Following up on Part 2 of Self-Awareness, all of this comes down to two things:
- The ability to understand and translate your feelings into words; and
- To take those translated feelings and better understand them to increase your quality of life.
Through self-awareness, you're trying to uncover what things about you are advantageous and which are harmful. From there, it's simple. Double down on the good stuff and eliminate the bad stuff, as much as possible.
Do more of the things that increase the quality of your life. Do more things that you're good at.
Do less of the things that make you unhappy. Do less of the things you're bad at.
That’s it. That’s knowing yourself.
Okay, it's a little deeper than that. I know it's early, but we're diving into the deep end, head first.
The Many Areas of Self–Awareness
As much as we've built the narrative in our head that we are simple and rational, one look at our behaviour on any given day says otherwise. Humans are complex, diverse, and often irrational creatures.
Self-awareness lets us build a better model of ourselves and understand what drives us.
Some key areas for building self-awareness include our emotions, personality traits, values, habits, needs, and physiological feelings that drive our behaviour.
Emotional self-awareness is your ability to recognize your own emotions, what causes them, and the effects they have on your thoughts and actions. Building a strong sense of emotional self-awareness will allow you to:
- Know what emotions you are feeling at any given time and understand why;
- Understand the link between your emotions and your thoughts, actions and reactions;
- Understand how you're feeling and how it will affect your performance;
- Understand how your emotional stance can be affecting those around you; and
- Understand the links between your emotional health and your personal health and well-being.
A person with high emotional self-awareness understands the internal processes associated with emotional experiences and has greater control over them.
Personality self-awareness is an understanding of the characteristics that form our unique character. It is understanding the qualities that make you – you.
For most of us, our personalities don't change drastically throughout our lives – without personal intervention. By becoming self-aware about our personalities, we can help strengthen characteristics we like, weed out ones we don't, and find situations in which we will thrive in.
Self-awareness of your values means understanding the things that you believe are important in the way you live, work and operate in your life.
Knowing your values will allow you to allocate the resources you have on the things that matter most to you. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with requests, knowing your values will help make sure you don't spend too much time on activities that don't amount to much for you in the long run. By focusing on your values, you're more likely to accomplish what you consider most important.
Habits are the behaviours that we repeat regularly and (mostly) automatically. Self-awareness of your habits means understanding the things you do daily that help or hinder you.
Although we all would like to possess the habits that help us interact effectively with ourselves and the world, we can probably all identify at least one or two that decrease our effectiveness. Self-awareness of your habits will give you a platform to hone the good ones and eliminate the bad ones. All of this adds up to less effort and a better life in the long-run.
Needs are what create motivations and when they aren't satisfied, they can cause frustration, inner conflict and stress. Self-awareness of our needs is the understanding of what underlying things motivate us and whether they are fulfilled or not. It is an understanding of the psychological desires that drive us such as esteem, affection, security, belonging, achievement, power, control, and self-actualization.
Physical self-awareness is often the least talked about part of self-awareness, but can have a profound impact on your health and well-being. Here some quick questions to understand physical self-awareness.
- How does my body feel in this moment? Is it relaxed or tense?
- Am I breathing shallow or deep?
- When does my body feel most relaxed? When does by body feel most stressed?
- Am I energetic or lethargic?
- Where do I feel tension or pain?
Understanding physical self-awareness matters because often, many of the feelings talked about above, express themselves physically long before we understand them mentally. For example, when we are stressed our breathing shallows. When we are angered, our jaw tenses.
Understanding the physical is a gateway to understanding the emotional and mental.
Increasing Your Self–Awareness
Knowing yourself completely is a long and onerous tasks. It takes a life-time of learning, but considering you're the one that's stuck with you your entire life, you might as well try and get comfortable with it.
Know that you probably can't solve every problem overnight, but you can definitely make some headway. Like most good things, we'll suck in the beginning, but stick to it. The rewards are worth it.
Here are a few ways of doing increasing self-awareness:
1. Get To Know Your emotions
As the man Roosevelt once said “Men and women are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.” Until you understand your emotions, you have no power to control them.
The first step for practicing self-awareness is gaining a greater awareness of your emotions.
Most of us have been taught to shut our feelings out of any decision-making process and to rely solely on our rational thoughts. We place rationality above any kind of emotional understanding. Not only has science proven that humans emotionally prime every logical decision, not taking emotions into the equation puts our decision-making process out of balance. Our feelings are the internal advocate for our own ideals – whether we are aware of them or not. To make effective decisions, we need both rational thought and our feelings. We need to pay attention to our gut as much as our brain.
Bring greater awareness to your feelings by including them in your decisions. Listen to your gut and explore why your feelings might object to the decision of one of your rational thoughts.
Ask yourself, “Where is that feeling coming from and what does it mean?” Make a habit of recognizing your feelings. It's not easy at first, but you'll get the hang of it.
Once you can notice and understand your emotions, you give yourself the power to control them.
Self-awareness of emotion will help you to understand what you're feeling, stop you from reacting impulsively to them, and give you the opportunity to choose your response to any situation – and that’s the ultimate freedom.
2. Talk to yourself (and ask lots of questions).
Okay, this sounds a little insane, even at 4:30AM, but it's a proven way to get to know yourself better.
Throughout the day, ask yourself questions and answer them as if you were explaining the answer to someone on the outside. Simple things like "what am I feeling right now?" and "why am I feeling it?" are a good place to start.
These questions, reflected back on yourself, will help complete the picture of who you are, how you feel and act, and what matters to you.
3. Journal Often.
Our memory colours the past pretty deeply. To get a more accurate gauge of yourself, journal often. Make a habit of tracking what you're feeling and take stabs at why you might be feeling that way. Doing this will help make you much more aware of what you're doing, how you’re feeling, what problems might be on the horizon, and what matters to you.
Spend time each day/week writing down the little things and soon you'll start to notice larger trends that will give you a better understanding of yourself and allow you to correct.
For writing, I use both Day One and 750words.
4. Look at yourself objectively.
This is one of the hardest parts of self-awareness. Humans' are storytelling creatures and we tell no better stories than the ones we tell ourselves.
The best way to look at yourself objectively – writing down what you're feeling in the moment and why you're feeling it. Then, when it's all said and done, go back and read over your actions from an outside perspective with data.
You'll soon begin to realize some of the many stories you tell yourself, which is the first step to correcting or accepting them.
Instead of spending your time thinking about what you should improve about yourself, think about what your friends, parents or co-workers might think you should improve about yourself. No, I'm not saying you go chase everyone else's expectations, but thinking in that light momentarily will let you look at this from someone else's perspective and gain a little extra insight into yourself.
Even better, find a trustworthy friend that you can talk to and get some honest feedback from. Yes, self-awareness requires some level of vulnerability.
5. Create your own manifesto.
For many of us, the main purpose of self-awareness is self-improvement. If that’s the case, we got to have some goals we’re working towards. Creating a personal manifesto is a great way to figure out who you are, what you care about, and what you want.
Refer back to it often.
6. Perform a self-review.
Almost all of us set goals, intentions and ambitions, but few of us actually stick around low enough to see how they turn out.
No matter how overwhelming clear it is that this is a good thing, the majority of us won't stick to it. Why? Because it's tough.
Setting up time to periodically review your thoughts, actions, and self-awareness long in advance can give you something to hold you accountable to down the road. This can include going through old journals, looking at key understandings and insights about yourself and spending sometime to track it against who you want to become.