How well do you know yourself?
We all know the centuries old saying ‘Know thyself’, but do we really have the knowledge and understanding of our own needs and desires, strengths and weaknesses, values, beliefs and perceptions and most importantly our emotions, feelings, thoughts and behaviors?
Even though the concept of self-awareness – some people also call it self-knowledge – is quite old, it is largely ignored. However, in today’s world, more and more people become cognizant of the importance of being self-aware and emotional intelligence has become a very important part of an individual’s personality.
Why is it so important to become self-aware? Without self-awareness, we wouldn’t be able to improve ourselves. We wouldn’t be able to know that there is something we need to change without first recognizing and being aware of our flaws and weaknesses. Becoming self-aware is also profoundly important in establishing our identity and individuality. We need to be introspective first and define our goals and dreams in order to know who we are and where we want to go. And last but not least, self-awareness helps us to create more harmonious relationships, whether that’s in our personal or professional life.
So how do we become more self-aware? It requires a lot of practice and we have to pay close attention to our emotions, feelings, thoughts and behaviors and how we relate to outside forces. While we may not ever completely know ourselves, we can for sure make headway in raising our self-awareness.
Here are our TOP 10 ideas on how to increase self-awareness.
#1 Understand Your Life Story
The stories we tell ourselves about our lives create our personality and shape our current behavior and influence our future. Take the time to look at your life experiences and the people and events that had the greatest impact on you. All those experiences shape you in the person you are today, but are you telling your life story correctly or are you embellishing it. Be brutally honest with yourself and try to focus on the facts.
#2 Monitor Your Self-Talk
There is non-stop chatter going on in our minds and a lot of it isn’t always helpful. Pay close attention to how you respond to your successes and failures, because these responses are the base for positive and negative feedback loops. We can all be hyper critical of ourselves and go down hard on ourselves if something doesn’t work out the way we planned. This toughness needs to be balanced out with self-compassion. To create a positive feedback loop, celebrate your wins and accomplishments and forgive your failures and use them as a learning tool.
#3 Improve Awareness of Your Body Language
A great tool to become more aware of your body language, mannerisms and posture is to record yourself on video. While this can be a cringeworthy experience, it is an incredibly useful tool that can help you improve your confidence. Observe your body language. Are you standing proud and tall and take a power pose? This stimulates your testosterone and improves your performance. On the other hand, if you are slouching and assume a pose of low power, you increase your cortisol levels and feed low self-esteem. To improve your body language and mannerism, watch videos of skilled speakers and adopt their body language and mannerism. You’ll be surprised how simply shifting your posture can improve your confidence. But of course, you first need to be aware of how your body is communicating.
#4 Expand Your Emotional Vocabulary
The limits of our language shows the limits of our world. Emotions, feelings and thoughts create powerful physiological as well as behavioral responses that are quite complex. Rather than just labeling your feelings as happy or sad, dig a little bit deeper and be more accurate. Expanding your emotional vocabulary and properly articulating how you feel, has a therapeutic effect on your brain. Make it your mission to increase your emotional vocabulary with a new word every single day.
#5 Create a Daily Habit of Self-Reflection
We are so busy running around all day that we hardly ever take the time to stop and reflect on our life. Create a daily habit of setting aside 20 minutes or so to focus on yourself and how you feel. What happened today and how did you respond to certain situations and people. The practice of daily self-reflection will enable you to focus on what’s really important in your life. This practice of self-reflection can take many forms. Some like to go for a walk in the park, others prefer to journal, still others use a meditation practice. Whatever works for you, make sure you take the time to reflect on your life every single day.
#6 Ask for Honest Feedback
We know that this is not easy. Most people are terrified, close-minded and even defensive asking trusted people for feedback. You may hear something that surprises you or even hurt you, but constructive criticism is of great value and can help you to improve yourself tremendously if you can open yourself up to honest feedback. Maybe look for a mentor who can hold your hand on your path to self-discovery. Such a relationship can be profoundly useful. But if you don’t want to place your life into the hands of a single person, find people in your social network – family and friends, colleagues, supervisors – who may be able to offer valuable insight.
By now, most people realize that meditation is a great tool to improve your awareness. Most forms of meditation begin by focusing on the breath and appreciating the simplicity of it. But it doesn’t have to be ritualistic or formal. You can gain a lot more clarity if you regularly take the time to pause for a moment and reflect. Meditation can also happen while doing seemingly mundane things like cooking dinner, washing the dishes or waiting for the subway to arrive. Instead of doing everyday tasks mindlessly, focus only on what you are doing in this very moment and recognize how you feel and where your thoughts are.
#8 Push Your Physical Limits
You may wonder what physical exercise has to do with self-awareness… You’ll be surprised to hear that the answer is: A lot! Whether it’s climbing a mountain, running a mud race or learning to kite surf, challenging sports can teach you that your physical limitations are breakable and make you realize that your limits are only temporary and not fixed. But most importantly, they show you that your limitations are all in your head. Reality is that most of us don’t live our full potential and keep it locked up. Pushing ourselves beyond our perceived physical limitations enables us to recognize our full potential, but not only that, it forces us to reach it.
#9 Take a Personality Test
Don’t waste your time on online tests that tell you what kind of animal you were in your previous life or which boy band member you will marry in the future. The type of test we are talking about that is worth your time and money is a personality or psychometric test. Among the most well known of these are Myers-Briggs or the Princeton Review Career Quiz. The common denominator of all those tests is that there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, they are designed to compel you to consider a set of characteristics or traits that most accurately describe you relative to other people. Reflecting on your characteristics can help you to better understand your true character.
#10 Keep a Journal
We tend to color our past and our memory doesn’t necessarily store facts but rather mixes it with quite a bit of fiction. To get a more accurate sense of yourself, a journal is a great way to get there. Journaling makes you a lot more aware of what you are doing and where problems stem from because you document everything. If you take the time to write down even the little things, you might notice a trend and can start to work on a deeper understanding of yourself.
Raising self-awareness won’t happen over night. It will take some time to reflect, go inward and really dig deep to find out what makes us tick. But raising self-awareness is one of the most important skills we can learn in order to achieve success.
KNOW YOURSELF AND BECOME SELF-AWARE
Joschi & Monika