How well do you actually know yourself? This may seem like a strange question, but it’s actually very pertinent. If you don’t truly know who you are, then how can you ever expect to be confident and let others in?
Why Self-Awareness Matters
The concept of self-awareness can be understood in different ways. Psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund took a stab at defining it and developed one of the more widely recognized theories of self-awareness in 1972.
According to their conception of Positive Psychology, “When we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.” Self-awareness thus leads to self-control, which in theory leads to happier and healthier societies.
Self-awareness matters for many reasons. Not only does it lead to self-control, it also allows people to become better leaders. In fact, business executive Anthony Tjan tells the Harvard Business Review that he believes it’s impossible to be a good leader without having self-awareness. In his view, self-awareness allows for a better sense of purpose, openness, trust, and authenticity – all of which matter in leadership situations.
The problem is that self-awareness is hard to grasp. Very few people possess intrinsic objectivity and therefore most of us have biased views of ourselves – of our thoughts, actions, and abilities. If you want to become more self-aware, then you have to train yourself in the right ways.
Three Tips for Becoming More Aware
Do you want to become more aware of who you are? Well, you’re facing an uphill battle that will be rigorous, challenging, and lengthy, but the good news is that it’s possible.
Here are a few specific ways you can become more aware:
1. Be More Conscious of Breathing
Self-awareness starts with the simplest and most common action of all: breathing. In order to be aware of who you are, you have to recognize this small, yet important aspect of your being.
When you’re relaxed, your breaths will be deep and long. When you’re stressed or anxious, breathing will be much quicker and shorter. Multiple times throughout the day – especially when you feel stress coming on – stop and think about breathing. Try to breathe from the deepest parts of your body – as opposed to just the throat. This simple act will shift your entire focus.
2. Stretch and Center Your Body
Your mind and body are more closely connected than you may think. In order to become more aware of who you are, you need to explore this connection and treat your body in a manner that’s conducive to a stronger emotional state.
“Taking just 10 to 15 minutes a day to pay attention to your body, work out any tight spots, and center yourself will have lasting benefits for you,” says Cathy Kerns of Holabird Sports. “These benefits include a positive change in mood, increase in energy, faster recovery, and better overall performance.”
3. Keep a Thought Journal
One thing a lot of people find valuable is keeping a thought journal. As the name suggests, a thought journal is nothing more than a notepad or journal that you use to write down your emotions, thoughts, and feelings as you experience them.
In this journal, you don’t have to form complete sentences or follow any of the standard rules of writing. Instead, just record what you’re feeling. If you’re happy, write the word “happy” followed by some of the factors that are fueling your contentment. If you’re stressed, write the word “stressed” followed by the causes.
What happens as a result of this practice is that you become more aware of your feelings and what causes them. Simultaneously, you’re training yourself to explore these emotions, as opposed to suppressing them.
How are You Doing?
It’s not easy to become self-aware. It takes a lot of work and you can’t do it on your own. You’ll ultimately need the help of trusted friends to get you from where you are to where you want to be.
“None of us is altogether aware of how we come across to others,” Tjan points out. “We have to rely on the feedback of our peers, friends, and mentors. To have your friends play the role of honest mirror, let them know when you are seeking candid, critical, objective perspectives. Make your friend or colleague feel safe to give you an informal, but direct and honest view.”
Start within and then turn to others to keep you accountable – that’s the recipe for becoming more self-aware. Have patience and you’re bound to see results.