Identity Achievement
You tend to prepare yourself for social awareness which will help you have a better relationship with people and can navigate the social scene with ease.
This type also emerges when you are at the center of attention like when you are on stage or giving your opinion in a meeting.
For example, in a gathering, you feel like everyone is watching you, judging your actions. Such feelings can leave you awkward and anxiety could creep in.
Sometimes people can become overly self-aware and veer into what is known as self-consciousness. Self-consciousness can be mistaken for self-awareness because they share a blurry line.
How to improve self awareness
- Practice mindfulness
- Have a goal you pursue
- Be attentive to your thoughts and emotions
- Deliberately reflect on your daily activities
- Thinking about your own thoughts
- Keep track of your feelings and be deliberate about your reaction
Self-awareness is critical in your understanding of yourself and how you relate with others. It helps you to weigh yourself using others as the control observation and act accordingly.
If you feel you are not as self-aware as you should, you can approach a doctor and have a discussion.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is self-awareness?
It is the ability to recognize and understand one’s own thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and to have a sense of how they impact others.
Why is self-awareness important?
It is important because it allows individuals to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, to better manage their emotions and behavior, and to have more fulfilling relationships with others.
How can I improve my self-awareness?
You can improve by practicing mindfulness, reflecting on your thoughts and emotions, seeking feedback from others, and engaging in self-reflection exercises like journaling.
What are some signs of low self-awareness?
Some signs include a lack of self-reflection, an inability to recognize and regulate emotions, difficulty understanding other people’s perspectives, and a tendency to blame others for their problems.
Can self-awareness be taught?
Yes, it can be taught through various techniques such as mindfulness practices, reflective exercises, and feedback from others.
How can self-awareness improve my relationships?
It can improve relationships by allowing individuals to better understand their own emotions and behaviors, and to communicate more effectively with others. It can also help individuals be more empathetic and understanding towards others.
Is self-awareness the same as self-esteem?
No, it is not the same as self-esteem. Self-awareness is the ability to understand and reflect on one’s own thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, while self-esteem is a person’s overall evaluation of their own worth and value.
Can self-awareness lead to personal growth?
Yes, it can lead to personal growth by helping individuals identify areas for improvement and working towards becoming a better version of themselves. It can also lead to a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.
- 4 Surefire Signs That a Person Lacks Self-perceptions
- Sings Of Awareness of Self
- What Is Self-Knowledge
- What is self-knowledge and why is it important?
- 7 Examples of Self-knowledge (and Why It’s so Important)
A Personal Development Content Creator and an author. I write about life ethics and love to document and share life hacks and experiences of people to help others make good life decisions.
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