Want to improve almost all aspects of your life?
There are some parts of your life that you can’t change, genetics and luck are two things it’s hard to do anything about, but the rest of life can be improved by developing awareness starting with self-awareness and moving outwards from there to become aware of others, your community, country, the world, and the planet. The gateway to living with intention is to begin to develop self-awareness.
What is self-awareness?
Self-awareness means knowing yourself, your thoughts and actions, and what led you to thinking and doing them.
There are two distinct kinds of self-awareness
- Internal – your thoughts, values, feelings, strengths
- External – how you are perceived by others
And you need both. If you only have external awareness you end up “people-pleasing” which isn’t as altruistic as it sounds. What you are doing is trying to make others think highly of you rather than trying to help people. If you only have internal awareness, you may have a hard time getting promoted or getting ahead in life in general because you are too focused on yourself and not on relationships with others. If you lack both the words “I feel stuck” enter your thoughts a lot.
Why is self-awareness so important?
Most people believe they have great self-awareness but, according to a study by Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, researcher, and author of Insight, only 10/15% of people actually have self-awareness.
Being internally and externally aware allows you to make better decisions because you know what your values are and take actions that align with those values instead of turning in a different direction all the time or taking actions that get you further from where you want to be.
You have increased productivity because you have direction and a purpose to the things on your to-do list. Knowing WHY you have to do things is as important as knowing WHAT to do. This leads to more confidence and an ability to lead people and organizations better.
Being aware of yourself and how others perceive you leads to awareness of what may be driving others’ behavior, and less judgment both of yourself and others. Awareness of the world around you and the impact that your decisions have on others and on the planet. Increased compassion and empathy.
What not having self-awareness looks like
- You think everyone thinks like you and are shocked when they tell you they don’t. You either secretly think they must be crazy or flat-out tell them they are.
- You have no or ill-defined boundaries.
- You don’t respect the boundaries of others.
- You have no energy and don’t know why. You think more coffee is the answer.
- You numb out your uneasy feelings with wine, shopping, TV, and endless house cleaning except the house is never tidy.
- You struggle to lose weight.
- You blame others for everything bad in your life.
- You are constantly in the middle of drama, but you can’t figure out why. (I used to wonder if there was a tattoo on my forehead that I couldn’t see that said, ‘more drama please”!!)
- You feel the need to control everything, especially other people’s behavior but have all kinds of excuses for how others MADE you do stuff.
- You think you have no biases. (Hint: everyone has biases.)
- You are unaware of the privileges that have helped you succeed. Most people who are the beneficiary of privileges are unaware of them and get annoyed by any attempts to ‘level the playing field”.
- You feel like you have no connection to others and no social skills.
- You struggle to make small talk in networking situations.
- You can’t reliably read the room.
- You ask intrusive questions that shock people and drive you further away instead of closer together.
- You get immediately defensive when anyone offers feedback.
- You find it hard to trust others and don’t know how to build trust.
- You think others overreact all the time.
- People can present you with overwhelming evidence of something, but you cling to your old belief no matter what.
- You get upset or angry when you give someone advice and they don’t take it.
- Your home has no cohesive style. You don’t even know what your style is. Your home’s style is either defined by the previous owner or a designer.
- Your house is always cluttered because you have no idea what “Sparks Joy” for you.
- You want to help the environment but have no idea where to start.
- You never know what to cook for dinner and end up with heartburn and bloating regularly.
- You have no hobbies and don’t read because you have no idea where to start and who has the time anyway?
- You feel like you are drifting through life with no direction.
- You focus only on the short term and have no idea what your next job should be.
- You try to start a business but can’t decide what to do or call yourself multi-passionate and stuck.
How do you develop self-awareness?
Introspection in isolation is rarely helpful and can lead to a false sense of self-awareness. What is helpful is getting information from an external source. Seeking feedback from anyone can be scary but it is important. Just carefully pick who you ask. Your boss may not be the right person if they completely lack awareness themselves! Ask more than one person and look for common themes instead of taking everything each person says totally to heart.
Therapy is a great place to start to get to know yourself, what drives you, and what holds you back.
Books are an amazing resource too. I started with therapy and then moved onto books to help deepen my understanding of so many facets of why I thought and acted the way I did and how I could learn to be different.
Coaching is the next step towards learning to be more self-aware. If you have had therapy and/or read a ton of books but still feel you need more help to see your blind spots, give you strategies to move forward, hold yourself accountable in your growth getting a coach will be money well spent.