Self-Awareness: The Path To Self-Discovery

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Date:

November 7, 2022

Author:

Milan Kordestani

Entrepreneur, writer, and founder of 3 purpose-driven companies oriented toward giving individuals control over their own discourse and creation. Milan works to produce socially positive externalities through a mindset of social architecture.

Hi! I'm Milan, an LA based founder and writer, architecting impact-first businesses.

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Self-Awareness: The Path To Self-Discovery

Self awareness is a difficult state to achieve, but it is the holy grail of emotional intelligence. Self aware people are highly aware of their emotions, and of the effect they are having on others. They take full ownership of their lives, which makes them strong and happy individuals.

Although many people think they are self-aware, the reality is that lack of self-awareness is what keeps people from realizing how unaware they really are. According to research by psychologist Tasha Eurich, the percentage of people who are truly self-aware lies between 12 and 15 percent. But how can we improve if we don't know where we stand on the scale of self-awareness?

The answer is simple–practice.  Like any other skill, we can gain self-awareness through consistent effort and discipline.  I’ll go over the different types of self-awareness and what you can do to refine your self-awareness and self-reflection skills.

What Is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness is the ability to objectively evaluate yourself—how you truly are, and how others perceive you. It means understanding your emotional responses and what triggers them. You also know what your values are and whether or not you’re living in alignment with them.  It is difficult to master self-awareness, especially because it means keeping our emotions from driving our behavior. Also, it takes humility and flexibility to change our actions when we need to.

Think back to the last time you received criticism, whether at work or in your personal life.  Did you stop and listen objectively to what you were hearing?  Or did you go on the defensive, believing the other person was blowing things out of proportion?  Being self-aware helps you admit your weaknesses and respond accordingly to negative feedback and constructive criticism. In fact, feedback is one of the keys to gaining self-awareness for those who lack it.

The Two Main Streams Of Self-Awareness

There are two main types of self-awareness: internal and external.  Internal self-awareness is all about understanding how you operate–what your values are, what motivates you, your strengths and weaknesses.  For example, you might know that you struggle with productivity, but also know that setting self-imposed deadlines can help you overcome it.  This kind of internal self-awareness can propel you out of inaction and help you achieve your goals.

External self-awareness refers to how other people perceive you.  This is related to internal self-awareness, but having one doesn’t always mean having the other.  You may know yourself quite well, but be completely clueless as to how others perceive you.  For example, while you might work hard and take your job seriously, communication barriers with your colleagues can lead them to believe you’re a slacker.  It’s important to make sure that your actions match the person you know yourself to be.

Benefits Of Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is essential to personal growth. The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to improve your weak areas and capitalize on your strengths. Here are a few benefits to self-awareness:

  • You can more easily see things from other people’s perspectives.
  • You can practice self-control and reigning in your emotions.
  • You can become more efficient at your job.
  • You can improve communication skills.
  • You can boost your self-confidence through continuous self-improvement.
  • You can make better decisions with more reliable information.
  • You can improve your work environment and emotional well-being.
  • You can strengthen your relationships and gain other people’s trust.

How To Become More Self-Aware

Anyone can develop self-awareness, even if they don't feel like they have a good handle on it now. It just takes the desire to improve and a willingness to temporarily deal with any discomfort that comes up along the way. It may go against your nature to ask for feedback and question your own assumptions about yourself.  But if you’re willing to do these things, however scary, then you’ll be surprised how fast you’ll grow. 

These examples of self-awareness practices can help you develop and even master this skill:

  1. Practice mindfulness

You’d be surprised what you can learn when you’re paying attention.  All day, we’re surrounded by information coming from every angle–text messages, meetings, even the sights that pass by on our morning commute.  We’ve trained ourselves to tune out anything we deem unnecessary, but often we go too far and find ourselves on autopilot.  Practice mindfulness by taking a moment to look at your surroundings–what do you see?  Hear?  Smell?  Taste?  The more you’re able to stop and be present in your own body, the more you’ll be able to observe your emotions and how you react to things.

  1. Journal your awareness

Writing is an excellent way of grounding ourselves in the present moment.  Whenever you stop and practice mindfulness, take the time to write down everything you’re experiencing.  What are you feeling?  Have you experienced anything new?  Is there something you’ve learned about yourself that you didn’t know before?  It might be easy to remember what you had for breakfast yesterday, but much harder to remember how you felt when you first woke up.  These journal entries can help you look back and track your emotional state over a period of time.

  1. Practice civil discourse

Civil discourse is a powerful tool to help us get a handle on our emotions.  When you practice civil discourse, you become a mindful listener.  You learn how to consider and then respond rather than immediately react.  You also train yourself to understand the opposing side and gain new perspectives when you’re not entrenched in your own judgment.  Civil discourse and self-awareness are two of the biggest assets in social leadership and in life.

  1. Ask for feedback

Most of us bristle when we receive feedback. Try practicing contrary action by soliciting feedback whenever you can. The more you ask for feedback from superiors and colleagues, the more you’ll learn about yourself and how others perceive you. You can also train yourself to become more comfortable with the process so that it becomes less of a burden when you receive unsolicited or constructive feedback.

  1. Try new experiences

Humans are creatures of habit.  We don’t like discomfort, and new experiences are often uncomfortable.  If you want to improve your self-awareness, however, try exposing yourself to new experiences on a regular basis. This will teach you more about what you like and what you don’t like.  It will also help you learn how you react in different situations–do you stay calm?  Lose your cool?  Are you curious or closed off?  Rigid or flexible?

How To Test Your Self-Awareness

There are many ways you can test your self-awareness.  One way is to write a list of your strengths and weaknesses.  Once you're done, show it to a trusted friend and ask their opinion—do they believe the list is accurate?  Is anything missing?  This will show you whether or not your perception of yourself aligns with how other people see you.

Another way to test your self-awareness is to take a personality test like an Enneagram test.  Do the results match up with what you thought they would be?  How do they differ?  Ideally, over time, you’ll test yourself in deeper ways that bring you closer to understanding who you truly are.

Self-awareness is necessary if you want to be a great leader.  If you can pick your best traits and build on them to strengthen your weaknesses, you have a much better chance of success.

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