By Azugbene Solomon
Self-awareness is one of the key components of emotional intelligence (EI).
Daniel Goleman, the guru of emotional intelligence, identified self-awareness as being made up of emotional awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence. In other words, it is all about knowing your emotions, your personal strengths and weaknesses, and having a strong sense of your own worth.
People who lack self-awareness find living a truly happy and productive life difficult. This can be difficult to overcome, as many societies and cultures encourage us to ignore our feelings and emotions – ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.
Examples of this include people who stay in jobs that they find unfulfilling or make them unhappy, or in relationships in which they are not comfortable.
Emotional awareness is an ability to recognise your own emotions, and their effects. People who have this ability will:
Being aware of your own emotions, and how they affect your behaviour, is crucial to effective interaction with others. But it can also be crucial to your personal health and well-being.
Having self-awareness means that you have a sharp realization of your personality, including your strengths and weaknesses, your thoughts and beliefs, your emotions, and your motivations.
If you are self-aware, it is easier for you to understand other people and detect how they perceive you in return.
Many people assume that they have a healthy sense of self-awareness, but it is best to look at a relative scale to see where you fall on it compared to others. Being aware creates an opportunity to make changes in one’s behavior and beliefs.
While you develop self-awareness, your own personal thoughts and interpretations will begin to change. This change in mental state will also alter your emotions and increase your emotional intelligence, which is an important factor in achieving overall success.
Becoming self-aware is an early step in the creation of the life that you want. It helps you pinpoint what your passions and emotions are, and how your personality can help you in life.
You can recognize where your thoughts and emotions are leading you, and make any necessary changes. Once you are aware of your thoughts, words, emotions, and behavior, you will be able to make changes in the direction of your future.
The Importance of Self – Awareness
Who originally came up with the idea of self-awareness?
Self-awareness was first theorized in 1972 by Duval and Wicklund in their book A Theory of Objective Self-Awareness. This book argues that if we focus our attention inwardly on ourselves, we tend to compare our behavior in the current moment to our general standards and values. This triggers a state of impartial self-awareness.
How does this concept/question relate to building positive habits?
Self-awareness is a vital first step in taking control of your life, creating what you want, and mastering your future. Where you choose to focus your energy, emotions, personality, and reactions determines where you will end up in life.
When you are self-aware, you can see where your thoughts and emotions are guiding you. It also allows you to take control of your actions so you can make the necessary changes to get the outcomes you desire.
This may include changes to your emotions, your behavior, or your personality. Until you achieve this, you will have a hard time making changes in the direction your life is taking you.
How can self-awareness be important in different fields?
You can’t be an effective leader without being able to answer the “what is self-awareness?” question.
It provides the necessary base for having strong character, creating the ability to lead with purpose, trust, authenticity, and openness. Self-awareness explains our successes and our failures while giving us a clear understanding of who we are and what we need most from other people to have a successful team.
It also gives leaders the opportunity to identify any gaps that they might have in their management skills, and reveals the areas in which they are effective and where they might need additional work.
Knowing these things can help leaders make discerning decisions and increase their effectiveness in positively motivating their employees. Learning to be self-aware is not a simple process, but doing so can improve one’s leadership skills and lead to a more supportive business culture.
As a social worker, having self-awareness is an important part of preparing to encounter clients in their specific situations. Much of the process of becoming an effective social worker is made up of becoming self-aware. This can happen with encounters with professors, classmates, and clients that work to continuously challenge us to be aware of our feelings. While this is not an easy thing to do, it is a worthwhile achievement.
Social workers have to be aware of their own biases when they are dealing with clients so they can make sure they are treating every client equally.
Self-awareness interplays with the therapeutic process of counseling. When one is able to gain a greater understanding of themselves through the input of a therapist, it leads to self-discovery.
Counseling is a journey of self-discovery, as one observes their own thought patterns and how they affect their mood and behavior. Observing one’s own thoughts and feelings builds self-knowledge, and doing this with a counselor provides an objective opinion during the observation.
Self-awareness plays a large role in education because it helps students become focused on what they need to learn. The ability of students to think about their thinking increases with age. When teachers work with students to teach them to reflect, monitor, and evaluate themselves, students are able to become more self-reliant, productive, and flexible.
Students improve their ability to weigh their choices and think about their options, especially when the correct answer is not obvious. When students have a hard time understanding a concept or idea, they use reflective strategies to acknowledge their difficulties and try to fix them. This also gives students tools to self-reflect and grow in their emotional and social lives.
Self-awareness is used as a therapeutic tool for nurse-client relationships. A nurse who is self-aware can provide a therapeutic environment to care for their patient. Because of this, it is recommended that nursing schools should teach students about development and self-understanding.
