Becoming Self-Aware

by Feb 13, 2024Becoming a Wise Woman, self help

Knowing me, Knowing who?

How self-reflection leads to personal growth. 

“Life really does begin at forty. Up until then, you are just doing research.” – Carl Jung.

Do you think of yourself as self-aware? Do you even know what it means to be self-aware? Congratulations if you have ever considered it at all. The very act of thinking about it means you have a degree of self-awareness.

A woman standing in a hallway, reflecting on her midlife transition and being self-aware.

I have been doing quite a bit of journalling and shadow work recently, resulting in my considering how self-aware I am. I decided to do some research to get a better idea, and this is what I learned.

A poll by The Harvard Business Review discovered that although 95% of people think they’re self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.

It makes you think. How many deluded people are there out there? When I looked up self-awareness online, ‘self-awareness as a leader’ appeared most frequently. Looks like it is the new buzzword in management speak. Something aspiring leaders have decided they must have. Looks like I have found some of the deluded 95%!

But self-awareness is important, whoever you are. It is not just for your career, which undoubtedly helps, but also for your benefit and those around you.

What does it mean to be self-aware?

According to the American Psychological Association, self-awareness is “the consequence of focusing attention on the self.” But what does this mean?

Self-awareness is the intention of aspiring to be the best person you can be. It involves a great deal of self-analysis of your emotions, thoughts, motives and values to uncover who you are and find your authentic self.

External and internal self-awareness

Two types of self-awareness have been identified:

External Awareness. Our understanding of how others see us. For example, feeling self-conscious when others watch you is a form of external awareness. But if you change how you act to fit what society expects of you instead of behaving normally, you are not behaving authentically.

Internal Awareness. This relates to how you see yourself. For example, internal awareness is when you notice your emotional response to specific triggers. Primarily, any work on awareness focuses on internal rather than external awareness. This is because when you behave authentically, you don’t care what other people think about you or your actions.

What qualities do people with it have?A cat sits in front of a shadow of a lion, contemplating its own existence.

    • Empathy – the ability to tune into their feelings and also recognise those of others.
    • Knowing their strengths and weaknesses.
    • Learning from their mistakes.
    • Valuing the opinions of others and being able to ask for feedback.
    • Self-acceptance and having compassion for yourself.
    • Considers the needs and feelings of others.
    • Being aware of your values and living them.

Why is it important

Being more self-aware has many benefits.

    • Helps us make sense of the world and deal with the unfairness of life.
    • Allows us to understand ourselves and others and connect more deeply with people.
    • Helps us achieve our full potential.
    • Makes us more able to handle stressful situations.
    • Makes us able to have better relationships with others.
    • Helps us cope with change better.
    • Increases our ability to deal with conflict.

Have you taken the Quiz yet?

If you are curious to find your Wise Woman Archetype, take my fun quiz and find out here.

Midlife Crisis or Midlife Transition?

Carl Jung concluded that you don’t develop true self-awareness until midlife. Up until then, you are too occupied with work and family. But in midlife, your values change, and you become more introspective. This encourages you to examine your life to discover what makes you who you are and how you can become the person you were meant to be.A woman sits on top of a hill, being self-aware, overlooking a valley.

A midlife crisis can accompany the transition into midlife. How you react to this will make all the difference to having a satisfying second half of your life. If you respond by denying the ageing process and instead attempting to recapture your youth, you will never feel happy in yourself.

As you get older, you often find that your values change. The things you once saw as important, such as money, status or the accumulation of goods, give way to an emphasis on relationships and experiences, and the most important relationship should be with ourselves.

We must reflect on what makes us who we are to do this. This includes our emotions, values and beliefs. Developing self-awareness takes a lifetime. It starts when we are children but becomes much more important as we age.

We must reflect on what makes us who we are to do this. This includes our emotions, values and beliefs. Developing self-awareness takes a lifetime. It starts when we are children but becomes much more important as we age.

Self-awareness v Individuation

A midlife crisis can accompany the transition into midlife. How you react to this will make all the difference to having a satisfying second half of your life. If you respond by denying the ageing process and instead attempting to recapture your youth, you will never feel happy in yourself.

As you get older, you often find that your values change. The things you once saw as important, such as money, status or the accumulation of goods, give way to an emphasis on relationships and experiences, and the most important relationship should be with ourselves.

We must reflect on what makes us who we are to do this. This includes our emotions, values and beliefs. Developing self-awareness takes a lifetime. It starts when we are children but becomes much more important as we age.

To learn more about this, review my blog post on Introduction to Archetypes or my mini-course on Working with Archetypes in Midlife.

How to be more self-aware

A woman reflecting on her midlife transition while sitting on a bench in a park.

Real self-awareness takes time and effort and is a lifelong journey. Developing self-awareness is essential for your personal growth. Here are some tips on how to increase yours.

Learn to manage your emotions. Emotional intelligence – the ability to recognise and control your feelings, is crucial for self-awareness. Start by noticing what actions result in strong emotional reactions. Then, ask yourself why this is and if it is a healthy reaction. If you decide it isn’t, what can you do about it?

Are there any emotions you find hard to express? Some people try to repress feelings such as sadness, grief or anger. This rarely works; instead, it tends to cause more distress in the long run as you are more likely to dwell on those emotions rather than let them disappear.

Self-reflection is the process where you look inward and analyse your behaviour to promote personal growth. This is done by examining your thoughts, behaviour and values. You can do this by journalling, mindfulness and meditation and by taking time just to be and think.

Work on your empathy. Empathy is the ability to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It also includes the capability to see how your actions affect others. Be curious about other people’s lives. Ask questions, then listen and think about what you can learn from them. You can improve your empathy by reading fiction, especially books about people from cultures that are very different to your own.

Take note of your thoughts. Do you constantly criticise or belittle yourself? Does your internal monologue empower you or make you feel useless and small? Negative behaviour patterns such as self-sabotage are detrimental to your mental and physical health. If you find that voice in your talking about yourself or someone else negatively challenging that thought, Do you think it is true or real? Then, ask yourself what else could be going on instead.

Be compassionate to yourself and others. We are all doing the best we can under the circumstances of our lives. Being kind matters.

Make sure you know what is important to you. It feels ‘ right ‘ when you live a life that is true to your values. Your values include how to see success. They may change over time, but most values are stable throughout your life.

Building self-awareness is something that happens over our lifetime, often without conscious effort. But to become genuinely self-aware, you need to work on it.

 

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