Anyone who’s ever been stuck at brunch listening to someone bragging about a date they had the night before knows how important and elusive self-awareness can be.
The term itself is loaded and complicated. The Oxford English dictionary defines it simply as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” But there is a lot more to self-awareness than being in touch with yourself.
The power and challenges of self-awareness
The power of being self-aware is that it helps you become conscious of your own habits and decide if you need to change them. It also helps you realize when you’ve told a joke that quite didn’t land or pushes you to speak louder when you sense that someone can’t quite hear you. But it’s a difficult balance; becoming too self-conscious can be just as dangerous as not being aware enough of your own tendencies.
Making matters worse, people are less self-aware than we think we are. In her book Insight: Why We’re Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life, Dr. Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, writes that only 1-15 percent of people are truly self-aware. The problem? According to her research, 95 percent of people think they are. That’s why, for example, some people have such a difficult time saying they’re sorry.
Now, we’re not saying you’re part of the huge majority of people who aren’t self-aware, but even if you are, here are some tips to cultivate a little bit more self-awareness.
5 exercises for self-awareness
Look for non-verbal cues: You never look less natural than when you’re talking to someone who has something in their teeth. Sure, you’re engaged in the conversation, but you also look like you can’t decide if you want to interrupt them or not. We exhibit this body language constantly whether we are hearing good news or bad news or feel embarrassed or excited. Watching how people react is an easy way to see what they are signaling about us.
Find an honest friend: Ask the people who know you the best to help you see yourself better. It’s a great way to understand your tendencies and learn new things about yourself. Prepare to be grateful for their help.
Allow yourself to be bad at something: Nothing helps regulate our sense of self better than doing something terribly. (Karaoke anyone?) The experience of being humbled or uncomfortable not only helps us keep perspective, but lets the setbacks we face seem smaller.
Go ahead, talk to strangers: It’s usually easy to talk to the people we know and the people we’re comfortable around. Even if our mothers warned us against it, talking to someone you don’t know will push you to find common ground and understand yourself better.
Keep a journal: Self-reflection is a crucial part of our efforts to be better. Writing your thoughts down regularly can help you pick up on the patterns of your life — maybe when you’ve been fixated on something at work or less than happy in a relationship. Journaling will also help you see how you’ve grown. It’s not easy work, but it is rewarding.
Tips to help you keep it real
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