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Self-Awareness: 7 Questions and Answers

There is a big focus on self-awareness. However, it is often unclear what self-awareness is and why it's so important. Self-awareness is the capacity to see yourself objectively and raise consciousness on inner limits and resources. Understandably, it is not simple to reach complete objectivity about oneself, but anyone can achieve a certain degree of self-awareness with some open-minded attitude.

While everyone has a basic idea of what self-awareness is, often there are still
open questions. This blog is an attempt to answer some of them.

What is self-awareness?

Self-awareness is one of the main elements of the self and the way you experience yourself. Self-awareness is fundamental to understanding who you are, but it is not something you constantly focus on. Instead, self-awareness grows when you want to understand the reason for specific reactions or emotions in particular situations and ask yourself questions. Questions like who am I? What drives me toward certain directions rather than others? Why do some events go under my skin while others don't?​ What triggers my reactions, and what leaves me cold? And what are the feelings behind all these?

The aim of self-awareness is not to uncover past traumas or dig into the unconscious self; it's a way to understand what is happening for you in specific moments and how emotions unfold and impact your behaviour.

There are two types of self-awareness; both have very distinctive features and are not necessarily interrelated. The first one is related to the self, and the second one is based on the experience of the outer environment.

Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

C.G. Jung

Why is becoming self-aware important?

When you step back and think about what is happening, you learn new stuff about yourself. Some of the things you discover will find your approval, and others won't. In each of us, there are flaws, insecurities, feelings of unworthiness, anger, resentment.

You may have had to endure challenging experiences, inflicted pain on others, faced situations in ways you may not feel proud of. Yet, it is not easy to admit details you are ashamed of, even only to yourself.

On the positive side, once you know and accept your weaknesses and learn to deal with parts of yourself you were once uncomfortable with, you will recognise unhelpful patterns and begin to promote self-awareness and, consequently, inner growth.

Confronting and painful emotions are part of the journey to self-awareness. It takes courage to face one's inner world and also see oneself through the eyes of others. However, the unfolding of the process and appreciating the many facets of yourself will allow you to positively face most of the future challenges.

Self-awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life

without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.

Debbie Ford

Which are the two types of self-awareness?

There are two types of self-awareness: internal and external self-awareness.

Internal self-awareness represents how one sees its own:

  • Values

  • Passions

  • Ambitions

  • Place in the environment

  • Reactions (including thoughts, emotions, behaviours, strengths and vulnerabilities)

  • Impact on others

  • Limitations

  • Weaknesses

Higher internal self-awareness has a positive impact on:

  • Relationships

  • Job satisfaction

  • Emotions regulation

  • Social behaviours

  • Happiness

Lower internal self-awareness is connected to:

  • Higher anxiety level

  • Insecurity

  • Difficulties in managing stress

  • Tendency to depression

  • Prone to anger

  • Rigidity

External self-awareness represents how one feels perceived socially.

Higher external self-awareness is associated with:

  • Greater empathy

  • Value of other's perspectives

  • Better work relationships

  • Increased need for completing tasks

  • More effective negotiations and compromises

Lower external self-awareness leads to:

  • People pleasing

  • Inability to make clear decisions

  • Higher focus on appearance

  • Self-consciousness

  • Abandonment fear

  • Difficulties in trusting others

  • Challenges in understanding other's perspectives

  • Tendency to make choices against their best interest

Internal and external self-awareness do not necessarily mirror each other. For example, one can have higher external and lower internal self-awareness or the other way around.

It is when you lose sight of yourself, that you lose your way.

To keep your truth in sight you must keep yourself in sight and the world to you should be a mirror to reflect to you your image; the world should be a mirror that you reflect upon.

C. JoyBell C.

How does self-awareness develop?

