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The Layers of Self-Awareness: A Journey to Personal Insight


stones in balance

Nowadays, there is a significant emphasis on cultivating self-awareness. However, the concept of self-awareness and its importance is often vague and unclear.

So, what is self-awareness? Self-awareness is the capacity to see oneself objectively with a raised consciousness of inner limitations and resources. Cultivating self-awareness requires embracing personal flaws and approaching self-reflection with an open mind while also valuing others' perspectives.

Exploring the Essence of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is one of the main components of the concept of the self, which is fundamental to understanding who you are and how you experience yourself. Self-awareness grows when you ask yourself questions to understand the role you are playing in your and others' lives and the reason for specific reactions or emotions in particular situations. Through self-awareness, you explore what is happening for you in specific moments and how emotions unfold and impact your behaviour.

Promoting Self-awareness: Essential Questions

The first question is: Who am I? Other questions may be:

  • What drives me toward particular 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?

  • What are the feelings behind all these?

  • What is the impact of my behaviour on people around me?

  • How can this feedback help me grow and improve as a person?


Life in water

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


The Importance of Self-Awareness

When you step back and think about what happened on specific occasions, reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and reactions, and try to understand them, you learn new stuff about yourself. Some things you discover will find your approval, and others won't. Each of us has flaws and insecurities and experiences a range of feelings from unworthiness and sadness to anger and resentment. Personal experiences may have led to enduring challenges, or situations one may not feel proud of. Confronting painful emotions is part of the journey to self-awareness. facing emotions like shame and being vulnerable is daunting, even if just privately. Mindfulness becomes an ally in this struggle; observing and accepting your imperfections helps enhance your self-awareness.

Accept your vulnerabilities, and learn to deal with parts of the self you feel uncomfortable with. Explore how unhelpful patterns develop, promoting self-awareness and inner growth. 

Self-awareness, self-compassion and empathy need to work in collaboration. Understanding the complexity of the process of becoming facilitates the appreciation of the differences between oneself and others. The unfolding of this process allows relationship challenges to be faced more positively.


flower in a hand

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


Understanding the two types of self-awareness

There are two types of self-awareness; both have distinctive features. The first is connected to the experience of the self, and the second is based on the experience of ourselves through the outer environment. Internal and external self-awareness do not necessarily mirror each other. For example, one can have higher external and lower internal self-awareness or vice versa.

Internal self-awareness involves knowing your:

  • 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 leads to: 

  • Higher anxiety level

  • Insecurity

  • Difficulties in managing stress

  • Tendency to depression

  • Lack of emotional regulation

  • Mental rigidity 

Higher external self-awareness is associated with:

  • Greater empathy

  • Ability to value other's perspectives

  • Better work relationships

  • Increased focus on goals

  • 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

girl at the mirror

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

C. JoyBell C.


Final Thoughts

Embracing the journey of self-awareness is like removing layers of our identity, revealing the complexity of our inner world. Committing to cultivating consciousness of our strengths and limitations is a transformative work. By fostering an open-minded attitude and accepting our imperfections, we unlock the doors to a more profound understanding of ourselves, paving the way for personal growth and self-discovery.


When unpleasant feelings rule your day for too long, it’s time to reach out to someone you trust. Contact a helpline, a support group, or a professional. Your GP or a counsellor can make a difference in your wellbeing. 

Subscribe to this website and get 15 minutes of free online consultations. 

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