What’s Self-awareness?

(Part 2 of Emotional Intelligence)

Being self-aware means knowing yourself well. It’s about understanding your thoughts, feelings, and actions and recognising your strengths and weaknesses. It helps you better manage your emotions and behaviour, make better decisions, and set realistic goals. It’s an essential emotional skill to have for your overall happiness and success in life. It is the foundation on which all the other emotional intelligencies are built. So, you can’t be emotionally intelligent without becoming self-aware.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle.

Self-awareness exists along a continuum that measures the degree to which individuals possess awareness and understanding of themselves, their thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and motivations. You have highly self-aware individuals at one end of the continuum; at the other, you find those who are largely self-unaware. Most people fall somewhere along this spectrum, with varying levels of self-awareness.

High self-awareness indicates a deep understanding of oneself and is conscious of their emotions, beliefs, values, strengths, weaknesses, and interactions with the world around them. They can accurately assess their behaviour and motivations and how they impact others. Self-aware individuals are more in tune with their inner thoughts and feelings, allowing them to make more informed decisions and live with greater purpose.

“Self-awareness unlocks the door to self-belief. It’s the key that can set you free from the chains of doubt and fear”Nathaniel Branden.

In the middle of the continuum, you’ll find individuals who possess a moderate level of self-awareness. They have some insight into their thoughts and behaviours but may not be fully conscious of all aspects of themselves. These individuals might recognize certain patterns in their actions and emotions but may not delve as deeply into introspection as highly self-aware people do.

On the other end of the spectrum are individuals who are self-unaware. They lack insight into their feelings, actions, and impact on others. Often, they may be oblivious to their biases or shortcomings, leading to recurring problems in personal and professional relationships. Without realising their behaviour patterns or the underlying causes of their emotions, self-unaware individuals may struggle to make positive life changes.

Becoming self-aware is like turning on a light in a dark room; suddenly, you can see the hidden biases and prejudices that were lurking in the shadows” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

You become self-aware when:

  • You notice that you get anxious before taking a test, so you take steps to calm yourself down, like taking deep breaths or listening to music.
  • You realise that you tend to interrupt people when they’re speaking, so you try to listen more and wait for your turn to speak.
  • You recognise that you tend to put off important assignments, so you create a schedule to stay on track.
  • You acknowledge that you’re not good at public speaking, so you practice giving speeches in front of a mirror or with friends to build your confidence.
  • You understand that you get easily frustrated when things don’t go your way, so you work on developing more patience and resilience.
  • You realise that you tend to judge others based on their appearance or background, so you challenge yourself to be more open-minded and accepting.
  • You notice that you often make excuses instead of taking responsibility for your actions, so you work on being more accountable and owning up to your mistakes.
  • You recognise that you tend to bottle up your emotions instead of expressing them, so practice communicating them healthily and constructively.
  • You acknowledge that you tend to compare yourself to others and feel insecure about your abilities, so you focus on developing self-compassion and celebrating your successes.
  • You habitually avoid difficult conversations or conflicts, so you develop more proactive and productive strategies.
  • You spend hours perfecting your assignments, leaving you exhausted and stressed. You realise you are a perfectionist, causing you to sacrifice your well-being and enjoyment of life. You decide to set more realistic expectations for yourself and prioritise self-care.
  • You often argue with friends because you tend to be defensive when someone criticises you. So, you decide to work on being more open-minded and receptive to feedback from others.
  • You tend to be impulsive and often act on a whim without thinking the consequences through, which can lead to regret and frustration. You realise that impulsivity affects your relationships and decision-making. So, you take a step back and consider your options before deciding.

These are only a few common examples illustrating how you become self-aware. In each of these examples, a behaviour or thought pattern is recognised that is causing stress or holding you back and the steps needed to address it.

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl Jung.

When you clearly understand your personality, strengths, weaknesses, emotions, and behaviour, the benefits of self-awareness are numerous, including:

  • Improved decision-making: You can make better decisions aligned with your values and goals. Before making important decisions, consider the pros and cons, potential consequences, and long-term effects.
  • Financial Responsibility: Learning to budget and save money, understanding the value of money, and avoiding impulsive purchases.
  • Enhanced emotional intelligence: It helps you recognise and manage your emotions, improving your ability to understand and empathise with others.
  • Better communication: It helps you understand how your words and actions may be perceived by others, allowing you to communicate more effectively.
  • Increased confidence: When you clearly understand your strengths and weaknesses, you can build confidence by focusing on your strengths and improving your weaknesses.
  • Greater resilience helps you understand how you react to challenging situations, allowing you to build resilience and bounce back from setbacks.
  • More fulfilling relationships: You can build more profound and more fulfilling relationships by understanding your needs and the needs of others.
  • Personal growth: It allows you to identify areas where you want to grow and improve and then take action to make those changes.

While self-awareness has numerous benefits, it can also have some negative aspects if not appropriately balanced. Here are some of the potential negatives:

  • Overanalysing: You may overthink or overanalyse situations, causing anxiety and indecision.
  • Self-criticism can sometimes lead to negative self-talk, harming your mental health.
  • Intense emotions: You may experience intense emotions more frequently, which can be overwhelming if not managed properly.
  • Social isolation: You may struggle to connect with others and form close relationships, leading to social isolation.
  • Self-absorption: If you’re too focused on your thoughts and feelings, you may become self-absorbed and neglect the needs and feelings of others.
  • Perfectionism can sometimes lead to a desire for perfection, which can be unrealistic and lead to frustration and disappointment.

Self-awareness can be great for personal growth and development, but finding a balance and avoiding the potential negatives is essential. Unfortunately, individuals with low self-esteem tend to be overly self-aware.

“The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself.” – Plato

In summary, self-awareness is about developing the required skillset to understand yourself, your emotions, and your impact on others. So, it allows you to identify your emotional triggers, patterns of behaviour, and areas for personal growth. It is the foundation upon which the rest of emotional intelligencies is built.

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