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The Gateway to Growth: Embracing Self-Awareness



 

Self-awareness is one of the most important things we can cultivate as humans. That being said, self-awareness is truly a rare quality. While many people believe that they are self-aware, only 10-15% of people are truly self-aware. 


Why exactly should we care about self-awareness? What makes it so important to have? Well, when we can see ourselves more clearly, we can have more confidence, be more creative, have stronger relationships and make better decisions.


Aristotle said it best when he said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."


Like driving a car, if we have no idea where we are or where we are going, how can we get anywhere?


In this article, we’ll talk about:

  • What is self-awareness and the different kinds

  • Barriers to becoming self-aware

  • Benefits and tips to cultivate self-awareness





A Journey Within



Carl Jung pointed to self-awareness as the key to awakening, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”


More recently, Daniel Goleman brought self-awareness back to the forefront when he published the book “Emotional Intelligence.” In the book, he talks about crucial skills for emotional intelligence. And, you guessed it, self-awareness is one of them. Being aware of our emotions means we can be aware of our actions. And it is our actions that control our destiny. 


So, what is self-awareness exactly? As one psychologist puts it,


“Self-awareness is the recognition of one's own emotional state at any given point in time.” John Duffy, Clinical Psychologist


From research, it’s been shown that there are actually  two types of self-awareness, internal and external.


Internal self-awareness is the ability to see our values, passions, reactions, and impact on others. When someone has high internal self-awareness, they are more likely to be satisfied in their job and relationships, have better personal control and be happier.


External self-awareness, on the other hand, is the ability to perceive how others see us. A person with high external self-awareness is more likely to have empathy and be open to others’ perspectives.


Although, we could think that if we have high internal self-awareness, then naturally we would have high external self-awareness. However, this is not the case. These two types of self-awareness don’t go hand in hand. Being high in one type doesn’t mean being high in the other.


Below is a table to show the different combinations we can have between the two types of self-awareness and what each means.


Introspector (High Internal, low external)

They are clear on who they are but don’t challenge their own views or seek others’ views. This limits growth and relationships.

Aware (High internal, high external)

They know who they are and seek others’ input which means they can truly grow and succeed.


Seeker (Low internal, low external)

They don’t know who they are or what they stand for. They may feel frustrated because of this.

Pleaser (Low internal, high external)

They focus on others but overlook what matters to them which can be detrimental to their own success and growth.

From the table, we can see that being “Aware,” which means high in both internal and external self-awareness, is the optimal combination for growth and success. Do you see yourself in one of the four combinations above? Or maybe a combination of the four. For me, I’ve definitely fluctuated between ‘Introspector, Seeker, and Pleaser’ but as I meditate and reflect more on myself, I can see that I move more towards becoming “Aware”. 


If you’d like to find out how self-aware you are, here’s a short quiz.


Now that we know what self-awareness is, let’s talk about what blocks us from being self-aware.


Do Not Enter, Under Construction Until 2030



“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” CG Jung


I think at this point we can all agree that if we could be more self-aware, we would. So, what blocks us from seeing ourselves more clearly?


There are several reasons why we can’t see ourselves clearly:

  • Blaming others or circumstances: we tend to become defensive around people or situations where we feel negative. If we point the finger outward, then we can’t truly see what it is in us that is being triggered. As Deepak Chopra said, “The world is a mirror, whatever you say about others is really how you feel about yourself.”

  • Coping mechanisms: automatic reactions that we’ve developed throughout our life block us from seeing or acting in a different way. The key word is automatic. If something is automatic, then it happens without our awareness. This is why habits are so hard to break.

  • Asking ‘why’ instead of ‘what’: The human mind is not rational but rather biased and judgemental. When we ask ‘what’ instead of ‘why’, this keeps us objective. For example, instead of asking ‘Why do I feel bad?’ we can ask ‘In what situations do I feel this way and what do they have in common?’


Seeing ourselves clearly requires us to come out from our way of thinking, be open to the possibility that we are wrong, and listen to what the world is saying. Next up, let’s talk about how we can develop our self-awareness muscle.


What We Focus On Grows



Turning our attention inwards is the first step to cultivating self-awareness. When we turn our attention inward, it means we have a willingness to change. When we have the willingness to change, then we can change.


Here are some tips for how we can start to become more self-aware.


Journal and Self-Reflect

Journaling is a great tool to express how we feel, either by writing or drawing, set goals and reflect on the day.

Be Curious

Be curious about yourself and open to learning about your personality, values and beliefs.

Let Your Walls Down

Be willing to see yourself in a less than positive light and be honest with yourself about how you truly feel.

Identify Triggers

Through journaling and self-reflection, and asking ‘what’ questions, we can start to see what triggers our emotions.

Meditation

Speaking from personal experience, meditation is a very powerful tool that allows for self-reflection. It allows us to truly be honest with ourselves and discover who we really are.

Like anything we do, it takes time. Learning to look within is the same, so be gentle on yourself and don’t give up!


Growing Our Superpowers



In the beginning of the article, I touched on a few of the benefits of self-awareness. Let’s look more in detail about how self-awareness impacts our lives.


There are many benefits but let’s focus on these five:

  • Increases self-confidence: when we can regulate our emotions, we can better handle challenges making us more confident in our abilities.

  • Fosters a growth mindset: a growth mindset is a mindset that embraces challenges, sees failure as an opportunity, and allows us to grow in a positive way.

  • Improves communication: we can express ourselves better, actively listen to others, be honest and build trust.

  • Boosts productivity: when we know our strengths and weaknesses, we can manage our time better, focusing on what we are good at, and asking for help when we need it.

  • Make better decisions: we can critically think, while avoiding emotional biases, making more informed choices.


It’s really amazing how self-awareness can impact every aspect of our lives. When we invest in understanding ourselves better, we invest in our potential to be satisfied and fulfilled with the life we are living.


Connecting the Dots: Bringing It All Together



The road to self-awareness is a journey inward. How can we truly understand the world and those around us, if we don’t fully understand ourselves? 


As Woo Myung puts it, “Did you know that everything you are searching for is within your mind? Self-awareness, growth, happiness, and success. All we have to do is look within. 😊 


We’ve mapped the Earth, and even the space around the Earth, now let’s map our inner world. In doing so, we can understand our purpose, our potential and our destination.


Happy self-awareness! Let me know how your journey goes. It’s always amazing to hear each person’s story, the ups, the downs, and the courage we each have.



Gaby - Europe Meditation Team

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