Newborns come into the world with an immature sense of self. In their first year, they become aware that they are separate beings. Later, a more complex understanding of the self shows up and develops quickly. The primary cues in the early stages are external. This means that the sense of self comes from our environment, mainly parents and siblings and minor parts from our personality. Self-awareness in early life is created through warmth, acceptance, the possibility to learn from mistakes (falling and stand up), and interactions.

The way we learn to perceive ourselves in these early stages of life will impact how we'll perceive ourselves and our experiences in the future.

Later we begin to explore the outer world on our own, and from that moment, schoolmates, friends, teachers, every person met in life will contribute to the future experience of the self.

How can self-awareness be improved?

Fostering self-awareness requires stepping back and observing ourselves within uncomfortable situations in a non-judgemental way. A close examination of attitudes and emotions, noticing thoughts and feelings as they unfold, can shed light on them. What to do in brief is:

  • Observe the variety of emotions you experience.

  • Explore the process behind your decision-making.

  • How your thoughts are impacting emotions and behaviours.

  • Notice your body responses to events and emotions.

  • Understand the reasons behind the way we feel.

  • Scan the range of thoughts and feelings crossing your mind when you feel uncomfortable.

Once you have done the examination, avoid blaming others or yourself for what is happening; instead, set the focus on improving.

Thus, self-awareness requires moving the attention from what's happening around you and focusing on your reactions first and then on how to improve the perceptions of events. Shifting the focus of your attention from what's going on around you to what's happening inside you will allow you to change perspective. The following can facilitate the process.

  • Journaling

  • Meditation

  • Mindfulness

  • Breathing exercises

  • Honest chats with friends

  • Experimenting with new things

  • Paying attention to our feelings

  • Allowing ourselves to risk and fail

  • Accepting the many contradictions within ourselves.

How do I overcome the challenges along the journey?

Working toward one's self-awareness is a slow life-long process and is not always a smooth one. Along the journey to self-awareness, it is normal to encounter resistance to the idea of being more honest about some aspects of yourself.

These are simply your defence mechanisms at work. Your mind in the past had to work hard to build this defence, which protected you for a long time.

When defence mechanisms were put in place, these were the only way your mind knew to help you cope with external challenges. However, when old coping methods become obsolete and refrain from living your life fully, it is time to work on them and learn new coping systems. Again, it is critical to proceed with small steps and if you have a history of trauma, be mindful that this process won't be something you can take on on your own.

The risk of hurting yourself more is too high. If you are aware or suspect you lived traumatic experiences reach out to a professional.

Why is self-compassion critical to the journey to self-awareness?

The way to self-awareness requires to acknowledge thoughts, feelings and impulses we are not always proud of. But, unfortunately, admitting and take them on won't always be easy.

One of the risks is to become excessively critical toward oneself, and by doing so, feeding guilt or shame and possibly lead to self-consciousness.

Therefore, attention to self-care is essential along this process. Remind that the purpose of self-awareness is not becoming judgemental toward yourself but rather knowing yourself enough to improve how you experience life.

Practising self-compassion is possibly the most helpful way to support you in this process. Before you begin your journey to self-awareness, establish multiple self-care options for the times you feel overwhelmed. Don't be scared of the process. Achieving awareness and acceptance of the many contradictory facets lying in oneself is the aim. Strengthen your skills to overcome the challenge of contradicting emotions.

Self-awareness is one of the rarest of human commodities. I don't mean self-consciousness where you're limiting and evaluating yourself. I mean being aware of your own patterns.

Tony Robbins

Self-awareness is an essential skill for personal growth. If you have a high degree of self-awareness, you'll be able to use your strengths and elaborate ways for accepting and possibly overcoming your limitations and fears.

There are no right or wrong ways to self-awareness; taking the time to reflect on who we really are is simply help us move from doing to being.

When you begin this journey, you cannot predict how it will progress or how the ability to monitor and improve yourself will grow. The key is being open-minded, kind with yourself, humble and accepting fully all the contradictory nuances you will discover.

If you have questions, feel free to get in touch.

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