Ways to Improve Your Self-Awareness
In this article, you are going to learn about 1) an introduction to being self-aware, 2) the importance of self-awareness, 3) how the Johari Window works, and 4) how to improve your self-awareness.
INTRODUCTION TO BEING SELF-AWARE
They say that, before knowing anything else, you have to know who you are first – your strengths, your weaknesses, your desires and motivations, your personal beliefs and perceptions. You have to be in touch with your emotions. In other words, you have to be self-aware.
You have to have the capacity for introspection.
The concept of self-awareness, or self-knowledge, is quite old although largely ignored.
Today, world leaders, business executives, managers and pretty much anyone in positions of power are cognizant of the importance of being self-aware.
Emotional intelligence has become a very important facet of an individual’s personality. Even when looking for a job, for example, employers no longer rely solely on documents that serve as proof of one’s intelligence and proficiency, as well as the level of his skills and expertise. They also take the person’s emotional intelligence in consideration, and one of the aspects of emotional intelligence is self-awareness.
Often, we find the concept of self-awareness confusing. Our limited view makes us think that it is simply about knowing who we are, what we have and what we lack. But it is actually much broader than that.
The self-aware person is someone:
- Who knows what he is good at, and what he lacks
- Who acknowledges that he still has much to learn
- Who readily admits that he does not know the answer or that he does not have the solution
- Who owns up to his mistakes, accepting that something is due to his fault or shortcomings, and makes apologies for them
- Who actually listens during conversations and asks the right and necessary questions
- Who think before acting, considering how their actions will affect others
- Who are aware of other people’s social cues and are able to “read the atmosphere”
Being self-aware is not something that is limited only to business people or professionals in their work settings. It is a quality that all human beings should possess.
Watch this video and think about those important questions: Who am I with? What am I doing? Where am I doing this?
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-AWARENESS
“Know thyself” is a phrase that you have probably heard one too many times before, and you probably even think that you do know yourself.
However, once you start looking deeper, you are surprised at the things that you discover. You might even think, at one point, whether that person you are looking at, is really you. If you get to that point, you have to give yourself a pat on the back. It means you are starting to become self-aware.
Why is it so important to become self-aware? What will we get out of it? Would it not be enough for us to have a vague idea of who we are, what we want, and what we feel, and start from there? After all, isn’t life supposed to be one long journey of discovery? So it should be okay to be a bit unaware, shouldn’t it?
Well, there is a bit of truth in that, but the journey has already started, and if you are on already walking that path, you might as well get started on working on your self-awareness.
So let us identify the reasons why self-awareness is very important.
- For self-improvement: Self-improvement is considered to the main purpose of introspection. One cannot know that there is something within them that needs to be changed unless they recognize what is wrong or lacking with them and, for that, there is a need for introspection. When you are self-aware, you know and understand your own failings, weaknesses, and flaws. Once you know what they are, you can get to work in correcting and improving them.
- For establishment of your identity and individuality: Many people go through life not really entirely sure about their goals, much less their desires and short-term objectives. So they often find themselves caught in moments of indecision, and they end up not moving forward at all. They do not know who they are, so how can they expect to go anywhere? If you know who you are and you are clear on your identity, you will have more confidence – in making important choices and decisions, in your actions and in the conduct of your relationships with other people. You are able to identify what your areas of strengths are, so you know how to build on them. You will feel more empowered to make changes because you clearly know what aspects of yourself you would like to improve on. Ultimately, this will enable you to enjoy your uniqueness as an individual.
- For goal setting: Becoming self-aware is your first step towards mastering your life. You will be able to create what you want precisely because you KNOW what you want. Your self-awareness will give you the guidance that you need and point you to the right direction. Since you are in control of your emotions, you will know where to focus your thoughts, emotions, and efforts. You can set your goals, and go about achieving them, one by one.
- For harmonious relationships: Whether personal or professional, relationships take a lot of work, and they are vulnerable to emotional turmoil and upheaval. If you are in control of your emotions, you can also have control on how your relationships go. Getting a handle on relationships is a trait of a self-aware individual, because it means that they can easily adapt to an environment where they have to interact with other people.
Leaders, in particular, are expected to have high levels of self-awareness, because one simply cannot lead without it. Being self-aware lends a sense of purpose and authenticity to a leader, and gives them the ability to be more open and the willingness to trust. This way, they are in the best position to maintain balance within the organization that they lead.
Learn more about the impact of self-awareness on leadership styles.
APPLICATION OF THE JOHARI WINDOW IN SELF-AWARENESS
We cannot talk about self-awareness without touching on the Johari Window, a tool that is popular for use in understanding relationships with oneself and with others. It is considered to be a very useful tool for the analysis of self-awareness so as to improve on it.
The Johari Window has four regions or areas, representing the Self.
- Open Area – what a person knows about himself that is also known by other people. This is the part that is considered an open book. Everyone, especially you, knows about it. Of course, there may be differences in how you view yourself and how others see you, but the point is that you are aware of it, and so are the others.
- Blind Area – what a person does not know about himself, but is known by other people. There are things that others see in you, but you are completely unaware of. For example, some people may view you as someone who is arrogant or full of yourself, when you think that you are simply confident. Or they may think that you have the potential to be a good leader if you only try, while stepping up to lead is a concept that sounds very alien and scary to you.
- Hidden Area – what a person knows about himself, but is not known by others. These are the parts that you keep private, and refuse to show to others, for reasons that may be known only to you.There are people who claim to be leading “double lives”, where they show one side to others, but are keeping an aspect of themselves hidden from view.
