We are all conscious beings, able to feel, think, create. How is self-consciousness different from self-awareness though? In simple terms, being conscious means being aware of one’s body and environment. While self-awareness is the recognition of that consciousness, it is the acknowledgement of our own existence. In other words, when you are self-conscious, you are thinking; when you are self-aware, you realize that you are a thinking being and hence thinking about your own thoughts.
Certainly, you can think about a moment where you felt self-conscious. When was the last time you went into self-consciousness mode? That tine where you desperately wanted to be engaged in a conversation and share your ideas, but you were stuck in your own head ruminating in your thoughts. Or perhaps a situation where you suddenly blushed after someone’s observation about your amazing communication skills at a workshop. This can happen occasionally or you may feel it is something recurrent, like a pattern or a personal trait.
Considering these two scenarios – or any other that have crossed your mind while reading this passage – would anything have been different if you were more self-aware? What would an increased self-awareness bring into your life?
Our thoughts and feelings arise to us as signals if we pay attention to them. Being more self-aware is allowing ourselves to understand objectively our internal experiences and their impact on our own behaviors and external experiences with others. It is not something we are born with - actually, only around the age of 3 or 4 we become self-aware of our reactions. Prior to that, we are just infants without a sense of self, mirroring other people’s behaviors and responding to them consciously.
So, most probably you already got the message: Becoming more self-aware is not a walk in the park. It requires you to shift perspectives, to distance yourself in order to recognize the reasons underlying your emotional experience. Back to the examples above, the first step would be to identify your behavior patterns to then being able to understand what led you to behave in such way – stuck in your thoughts, thinking what others will think of your ideas or feeling ashamed after a compliment from your boss. Really looking at the emotion behind the experienced emotion.
If you are wondering on how you can objectively look into yourself, these following 5 points can bring you a new perspective.
1. Identify your current understanding by writing down your own perceptions. It can be something you are naturally good at doing or that you need to improve. Try not to compare yourself to others.
2. List what you are proud of about yourself, or any accomplishments that standout to you, both personally and professionally.
3. Take a brief trip down memory lane and think about what made you happy as a child. What has changed and what has remained the same? What are the reasons for these changes?
4. Ask for feedback from people close to you, who know you and can provide good insights on how they see you and how they feel about you. Listen with an open mind and open heart.
5. Bring this self-reflection into your life on a regular basis. You can use a journal to write down your thoughts that you can revisit any time, allowing you to release tension from your everyday life.
After all this hard work, how is does this reflects in your life? There are endless benefits of increasing your self-awareness. Just to name a few, better understanding of what you want and need, improve your decision-making, ability to empathize with others, help you manage your emotions, boost your productivity and creativity, strengthen your relationships.
This is the wonderful power of self-awareness, it shines through you and throughout your life. But you have you stick to it! It is not something you do once, it is rather a daily practice throughout self-reflection and mindfulness.