Table of Contents
You have probably heard the term “self-awareness” being used around the media, but what does it really mean, and how do you practice it?
Self-awareness is far more than just an internet buzzword. It’s one of the keys to being your best self and having a successful self-improvement journey.
What is self-awareness?
As the word suggests, self-awareness refers to being aware of one’s own thoughts, emotions, actions, habits, traits, physical state, and how you affect the world around you. It is a state of inward-looking consciousness; the observance of oneself.
It has many benefits. For instance, it can help you notice any otherwise unnoticeable illnesses within yourself, both physical and mental. This can set you on the road to recovery. It is also useful in noticing deeply hidden trauma from past abuse.
Professionally, it can help you be your best self in the workplace. You can impress your employers by enhancing your strengths and work on all the shortcomings you notice within yourself. In your relationships, it can help you be a better partner by analyzing how you behave towards others.
So how can you practice self-awareness?
1) Spend time with yourself
What’s the best way to get to know someone? Spending time with them, of course!
So why is it that so many of us fail to apply this to ourselves? In order to truly know who you are, you need to have quality alone time.
Even if you have a busy, frantic life, learn to prioritize your own company. Sure, all of us often spend moments alone, whether in the shower or picking up groceries, but spending time with yourself isn’t necessarily the same as being alone. Try to create quality time with yourself, by consciously setting aside time, however short, to enjoy your own company.
You can try out new activities to figure out what you enjoy most, and this usually helps to discover your path or purpose in life (if you haven’t figured it out yet).
Having quiet moments alone also helps you to properly process your thoughts and emotions, and thus help you stay aware of what’s going on within your own consciousness.
Spending time with yourself could be as small as taking half an hour to try out new books or TV shows, or as big as booking a long solo-trip or signing up for an extensive course to learn about something you love.
2) Listen to your body
Many of us have grown used to ignoring subtle signs from our bodies. A lot of this stems from healthcare issues like the inability to frequently make doctor’s visits, so you may find yourself not paying attention to what’s going on in your body until it becomes “serious”.
However, there is a big downside to this. Often, when it has become “serious” it’s too late to prevent or reverse.
Physical signs premeditate all sorts of imbalances in our lives. That minor pain or tension could mean something bigger, and it’s important to always take note of things when they begin. That constant tiredness could be a warning sign of major burnout, that mild discomfort could be warning you to change out your mattress before you get chronic back pain, that regular irritability could mean that your mental health is about to a bad turn.
Now, don’t get me wrong: this does not mean you should blow small things out of proportion or let your anxiety run wild. It wouldn’t be good to end up as a hypochondriac. However, it is important to pay attention. A lot of disasters can be prevented by paying attention.
3) Start asking yourself why
Why do you do the things you do? This seems simple but it is an important question to ask yourself.
A lot the decisions we make are driven by subconscious biases and assumptions. From time to time, critique your own thought process to understand why you reached a certain conclusion. This can help you weed out hypocritical, illogical or even discriminatory actions that you didn’t even realise you were making.
For example, when I was younger I didn’t like pink, but as I matured I realized that I don’t actually have anything against the color itself, just the negative stereotypes associated with it. It took me years to realize that. And when I did, I suddenly became aware of a lot more stereotypes regarding femininity that I had unconsciously believed.
Try applying this to different aspects of your lifestyle. Your preferences in dating, relationships, clothes, food, work, entertainment, name it. Your habits. The things you hate and the things you love. You’d be surprised how a tiny little decision that doesn’t mean on its own can reveal massive underlying biases or even trauma.
However, don’t get carried away. If you nit-pick yourself day in and day out, you will rob yourself of peace.
4) Regularly evaluate yourself
Most people tend to only remember to evaluate their career progress and financial progress, but it’s important to keep tabs on the progress of other important parts of your life.
We’ve all heard the “where do you want to be in five years” question countless times, but it applies to more than just your career life.
To begin with, you must first know where you are now. Observe your relationships and ask yourself how healthy they are and their pros and cons. Ask yourself how you have affected these relationships and the people in them. This can be with family, friends, and romantic partners.
Are you spiritual or religious? If so, ask yourself where you are in your spiritual journey. What have you achieved and what is lacking?
What about your mental health? How is that doing?
And how about your self-image? How do you perceive yourself?
These questions can be difficult to answer, but they must be asked.
When you figure out where you are, set realistic goals to get to where you want. I have found that it helps tremendously to write down your goals and progress. It helps maintain accurate record-keeping and having a physical reminder of your goals helps with motivation.
5) Monitor how you talk to yourself
We all have an inner monologue going on in our heads. This is not only the literal “talking to yourself” but even the thoughts that don’t form coherent speech.
The way you think about yourself determines your self-image, which in turn affects your sense of worth and mental wellbeing.
It’s easy to speak to yourself in an unbecoming way without realising how harmful it is. Are your thoughts self-deprecating? Are you constantly putting yourself down or saying mean things about yourself that you would never say to a friend? Do you catch yourself constantly condemning yourself and thinking “I’m not good enough” or “I look awful”? You could be subconsciously lowering your self-esteem.
Perhaps you’re on the other end of the spectrum. Are you oblivious to your own flaws? Deep down, do you think you’re beyond reproach and better than the people around you? You may be hurting the people around you and unconsciously fuelling your own arrogance.
Regardless of where you fall, we can all benefit from paying attention to our thoughts.
To sum it up
It’s important to figuratively give yourself a good hard stare from time to time and find out what’s going on beneath the surface. Simply wandering through life without taking time to think about who you are and what you’re doing can cause a lot of easily preventable pain.
That being said, don’t be too hard on yourself. In our quest for self-awareness, it is important not to fall into the trap of overthinking things and other anxiety-inducing habits. Some may say that it may not be possible to attain complete, irrevocable self-awareness, but it is important to have an ideal level. Try to find a healthy balance between analyzing yourself and simply allowing yourself to live. As famed psychologist Carl Gustav Jung once said, “who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakes.”
Guest author: Cynthia Kinyera is a freelance women’s wellness writer who crafts content to help publications and businesses grow their readership and generate leads. Her engaging content is backed by SEO and aims to educate and empower the modern wellness-conscious reader. Find out more about her work at cynthiawrites.com.