- Unknown Area – what a person does not know about himself, that is also unknown by others. This is the part of yourself that no one knows about, least of all you. When they are tapped into or unleashed, you will be surprising both yourself and the people around you.
Groups of individuals, employees and managers are often made to accomplish the Johari Window so they can get an idea of their levels of self-awareness. This has also become widely used in corporate settings, with the purpose of improving employees’ personal development, improvement of their communication skills, interpersonal relationships and teamwork or group dynamics.
HOW TO IMPROVE SELF-AWARENESS
Despite the large number of self-help books that supposedly teach you how to develop self-awareness, it is a reality that becoming self-aware is not something that one can learn in a formal setting, or simply from reading one or two books on the topic from cover to cover.
Development of self-awareness takes time and a lot of effort on the part of the person trying to develop it. It requires a lot of practice, and the person has to pay a lot of attention on his own personality and behavior, and how it relates to external forces and factors.
This is how you improve your self-awareness.
Recognize your Strengths and Weaknesses
Take a good, long look at yourself and identify the traits or characteristics that you think are your strengths.
Now look at the habits that you deem to be your weaknesses.
Along with this, you also have to know what your priorities and plans are. What are the things that are important to you? What are those that take precedence above the others?
- Observe: Never underestimate the power of observation. Of course, you should start from observing yourself. How do you act under certain situations? How do you react to others in a specific circumstance? Then turn your observant eye outward. How do other people react to you? How they react to you will tell you a lot about yourself. For example, if you notice people acting warily around you, it may be because you give off the impression that you are easily provoked. If your subordinates rarely talk when you are around when they are chatterboxes when you are out of the room, it must mean that they have trouble interacting with you because you give them the impression that you are difficult to talk to.
- Write them down: It never hurts to keep a record. Keeping a journal is a great way of keeping a record of your journey towards improving your self-awareness. Writing your thoughts, emotions, and feelings is a good outlet; at the same time, it serves as an excellent source material or reference. Read what you have written, and you may discover something about yourself.
- Try new experiences: Sampling new things will teach you a thing or two about yourself. This is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something that you have never tried before. Because things are unfamiliar, you are bound to respond in new and different ways that you never thought possible. Travelling is also another way to discover things about yourself. You may not have known before that you have a penchant for learning new languages until you started travelling to new places. You may also discover that you have an untapped interest in history and culture.
- Take tests: There are several psychometric tests that you can try taking in order to assess your level of self-awareness. The results will then tell you whether you need to make changes, and in what areas you should make them in. Some examples of these tests are the Myers-Briggs and the Predictive Index. One of the reasons that people shy away from these types of tests is because (a) they deem them to be a waste of time; (b) the results are not conclusive and, therefore, cannot be entirely trusted; and (c) they are afraid that they may not like the results.
Anything that will help you improve your personality and self-awareness is not a waste of time.
This is especially true if you are planning to improve your self-awareness; you will need all the help you can get. You also have to keep in mind that, in these tests, there are no definitive right or wrong answers. They are simply used to arrive at an assessment of your personality.
As for the third reason, well, tough. If you go into this with preconceived notions of what the results are and you are not open to these notions being proven wrong, then it is clear that you are yet far from being self-aware.
Listen to your Inner Voice
There are several suggested ways to go about this.
- Meditate: This can be as simple as inhaling and exhaling, focusing on one’s breathing, or as elaborate as dimming the lights in the room, closing all the windows, lighting candles and scents, sitting down and closing your eyes, and reflecting deeply. The method of meditating will mostly depend on the person, on what he is most comfortable in and what works best. There are even people who view routine chores as part of their meditative process. It is easier for them to be in a reflective mood when they are, say, writing poetry, dancing, painting, or taking the dog on a walk.
- Yoga and tai chi: If you are healthy in both mind and body, you have a greater chance at improving your self-awareness. Both are disciplines that will help improve your outlook and your health at the same time.
- Actively ask family and friends: If you are curious how others perceive you, then go right ahead and ask them. Pick the family members and friends whom you trust will give you an honest and unbiased answer. Ask them what they truly think of you and your actions, and be gracious about it. You have to be careful how you ask them, though. Saying “tell me what you honestly think of me, but you have to be careful, or our friendship is over” is definitely going to go down the wrong way with your friends. Ask them to be straight with you, and that you will not take it against them, whatever their answer is. Whatever they tell you, you have to carefully take into consideration. Even if you initially do not agree and would actually like to protest to what they are saying, you should not immediately react negatively. Sit down and think carefully: Why did they say such things? Is there truth to their observations?
- Get regular feedback at work: You are lucky if you work in a company that has an effective formal feedback process for your evaluation. You can use the results to better assess your own strengths and weaknesses, and how they relate to your personal and professional growth and development.
- Undergo coaching: Coaching is highly encouraged, especially in corporate settings, to help employees increase their self-awareness. When an opportunity presents itself to undergo coaching by an external party, grab it. Through coaching, you will also receive feedback from the coaches that you can use to change or improve your perspective.
- Listen: This is probably one of the more crucial steps. When you are being given feedback, listen. You may find it difficult at first to accept what they are saying, especially if they are criticisms, and your first impulse may be to close your ears and say that they do not know what they are talking about. However, you should listen to what they have to say.
Self-awareness is now one of the most important traits that every individual – not just employees and leaders – must possess in order to succeed in life. It is never too late to get started. We all have the capacity for self-awareness. We just have to improve on it, so it can take use where we want to go.
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