Table of contents
- 1 What is self-awareness exactly?
- 2 Self-awareness examples
- 3 Benefits of self-awareness
- 4 How to become more self-aware?
What is self-awareness exactly?
A popular definition of self-awareness these days is "knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions".
It's a definition I tend to agree with. Self-awareness is all about knowing the one thing in life we have control over: our perception of our own world. If we know exactly what our internal preferences are, then it's easier to deal with unexpected situations. More importantly, if we know how our unconsciousness reacts to certain events, we can try to improve the way we react to these things.
Being self-aware allows us to better choose our own mindset, and turn it into something positive despite negative external factors.
Someone who is not self-aware encounters obstacles, sometimes the same ones repeatedly, and doesn't understand why. Someone who is self-aware examines themselves honestly to get to the root of their problems. Maybe people don't like to talk to you. A person that isn't self-aware person would just get frustrated or accept it, or maybe not even notice people are annoyed by them. A self-aware person examines their reality, maybe admits they ramble too much, don't listen enough, aren't engaging or being present.
The difference between these persons is that one has the ability to diagnose the underlying issue. And with that comes the power to fix the true cause of the issue.
Surprise: the issue is you. And luckily that's something you can actively change!
Self-awareness example 1: being stuck in traffic
This might sound like a silly example, but imagine being stuck in traffic after a long day at work.
If you are not familiar with the concepts of self-awareness, you might feel bummed about being stuck in traffic. And that would be that. Your day would be negatively influenced by this traffic, and there it is: you become angry and agitated.
Now think about the same situation, but then with an added sense of self-awareness.
Sure, you still don't like being stuck in traffic. Being self-aware will not magically create an eternal smile on your face.
But it allows you to look further than just the direct effect of being stuck in traffic.
When you are fully aware that being stuck in traffic is not something you enjoy, then you at least have the option to change the way you react to it! You can actually decide that being stuck in traffic will not bother you. You can decide to focus on the positive things that are still happening in your life. Instead of feeling bummed about being stuck in traffic, you can choose to remain happy by thinking about things that make you happy!
Self-awareness example 2: binge-watching?
Here's another example of self-awareness:
Some people can spend entire days binge-watching a series. I myself have done it many times as well (hello Breaking Bad!).
Binge-watching can be a lot of fun and a great way to pass the time on a rainy Sunday. However, some people binge-watch series in order to escape from problems.
Some people use binge-watching as an escape from reality. You might be escaping your homework, your deadlines at work or hell, even your relationship. This type of binge-watching is obviously not healthy.
Therefore, it's important to be able to recognize these scenarios. Are you binge-watching just because you want to enjoy a good series, or are you binge-watching because you want to escape your real-life responsibilities?
To a person that's not fully self-aware, these two situations might look exactly the same.
But a person that is fully self-aware will recognize the bad scenario. If you are self-aware of why you are binge-watching, then it's much easier to make the right decision. And that is to first take care of your real-life responsibilities before pressing play on that first episode!
And once you know that you've accomplished all your goals, you will enjoy the binge-watching so much more. Because now it's only pure entertainment, instead of a form of procrastination.
Self-awareness example 3: feeling angry towards someone
Being the introvert that I am, I tend to bottle up my emotions when I feel hurt by others. I then keep those emotions deep inside me until I can no longer hold them inside.
This situation has occurred before in my life, and it wasn't pretty.
At the time, I wasn't fully aware of what was happening in my mind. I could have tackled the situation very differently.
It's might seem really simple: you feel like someone hurts you and you feel bummed. You then hold onto that hurt feeling and turn it into something nasty: anger and hatred.
This is pretty normal behaviour, of course. But it is still important to be aware of what's happening.
Someone that might not be aware of his anger and hatred might lash out and explode. This would only amplify the negativity, as emotions like these tend to increase in a heated situation.
Knowing about these emotions - and how the anger and hatred towards someone might grow - will help you control them so much more.
If you are completely self-aware, you will be able to stop and bring it back to yourself first. When you start to rationally question your own emotions, you are much better prepared to get rid of the negativity inside:
Are you really angry at the other person, or are you reacting to your own insecurities and fears? Why do you actually need to say hurtful things? Literally, what's in it for you?
This can be extremely difficult. But you can really improve the quality of your own life by simply being aware of your own emotions.
Benefits of self-awareness
If it wasn't clear yet, there are a number of great benefits that come with self-awareness.
Better deal with external factors that cannot be controlled
This is the most important benefit of self-awareness.
We might not be able to control external factors that seem to run our lives every. single. day.
But we can control how we react to those external factors.
