Self-awareness is a catchy buzzword, but many people aren’t sure what it really is or how to achieve it. Being self-aware can improve your mental and emotional health, strengthen your relationships, and make you more successful. It doesn’t happen overnight, though. Increasing your self-awareness takes time, effort, and intention.
What Is Self-Awareness?
Self-awareness is the ability to monitor your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs and to see how those things affect your actions. In other words, self-awareness is being aware of who you are and what you think.
Self-awareness becomes a very abstract concept once you start thinking about your own identity and consciousness. Even experienced psychologists have a hard time defining and understanding the idea. There are a few different theories on the nature of self-awareness.
One of the most widely accepted perspectives on self-awareness is from psychologists Shelley Duval and Robert Wicklund. In the 1970s, they established the self-awareness theory. This is the idea that you are not just your thoughts or your consciousness, but your mind has the incredible ability to observe its own thoughts. You can separate yourself from your consciousness and think about what you’re thinking, which is self-evaluation.
Another psychologist, Tasha Eurich, has taken a deep look into self-awareness in recent years. According to her research and writing, there are two types of self-awareness. Internal self-awareness is the ability to see your own values, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses. External self-awareness is the ability to understand how others view you. Different people have different levels of both internal and external self-awareness.
Dr. Ron N Gad, a clinical psychological doctorate and therapist in Beverly Hills, also believes that self-awareness is probably the most important component to therapy and ultimately leads to the happiest, most successful people. Strengthening your self-awareness will help you be less concerned about who you think others want you to be and even take a little pressure of who you expect yourself to be. It really is the process of allowing you to discover, embrace, and appreciate who you really are!
Why Self-Awareness Matters
Being able to understand yourself is an essential part of personal development, and self-awareness is one of the key factors in achieving success. Being self-aware can help you recognize good opportunities and bad decisions, and it empowers you to work toward self-betterment. When you have a strong sense of self-awareness, you understand why you succeed and why you fail. Then, it becomes easier to replicate your successes and avoid failure.
Self-awareness isn’t just about your external accomplishments, though. It also can make you happier, calmer, and more fulfilled internally. For example, self-awareness is closely linked to high self-esteem. If you have an honest awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses, you won’t feel crushed when you receive criticism or make a mistake. You’ll remember all of your positive qualities, and you’ll have a plan for self-improvement. You probably won’t care as much what others think, too, because you won’t need anyone else to tell you who you are.
How to Develop Self-Awareness
Developing and increasing self-awareness isn’t easy. It takes a lot of reflection and self-examination, and it can be tough to observe yourself objectively without judgment.
It’s also not something you never fully master. No one reaches the point where they’re perfectly self-aware at all times. Instead, developing self-awareness is like strengthening a muscle. It takes steady work over a long period of time to improve this skill, and you have to continue using it to maintain it.
Here are a few ways you can work on your self-awareness:
Tests and Questionnaires
If you like to measure things numerically, you may enjoy filling out a test or questionnaire that shows you your baseline level of self-awareness. One option is the Self Consciousness Scale by Michael Scheier. This test asks you to rate a series of statements based on how much they apply to you, and you can add up your score to find your level of private and public self-consciousness. It’s a good way to start exploring your feelings about what others think of you.
Tasha Eurich developed a short quiz to assess self-awareness based on her research into the subject. Another option is the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale by Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan. This is a 15-question scale that helps you assess your mindfulness by ranking statements about your level of awareness of internal and external experiences.
Mindfulness and self-awareness go hand-in-hand. Both involve recognizing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of existing in the current moment without thinking about the past or worrying about the future. It’s a straightforward concept, but it can be difficult to master.
To practice mindfulness, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Start by focusing on your breath and how you feel as you inhale and exhale. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, gently redirect your attention back to your breath. Don’t judge or criticize yourself for getting lost in thought. Even mindfulness experts find their minds wandering sometimes.
Your first few mindfulness sessions can be as short as five minutes. As you get more comfortable with the practice over time, you can gradually increase the length of your mindfulness meditation.
Our minds move at a hundred miles an hour, and it’s easy to switch rapidly from topic to topic. Journaling helps you see one train of thought through to the end. Seeing your thoughts written out in front of you can help you gain clarity and insight into your emotions and beliefs.
There are many types of journaling, and everyone has different preferences. You may like keeping a gratitude journal, which is a daily record of the things you’re grateful for. You may feel more drawn toward stream of consciousness journaling, which allows you to write down everything you’re thinking without second-guessing or editing yourself. Try out different forms of journaling for a couple weeks at a time, and see if any of them strengthen your self-awareness.
Wheel of Awareness
The Wheel of Awareness is a great resource from psychiatrist Dan Siegel. Because self-awareness is such an abstract concept, you may find it helpful to have a concrete, visual representation of the idea.
On the Wheel of Awareness, the center hub represents your overall awareness. Each spoke of the wheel represents a sense or group of senses:
- The five main senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch)
- Sixth sense: breathing and gut sensations
- Seventh sense: thoughts, feelings, memories, and beliefs
- Eighth sense: interconnectedness
Your current state of awareness can move from the hub to any of these spokes. Sometimes, your mind may be focused on the five external senses. Other times, your mind will move toward the sixth, seventh, or eight senses, which are all internal experiences.
Learning to be objective with yourself is difficult. Counseling is a safe, neutral, and supportive environment where you can take a look in the mirror. A trained therapist can help you examine your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to gain self-awareness without self-judgment.
Good therapists don’t simply tell you who you are or what you should do. Instead, they encourage you to make discoveries about yourself and your goals through self-examination. Working with a counselor can provide you with tools, skills, and resources for self-reflection that you can carry for the rest of your life.
If you’re looking for a therapist in Beverly Hills, contact us today. Our experienced therapists can help you work on self-awareness, mindfulness, or other mental and emotional goals so that you can achieve peace, health, and happiness.