What Does It Mean To Be Self Aware?
If you had asked me if I was self aware at the age of, say, 25, I’d have said yes, but I’m not sure I’d have truly understood the concept. It’s only through doing a lot of personal work over the past 5 years that I’ve fully understood what it means to be self aware and how important it is that we all learn to practice it. And it is something we all need to practice.
When I talk about being self aware, what I’m referring to is a state of having a deep understanding of who you are, how you show up in the world, the impact you have, and what your underlying motivations are.
Looking back at myself at 25, I knew very little about myself apart from some very surface level values, most of which were borrowed and not truly my own. I was acutely aware of my weaknesses. I was acutely aware of my struggles with mental illness and feelings of emptiness and unfulfillment but I couldn’t have told you WHY I was feeling those things. I was very ego driven and was very easily hurt by criticism. I took things intensely personally. I was not an objective observer of my own behaviour.
It’s only through the regular practice of focusing on the following things that I have really had a much more objective view of myself and it has now become a passion of mine to help others do the same through my coaching.
To Have Good Self Awareness You Need To;
Understand Your Values/Beliefs Systems
You need to know and understand your core values and beliefs. We all have core personal values and they influence so much of our lives yet very few of us can name what our values are.
Be Able To Observe Yourself Objectively
We need to learn to become compassionate observers of our thoughts and behaviour. We all have aspects of ego which surface in our behaviour in day to day life and it’s so important to learn to identify the patterns that emerge, positive and negative. We are as a species blessed with the skill of being able to think about what we are thinking about. This process of observing ourselves is in essence the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness has become a bit of a buzzword in recent times and people tend to think it means we all need to be meditating for hours a day, but it is merely the act of being able to be present and conscious in our lives. Most of us are on autopilot 90% of the time and we don’t give ourselves space to stop and check in with what we are thinking and feeling in any given moment.
Work On Becoming A Better Listener
Again, I have probably always thought of myself as a good listener but if I’m honest I’ve been a terrible listener. I still have to work really hard on this but my coaching has helped me refine this a lot recently. To be a good listener you need to be able to resist the urge to react or make judgements in real time in conversations and to be able to hold space for others to express themselves fully before responding. Why is this good for self awareness? Because if you can hold space for others you can learn to do it for yourself. To observe without judgement is a real skill.
Keep A Journal
One tool that I found invaluable in this was Journalling. I keep a bullet journal which has all of my diary and to do lists in it, but it also has space for reflection on aspects of mindfulness. I keep a log of what I’m grateful for in my life every day. I keep a log of my moods, I log what I eat, when I exercise and much more. This allows me to not only observe mentally, but to physically collect data on what is going on with me on any given day. As someone with bipolar I needed to track my moods, but that wasn’t always giving a very full picture of what was going on. Once I combined tracking moods and what I was feeling, with tracking what I was eating and when I was exercising and what was going on in my life on a day to day basis was I able to see very strong patterns which could help me predict my behaviour in similar situations.
What is the Benefit of Greater Self Awareness?
It takes away a lot of the guess work. When did you last feel off or down and you just didn’t know why? How many times have you had an emotional outburst and only realise days later that it was probably hormone related? How often do you find yourself over eating or over drinking in order to avoid your feelings? I think I used to be afraid to find out what I was really like inside. I was afraid that I was broken or damaged in someway. Then I found out that I had bipolar disorder and instead of feeling broken I realised that I was actually just made this way and that I could avoid the suffering by becoming more self aware so that I could nip any future mood issues in the bud before they became more than they needed to be. I think we are all the same in some respect. Maybe you get anxious or depressed or stressed and you wonder if it’s something that makes you broken but I promise you you’re just fine and there are very simple things, like those above, that can help you get back in control of your emotions and your life.
I offer a 6 Week Online Course called Meology which runs every month. This covers many of the core skills you need to develop to in order to help you find a greater level of self awareness. For more information on this course check out www.helengregorycoaching.com/courses