In order to control how we react to external circumstances, we need to know exactly how our internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions work. How do external circumstances affect our state of mind? Knowing that allows us to actively react differently to external factors.
We can decide whether or not something makes us sad, angry or agitated.
Yes, it might not always be easy, but this is the biggest benefit to self-awareness.
Anticipate how certain events will influence your state of mind
A higher level of self-awareness enables us to better predict how certain future situations will influence our state of mind.
That way, we can better steer our life in the best direction possible.
Being aware of how certain external factors have a negative impact on our lives allows us to better avoid these situations in the future. Knowing this enables us to rationally decide whether or not to binge-watch a series or to become angry at someone.
Silly examples, perhaps, but truly worth thinking about!
Better understanding the emotions of the people around you
Being self-aware allows us to better know our internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions.
But this knowledge doesn't end there.
Self-awareness allows us to better understand the emotions of the people around us.
Think about it. If we are not even aware of our own state of mind, how can we possibly try to grasp how people around us might react to certain events?
With self-awareness comes better knowledge about how certain types of people might react to certain events.
For example, think about a close friend or a sibling of yours. If you know how you would react to an external factor, then it's much easier to understand what goes on in the mind of this other person.
This way, you can help both yourself and your friend or sibling by stepping away from your irrational emotions.
Have a positive influence on the state of mind of people around you
This closely relates to the previous benefit of being self-aware but is arguably the most important of them all.
Being fully self-aware allows us to actively change the mindset of the people around us. You see, humans tend to move in groups. We tend to copy the behavior of others, and as some of you might know: emotions can be contagious!
If your partner or close friend is sad or angry then there is a possibility that you will feel that emotion as well.
But the same works for happiness.
Your happiness can actually radiate to other people. Your smile has the power to bring a smile to someone else's face!
And that is arguably the biggest benefit of self-awareness. If we actively decide to face a bad situation with happiness instead of anger, then that happiness can positively influence the people around us!
How to become more self-aware?
There are multiple methods to become more self-aware. What method is right for you depends on who you are. If you are truly serious about becoming more self-aware, then these methods might help you get there.
They have certainly helped me!
Get in touch with yourself via a journal
Now if you haven't thought about journaling up until now, let me explain why journaling can be the quickest way to create self-awareness.
Journaling makes you explore exactly what goes on in your mind as you live your day to day life. By journaling, you will get to know yourself in a deeper way than ever before. It will force you to think about the things you do unconsciously. Why do you do those things? For what reasons? And more importantly, how do these things affect you?
You can journal just about everything. If you want to journal about your career goals? Go ahead! Want to journal about your life partner? Sure!
It doesn't matter what the subject of your journal is.
Just writing about the things that are going on in your life will make you feel more connected to the things you do unconsciously. And that's where you can grow your self-awareness.
What I can highly recommend everybody is to journal about the things that influence your happiness. Happiness is the single most important goal in life, so why not journal about it?
Why not go one step further? Why not start tracking your happiness every single day? I have done this for the last 5 years, and believe me: I think this is the best way to create self-awareness.
Actively search and analyze opinions that are not necessarily yours
Another way of becoming more self-aware is to realize how much power interpretation has on our conception of reality. Try to read multiple perspectives on news items, subjects of contention in the media and among your friends, and really try and set aside your personal feelings in order to understand what might cause a person to see each of these perspectives as true.
When you realize that every person's perceptions are colored by their prior experiences and see how personal narratives can cause the same situation to be read differently by different people, you'll likely start to apply that same multiple-lens approach to your judgments about yourself, too.
Take your time to ask "why?"
In today's busy world, it often feels like we are constantly traveling at the speed of light. We don't have time to stop and just sit for a while. It almost seems like it's a good thing to have a calendar that's filled to the brim.
I don't believe in that.
What we should all do is take our time, and ask ourselves the simple question of "why?".
Why do we do the things we do? Why do I enjoy my life at the moment? Why do I hate my life at the moment? Why do I want to be alone?
Even if you don't have the answers to those questions, it is super important to at least think about these questions every once in a while. Why?
Because by thinking about these questions, we become more familiar with the things that run our daily lives. And by doing so, we get a better feeling of how we react to those things. Both consciously and unconsciously.
See where I'm heading?
Asking a simple question like "why" will result in an increased level of self-awareness, because it forces you to think about the things that you do.
And with that said, I want to conclude this first post explaining why self-awareness is important. Mind you, we have only scraped the surface of this beautiful subject! There will be many more articles to come on self-awareness.
As always, if you have any questions about anything, please let me know in the comments below, and I'll be happy to answer you!
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Who runs Tracking Happiness?
My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.
I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking your happiness.
My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.
With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!