How to improve self – awareness in 7 simple steps
There is no better time to understand the importance of self-awareness than the year you spent home self-isolating. No distractions and no escape from facing yourself. The following 7 simple steps helped me understand why self-awareness is important and how to improve it.
Through self-reflection, I came to the assumption that a lot of my choices and actions would be different if I believed in myself a bit more. Confidence or lack of it seems to be a key factor in decision-making. To build on my confidence, it was important to understand what confidence means to me. In order to do that I had to understand who I am in the first place.
Therefore I started this journey to self-awareness. The initial intent was to become more confident. Through this process though I discovered more.
The benefits of being true to yourself
Able to focus longer.
Feel more secure about my abilities.
Reduce negative thoughts and stress.
Improve time management.
Feel more fulfilled.
Keep a positive mindset.
*This article will not explore the impact of physical exercise on these goals. Yoga for example and meditation can increase the levels of serotonin and improve mindfulness.
Three very important realisations from the very start.
Location: No matter where you are, physically, you carry the same thoughts with you. Changing your environment does not affect who you are. We tend to carry the same insecurities, hopes, doubts, etc. in any part of the world we find ourselves in.
This is why it is important to find happiness within. You then can carry it with you wherever you are. Just changing your environment won’t do the trick.
Solo hardwork: Noone else can help you truly understand your self.Other people can guide you but you will have to put it the work.
You come first: It is impossible to help anyone else before you help yourself. The same way you need to put the mask first in case of an emergency in a plane.
This is a lifelong process. You need to break down the process in several stages, re-access, develop solutions and adjust accordingly.
Failure is part of the learning experience.
When the role you play is draining you
The word role refers to one’s position on a team. The roles you get assigned in life or decide for yourself can be draining. We all have multiple social roles. In your daily life, you are expected to wear many different hats.
For example, different actions and behaviors are expected from your role as a parent, as a child, an employee, a colleague, a partner, or a friend for example.
Roles performed by a set of connected behaviors, obligations, beliefs, and values.
As an individual, you tend to spend your energy fulfilling these roles. Both physically and mentally.
Although it is easy to understand when you physically feel tired, it is not that easy to realize the emotional toll they take on you. Even the expectations you create for yourself can be emotionally draining.
Especially in cases where you are not clear or sure about the role you are playing.
Measuring such an effect is impossible. Therefore difficult to argue the existence of such an emotional drain. That does not mean that it is not a factor that affects your life on a daily basis. In many cases quite significantly.
Why this is important
Practising self-awareness is not a task you can start on Monday and complete by Friday.
It’s a process that becomes easier with time. During this process, I noticed how important other people’s opinions are when you are forming an idea about yourself. The way you perceive yourself can be quite influenced by your parents, partners, friends, even random people’s opinions.
It is like many different opinions exist in your head. Therefore the idea you have about yourself is filtered through all of them.
When you do not have a strong understanding of who you are, you turn to be highly influenced by others.
Resulting in feelings of dissatisfaction, since you are not living according to what makes you happy but what makes others happy.
How often do you try to separate your opinion from other people’s opinions? Can you tell the difference? Which opinion is really yours?
It seems like most people are familiar with the word self-awareness but do not really spend time practising it.
It is easy to say be yourself but how easy is it to understand who you actually are?
Why is this important? Because self-awareness impacts not only you but others around you. Since the better you learn to communicate with yourself, the better you communicate with others.
The process of self-reflection is most commonly practiced by academics or mental health professionals. However, it can enable everyone to take a closer look at past experiences and actions. Take a step back and observe from a critical angle.
An honest approach can bring out insecurities, hidden motivations, or forced beliefs behind thoughts and actions. Therefore it is possible to increase empathy.
I could argue that self-reflection is essential for anyone that wants to gain a better life experience for themselves and others around them.
2.Setting up your expectations
The expectation is the idea that things will be a certain way. This can cause great disappointment when things don’t turn out the way one would expect.
In my opinion, the expectations you have for yourself and others can be the two sides of the same coin. The judgment you impose on yourself and others is derived from the constructed ideas in your head. The ideas of how you and others should be. The unrealistic idea that things will turn out the way you want them to because you thought so.