It would also be beneficial for professional nurses to be able to get help and guidance to continue the growth process throughout their careers.
How to develop and increase self-awareness
1. Look at yourself objectively.
Trying to see yourself as you really are can be a very difficult process, but if you make the right efforts, getting to know your real self can be extremely rewarding. When you are able to see yourself objectively, you can learn how to accept yourself and find ways to improve yourself in the future.
So, what is an easy way to get started with this?
- Try to identify your current understanding by writing out your perceptions. This may be things that you think you are good at doing, or that you need to improve.
- Think about things you are proud of, or any accomplishments that really stand out throughout your life.
- Think about your childhood and what made you happy back then. What has changed and what has remained the same? What are the reasons for the changes?
- Encourage others to be honest with you about how they feel about you, and take what they say to heart.
In the end, you will come out with a fresh new perspective on yourself and your life.
You can write about anything in your journal, even if it is not related to your goals. Recording your thoughts on paper helps to relieve your mind of those ideas, and clears it up to make space for new information and ideas.
Take some time each night to write in your journal about your thoughts and feelings, and your successes and failures for the day. This will help you grow and move forward in your achievements.
As you self-reflect, take some time to think about how you are a leader, and how people working under you likely view you. Think about what you do to help other people, and if you could possibly do more. What are your values, and what is most important to you right now?
All of these self-reflection questions will help you get a better idea of who you are and what you want out of life right now.
3. Write down your goals, plans, and priorities.
Plan out your goals in a worksheet so they turn from ideas into a step-by-step process. Break down your larger goal into mini-goals so it seems less overwhelming, and tackle it head on.
4. Perform daily self-reflection.
In order to have self-awareness, you must do self-reflection. This requires setting aside some time, hopefully every day, to honestly look at yourself as a person and a leader. Committing to this practice can help you improve.
In our demanding business world, daily self-reflection is easier said than done. There is always pressure to do more with less, and an endless flow of information through our portable technology.
Because it takes time to self-reflect, start by setting aside just 15 minutes each day. Self-reflection is most effective when you use a journal and write down your thoughts. It’s also best to find a quiet place to think.
5. Practice meditation and other mindfulness habits.
Meditation is the practice of improving your mindful awareness. Most types of meditation focus on the breath, but not all meditation has to be formal. You can also find greater clarity from regular moments of reflection.
During your meditations, you may stop to think about some specific questions.
- What is your goal?
- What are you doing that is working?
- What are you doing that is acting as a hindrance to your success?
- How can you change your process to improve it?
One of the most frequent forms of meditation you may practice comes from carrying out everyday tasks that give you a sense of therapeutic serenity, such as washing dishes, going for a run, and going to church.
6. Take personality and psychometric tests.
Take these personality and psychometric tests to help understand what traits you have. Some popular tests that are aimed at increasing self-awareness include the Myers-Briggs test and the Predictive Index.
There are no right or wrong answers to these tests. Instead, they compel respondents to think about a set of traits or characteristics that closely describe them relative to other people.
7. Ask trusted friends to describe you.
How are we supposed to know what other people think of us? We have to listen to the feedback of our peers and mentors, and let them play the role of an honest mirror. Tell your friends when you are looking for open, honest, critical, and objective perspectives. Allow your friends to feel safe while they are giving you an informal yet honest view.
Make sure your friends know that they are doing this to help you, not to hurt you. Also, feel free to ask questions of your friends about topics they bring up if you feel like you need some more clarity to completely understand.
You can also ask friends to bring it to your attention when you are doing something that you know you want to change. For example, if you know you tend to “one-up” people when they are telling stories, have your friends discreetly let you know that is happening so you can learn to stop.
8. Ask for feedback at work.
In addition to consulting friends and family, use a more formal process at work to get some feedback. If your company does not provide a structured way to do this, try to implement one. Provided it is constructive and well done, having an option for formalized feedback allows us to self-reflect on our own strengths and weaknesses.
To have an effective formal feedback system at work, you need a proper process and an effective manager. Once the feedback process is finished, it is important to reflect on it by writing down your main takeaways. Write down any surprising strengths and weaknesses that you did not realize you had before.
It will take quite some time to increase your self-awareness and get to know yourself better. It can even take years and input from many people around you. Building the necessary habits to help you become more self-aware can positively impact other aspects of your life, especially your interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships.
Self-awareness is a crucial part of emotional intelligence.
It is no accident that Daniel Goleman, the author of the book Emotional Intelligence, identified it as the first of the five competences that make up emotional intelligence.
Without awareness and understanding of ourselves, and a sense of self rooted in our own values, it is hard, if not impossible, to be aware of and respond to the emotions of others.
Featured photo credit: Develop Good Habits