Therefore when things don’t turn out quite as expected you find yourself overwhelmed by failure and anger.
It is important to clarify what expectations you have set in your mind. How many of these expectations are truly yours and how much control do you have over them?
3.Understanding what motivates you
Motivation is the driving force behind decision-making and action. This is why it is so important to have a clear understanding of what your motivations are.
When you look behind your motivations you can figure out who you are or want to be and why. Plus working towards a goal you feel enthusiastic about is always more fulfilling.
When you feel uncertain about what you want, it’s time to check with yourself, what makes you happy and the reason behind it.
For instance, at some point, I was not sure about the direction of my career but knew for a fact that working with like-minded people made me feel motivated. Being able to share knowledge and challenge me to evolve further. This was the first step towards understanding what I am looking for.
When you make that first step and keep walking, the direction you want to head to becomes clearer with time.
4.The madness of perfection
They say that perfection is the enemy of done. Self-doubt can be the reason behind endless hours of procrastination.
Therefore it is absolutely necessary to reflect on your values. The standards you have set for yourself. Especially since we turn to be our worst enemy. In terms of how we judge ourselves and by extension others.
Constantly putting the bar higher leaves you feeling unfulfilled. Since you can never reach that goal. This is why it is important to put boundaries into place. When is just enough? When do you stop and say this is fine?
The pursuit of perfection is pointless and can only lead to misery. A usual trap in this game is comparing yourself to others. A game that no one can win.
When setting up your standards, it can be useful to break down progress into phases. Starting from point A to point B.
Part of the process is allowing space for mistakes and keeping in mind that you need to treat yourself with kindness. The competitive spirit is healthy when it stems from a positive growth mindset. Otherwise, it can be self-destructive.
5.Empathy – That could be you
Self-reflection can increase empathy. In my opinion, empathy is the keyword for most social issues today. It’s that ability to relate. The recognition that you could have been anyone on this planet.
You just happen to be you. A product of your environment.
This realisation comes at different times for people or does not come at all. Furthermore, the levels of empathy differ from one person to another and sometimes they change through time.
For example, you might have empathy for anyone being discriminated against but gain a different insight of how discrimination feels like when you experience it yourself.
However, it is not uncommon for individuals that have been discriminated against to discriminate themselves. Empathy does not always come naturally.
Taking a step back and trying to observe yourself from a third-person perspective enables you to critically look at what you’ve done or experienced. Simply by putting yourself in other people’s shoes. This can help you develop an understanding of other people’s behaviors or actions.
Pain and misfortune seem to be variables that affect significantly these breakthroughs and realisations. This is why dramatic events can be quite transformative. They often expose the fact that vulnerability is on the table for everyone.
6.Who surrounds you
It is important when you start doing a bit of self-introspection to have a closer look at your support system. Who are the people you choose to surround yourself with? Whose opinions do you take into consideration? How do they influence you?
You can not take everyone’s opinion into account. Meaning you will never be able to please everyone. Trying to do so will only affect you negatively.
It’s good to start by being on good terms with yourself first. This is why it is necessary to spend some time understanding who you truly are.
The criteria by which you choose your peeps and support group also reflect aspects of your personality.
Developing your self – awareness helps you decide what you value as important and how much.
During my postgraduate studies, I came across the Serenity Prayer. A prayer most commonly referenced by Alcoholic Anonymous group members.
(God) grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.By Reinhold Niebuhr. Full version here.
During my effort to become more self – aware this prayer helped me navigate many discoveries.
For example, how important it is to accept defeat such as failing a task, being treated unfairly, or simply the fact that some people will not like you.
The only behavior you have control of is yours and you are fallible like everybody else.
Forgiving yourself is the next step. Equally important to accepting defeat.
This is why it is important to let go of expectations and find things you are grateful for instead. Then even when things do not turn out the way you hoped, you will experience serenity rather than resentment.
Bringing some kind of harmony and balance between the things you want to change and the things you can not.
Practising self-awareness helps you recognise the difference.
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See also: 7 Reasons why we care about others’ opinions.